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Gary Doer: Don't guess.

JOHN WOODS

Stephen Harper had to qualify his attacks on the NDP record Saturday to take into account the fact he thinks highly enough of some New Democrats to appoint one - Premier Gary Doer - to Canada's most important ambassadorial post.

Mr. Harper has refocused his campaign in recent days to target Jack Layton's NDP in light of the left-leaning party's surprising rise in the polls.

He now repeatedly warns voters to avoid casting ballots in a way that could give the NDP a role in a coalition government, citing the records of past provincial New Democrat governments.

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In Campbell River, B.C. Mr. Harper recently attacked Darrel Dexter's Nova Scotia government and he's repeatedly warned against embracing a party that gave Ontario the Bob Rae government of the early 1990s.

However Mr. Harper was so fond of former Manitoba Premier Gary Doer that he appointed the New Democrat public office-holder to be Canada's ambassador to the United States in 2009.

"Gary Doer's accomplished track record of leadership in Manitoba speaks for itself," Mr. Harper said at the time. "He has the right combination of experience, leadership and diplomatic qualities to serve as Canada's next Ambassador to the United States."

Asked about whether his criticisms of the NDP record include Mr. Doer's time in office or former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, the Conservative Leader said no.

"We're not talking about those governments," he said.

"We're not talking about this government or that government," Mr. Harper said.

"We're talking about a national NDP today - that has a radical economic policies, that would raise taxes, that would kill jobs."

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Still, the Conservative Leader warned an audience at a Greater Toronto Area campaign stop that a vote for Mr. Layton would bring back the Bob Rae days of the early 1990s.

"The risk, a very real risk is another minority Parliament with an NDP government like you had in Ontario."

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