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The Globe and Mail

Tories chart frugal final course through vote-rich Central Canada

Editorial cartoon by Anthony Jenkins

Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

The campaign tour often provides clues to the campaign strategy - and in these last few days before the May 2 vote it is clear the front-running Conservatives believe the key to forming a majority government lies in Ontario and Quebec.

Over this last week, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is sharing his time almost equally between the two central provinces. Never mind the West; it's all good out there for the Tories, according to the polls.

Mr. Harper is to head back to Ottawa Tuesday night for a rally, and possibly dinner with his family, after campaigning in Quebec for most of the day. This after spending Monday in Southwestern Ontario, stumping in Sarnia and NDP-held ridings in Windsor.

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After the Ottawa stop Tuesday night, the Tory plane heads off to Kitchener where the party stole away seats from the Liberals in 2008. Mr. Harper will campaign all Wednesday in the region on Thursday he's headed back in Quebec City - where 10 of Conservative seats in play, especially given the surge of Jack Layton's NDP in the province.

Andre Pratte, editor-in-chief of the LaPresse, told CTV's Question Period Sunday that for now "it looks like they will be able to keep most of their 10 seats." He cautioned, however, that there is still a week to go and anything could happen with the wind in the sails of the NDP.

Likely sensing that same unsettled vibe in the province, Mr. Harper is expected to spend a couple of days in Quebec before taking his campaign bus along the highway from Quebec City to Toronto, dropping into competitive ridings such as Kingston along the way.

Peter Milliken, the House of Commons Speaker, announced he was not seeking re-election in the Kingston and the Islands riding he has represented since 1988. He's a Liberal - but the seat was held by Progressive Conservative Flora MacDonald from 1972 to 1988, and Mr. Harper wants it back as he tries to cobble together his coveted majority.

Do Tory bedfellows signal last-minute blitz?

With the political parties preparing to open their wallets and buy more television ads in these last few days before the May 2 vote, there is speculation the Tories have been purposely doing whatever they can to cut costs here and there to save up for a last-minute blitz.

All leaders travel with an entourage of aides and advisers, who when they call it a night go to off to separate hotel rooms paid for by their parties. But it's slightly different with the Tories - hence the chatter about cost-saving measures.

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Two of Stephen Harper's most senior aides have had to share a room during the five-week road trip. Director of communications Dimitri Soudas and principal secretary Ray Novak - who have been with the Conservative Leader since his days in opposition - are bunking-in together.

National campaign director Guy Giorno acknowledged this, but was amused by the rumours it was being done to help pay for an ad buy. "It's not a question of ads," Mr. Giorno chuckled. "We're just being cost-conscious everywhere."

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