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Conservative Leader Stephen Harper addresses supporters at a campaign rally in Penticton, B.C., on Sunday, September 13, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The Globe and Mail is hosting a debate on the economy among the leaders of the three main political parties on Thursday at 8 pm (ET). Click here for more details.

Stephen Harper warned Canadians Sunday that electing a Liberal or NDP government would create a "nightmare scenario" leading to job losses, downsizing and business closures everywhere.

"Be under no illusion. Imagine waking up on Oct. 20 – the polls tell us this is possible – to find a Liberal government or an NDP government making decisions on borrowing and making decisions on your taxes," Harper told more than 500 people at a rally in Penticton, B.C. Sunday evening.

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"So tell me friends you will work hard every day to ensure that those who want reckless spending, deficits and tax hikes do not get their hands on managing our economy for the next four years."

Harper, standing in front of a huge Canadian flag in a truck body construction shop, referred to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Tom Mulcair as simply "those guys" throughout his speech.

He has shifted his attack in the past week strictly to the economy in advance of the leaders debate on the economy in Calgary on Thursday.

Harper warned that an increase in payroll taxes would be devastating for small business.

"Be under no illusion that what we are talking about, just on payroll taxes, is a nightmare scenario for small businesses, for jobs, for taxpayers," he said.

"The NDP and the Liberals think they know how to spend your money better than you do."

The Conservative leader began the day campaigning in the Ottawa-area community of Stittsville and strove to set himself apart from the Liberal and NDP over their stances on small business tax cuts.

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"The opposition is worse than wrong, however, on these things. Their views reflect a deep hostility to private business. We have always known this about the NDP. It is their ideology," Harper said.

"But imagine that someone seeking to be prime minister – Justin Trudeau – would casually assert and refuse to retract a statement that a large percentage of small businesses are just tax avoidance schemes for the wealthy."

The remarks were in response to Trudeau saying last week that a "large percentage" of small businesses are set up to help rich Canadians save on their tax bills.

"Look around you – 45 men and women building industrial equipment," Harper said at a rally at Tamco, a manufacturer of air ventilation products.

"Businesses like this are no tax scam. ... They are the backbone of the Canadian economy. This is Canada at work."

He reiterated his promise to lower the small business tax rate from 11 to nine per cent over the next four years. The Conservatives say the measure would provide $2.7-billion in tax relief to nearly 700,000 small business owners.

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Questions remain whether a federal government of any stripe would be able to reduce taxes given the state of the country's finances.

Last month, the Finance Department reported a $5-billion surplus for the April-June quarter, though Harper's opponents have said that data is not up to date, and government officials routinely warn not to jump to any conclusions for the year based on a few months of information.

On Monday, the department will provide an update on the 2014-15 fiscal year, which will shed light on the strength of Ottawa's coffers heading in to this fiscal year. In last spring's budget, the government estimated a small deficit of $2-billion for 2014-15, and a surplus of about the same size for this fiscal year.

"Although we predicted a surplus for $2-billion, we're already at $5-billion, so we're always cautious," Harper said, referring to the 2015-16 year.

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