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Campbell slams James at high-tech stop

Liberal Leader touts support of technology industry during visit to video-game maker

Globe and Mail Update

BURNABY — The battle for Burnaby yesterday took Gordon Campbell and area Liberal candidates through photogenic backdrops at three companies where he tried a message of economic doom in a bid to pry votes away from the NDP.

Mr. Campbell has often said this campaign is actually 85 mini-elections, and yesterday he was trying to win four of them in this region, where the Liberals hold three ridings.

"I say to the people in Burnaby what I am saying all over the province," Mr. Campbell said early on. "It's really important they vote and decide who is best able to lead the province through these challenging economic times so we come out even stronger."

Mr. Campbell and his Burnaby team toured and did photo-ops at the Canadian headquarters of Electronic Arts Canada, a slick, gleaming complex of offices, labs and motion-capture studios where the Liberal leader genially played high-tech hockey and tennis - neither very well.

Later on, he led a rally in the cavernous warehouse of Columbia Manufacturing Co., which makes skylights. He also looked at cancer cells in the labs of Amgen BC, a biotechnology and pharmaceutical company known for, among other things, its treatment for arthritis.

His candidates were never beyond his orbit, although rookie Lee Rankin skipped out of most of the tour due to other commitments.

At most times, they stuck close to the leader to be in the frame of TV cameramen and newspaper photographers.

"A certain amount of exposure helps," explained Harry Bloy, who is seeking another term as MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed.

Mr. Bloy won his riding by 372 votes in 2005 - a point Mr. Campbell later raised in the context of the challenge facing this party in the May 12 vote, which Mr. Campbell says, whenever possible, will be close.

At Columbia Manufacturing, Mr. Campbell asked about 100 workers and supporters to think of three numbers - 65, 372 and 299.

"That's how much Harry, Richard and John won their seats by in 2005," said Mr. Campbell, referring to the candidates who flanked him on a riser. "That's how important every vote is. So I need you to go out. I need you to talk to your friends. I need you to talk to your fellow co-workers. I need you to talk to the people down the street."

The non-incumbent was Mr. Rankin, the Burnaby lawyer who is trying to wrestle Burnaby-Edmonds away from New Democrat Raj Chouhan, who won it by 738 votes last time.

Mr. Campbell stuck to familiar talking points in his stump remarks and comments to reporters, accusing the NDP of promoting policies that would hike small-business costs and strip away jobs.

"I'd like the leader of the opposition to go to at least the first person and say, 'Here's your pink slip. You don't need your job,' " he said.

At EA, he touted his government's support of B.C. technology industries, which he said generate about $9-billion a year and provide jobs for about 80,000 people.

Although he did not outline any new policies, he said a Liberal government would "build on that record of success and the leadership we have seen."

Mr. Campbell sought, at one point, to deal with a blemish in the backdrop chosen to start his day of campaigning - namely that since December, EA has cut 10 per cent of its work force, or 1,000 jobs.

"Everyone has been hit by the global economic downtown. That doesn't mean you get careless about the people that are at work," he said.

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