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Mulcair uses debate to defend party’s stance on the Keystone XL proposal

WATCH ABOVE: NDP leader Tom Mulcair challenged Stephen Harper on his energy policies saying they have done more harm than good to energy sector.

CALGARY – Tom Mulcair ripped into Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on the government’s proposal to ship Canadian crude to the Texas Gulf Coast during Thursday’s economic debate, arguing he wants to keep jobs in Canada instead of sending them south of the border.

“Forty-thousand Canadian jobs would be exported to the United States with Keystone XL,” Mulcair said.

“That’s not our figure, that’s the government of Canada’s figure under Mr. Harper’s Conservatives. I want to create those 40,000 jobs in Canada … let’s add value to our natural resources here. That’s the way to sustainably develop our resources.”

READ MORE: Election debate, Round 2: Mulcair, Trudeau, Harper drop the gloves

Harper has criticized the NDP for rejecting the Keystone XL proposal, which would carry bitumen from Alberta’s oil patch to U.S. refineries.

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“Mr. Mulcair, when you export your product it creates jobs on both sides of the border,” Harper said.

“That’s why trade is a good thing.”

The economic debate, hosted by the Globe and Mail, is a critical moment in the campaign as the leaders try to get out ahead in a tight three-way race.

Mulcair used the forum Thursday to go after the Conservatives for using a “rip and ship” approach to resource development.

“Mr. Harper put all of his eggs into one basket and then he dropped the basket,” Mulcair said.

Calgary provides a challenging landscape for the leaders’ debate on the economy, as each party continues to grapple with market uncertainty and sliding crude prices.

READ MORE: 5 things to know about Canada’s economy going into tonight’s election debate

Mulcair’s personal challenge for this event is to prove the NDP is the most credible alternative to the Conservatives.

The federal NDP has not formed government in Canadian history.

The untested party has faced pressure to prove how it will finance its big ticket promises, such as $2.44 billion on health care announced this week, while it also balances the books.

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The NDP tried to lay out its scheme on paper Wednesday to quash some questions about its fiscal plans.

Part of its plan includes a pledge to balance the books and run an annual surplus.

The party projects the surplus will be $4.1-billion in 2016-2017, $3.4-billion in 2017-2018, $3-billion in 2018-2019 and $4-billion in 2019-2020.

Mulcair says his party will not hit the “snooze button” as Stephen Harper has on the economy and he will “not hit the panic button” like Justin Trudeau has on spending.

The NDP also laid out other economic plans, such as a promise to boost the corporate income tax rate from 15 per cent to 17 per cent. The party says the tax hike will mean $3.7-billion in extra annual revenues.

It also plans to make changes such as ending fossil fuel subsidies to raise $240-million annually and closing stock option loopholes for CEOs and senior executives to accumulate $500-million a year.