NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. - Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he's been dubbed "minister for curry in a hurry" by some of his colleagues because he's spent so much time in the Toronto area meeting with new Canadians.

Kenney made the remarks in a speech at the Ontario Conservative convention in Niagara Falls, Ont., where he urged provincial Tories to court immigrant voters like their federal cousins.

Speaking at the Ontario party's annual convention, Kenney said Canadian newcomers represent the demographic future of both parties in the vote-rich province.

The federal Conservatives have been eyeing Ontario as key to forming a long-sought majority government, after Quebec produced disappointing results in the fall election.

Kenney heaped praise on former Conservative premier Mike Harris, whose controversial "Common Sense Revolution" agenda cut taxes and slashed spending in Ontario, including a 22 per cent reduction in welfare rates.

The approach prompted angry labour unrest and widespread protests that culminated in a violent clash between police and anti-poverty activists on the front lawn of the legislature in 2000.

Harris's influence in still felt around Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet table, which includes many prominent former provincial Conservatives like Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Since Harris's departure, the Ontario party has shifted more to the centre under the rocky leadership of John Tory.

But Kenney praised Tory, saying small-c conservative values would once again dominate in Ontario when the party forms the next provincial government in 2011.