Justin Trudeau and Erin O’Toole interrogated about mixed messages as campaign nears end

OTTAWA – Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and conservative leader Erin O’Toole sought to sharpen their final arguments for the 2021 federal election campaign on Wednesday, but instead sent mixed messages.

With days to go, Trudeau continued to position his party as the only option to control the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild the economy afterward, but faced criticism over the relatively large rallies his campaign has been holding in recent days. , with limited evidence of physical distancing on display as crowds jostle for photos and fist bumps.

Liberals defend the events, including one in Brampton, saying they were organized according to local public health guidelines. On Wednesday, Trudeau went even further, suggesting that those who are fully vaccinated should be able to return to meetings such as political rallies.

The question, he argued, is why would anyone think a Conservative government would be better when that party does not require its candidates to be vaccinated and has candidates accused of trafficking in vaccine misinformation, as happened this week.

“The choice between Mr. O’Toole and the great campaign party of his conservatives, which includes anti-vaccines, versus us who focus on science and follow the rules could not be clearer,” Trudeau said during an event. campaign in Halifax.

O’Toole said the choice is whether Canadians want to reward Trudeau for calling elections during a pandemic, and accused the liberal rallies of showing their rights and privileges.

“That’s Justin Trudeau: the man who gives you lessons on the rules that he himself is not willing to follow,” O’Toole said during a campaign stop in Quebec.

“This pattern will only get worse if Trudeau is rewarded for plunging the country into a $ 600 million election amid a pandemic. This is the question Canadians face. “

But questions continue to haunt O’Toole about what exactly he would do if his Conservatives formed the next government.

The latest problem is his promise to eliminate the federal carbon tax.

O’Toole has said it would replace the existing rebate sent to consumers with different prices and a “low-carbon personal savings account,” allowing people to effectively convert those rebates into money that they could spend on “green” purchases.

During a meeting with Star’s editorial board, O’Toole suggested that his plan would be optional and that the provinces would decide how and when it would be implemented.

Pressed for clarity by reporters on Wednesday, O’Toole did not say whether the current federal carbon levy would still be on the cutting board if the provinces want to keep it, but that his climate change plan remains unchanged from the get-go. . inserted.

“That’s exactly what I said in April when I launched this plan,” O’Toole said during a campaign stop in the Saguenay region of Quebec.

“It is a very detailed plan to meet our Paris targets and promote collaboration on a variety of issues to price carbon to electric vehicles and technology.”

A plan to combat climate change marks one of several ways O’Toole has tried to steer the party in a more progressive direction, and later on Wednesday he was expected to further shore up those credentials by appearing alongside the former prime minister. progressive conservative Brian Mulroney.

Mulroney’s emergence in the election campaign comes after decades of being on the fringes of federal political life.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper had severed ties with him in 2007 over Mulroney’s business dealings with German lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, and it took them years to reconcile privately and in public.

That brought them get back together eventually That’s what O’Toole is looking for now: advice on how to attract Quebec votes.

Encouraged by what was more or less an endorsement of Quebec Prime Minister François Legault, O’Toole hopes Mulroney’s support will help divert more nationalist voters from the Bloc Québécois fold.

“When Mr. Mulroney was Prime Minister of Canada, he did a lot of important things for Canada, like the acid rain treaty, the free trade agreement with the US, and (uniting other countries to fight) against apartheid in South Africa, “said Pierre Paul-Hus. , the conservative candidate in the Québec horsemanship of Charlesbourg – Haute-Saint-Charles.

“Many people who vote for the Bloc Québécois are former conservative voters. And the older ones, of course, voted for Mr. Mulroney. They still love him. “

Speaking at an event in Orford, Que., Wednesday night, Mulroney said O’Toole had called him a few months ago when polls were bad, media coverage was bad and there were complaints at the party. O’Toole, he said, asked Mulroney what he thought.

“I said, ‘Erin, I think you should be excited.’ He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because that’s exactly what they said about me three months before the 1984 election, when we won the largest majority in Canadian history. ”

Mulroney is the second former prime minister to appear in the campaign; Former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien appeared at a rally with Trudeau on Tuesday.

Federal leaders campaigned Wednesday primarily in regions where polls suggest races are close.

Trudeau was in Fredericton, NB, to campaign alongside former Green MP Jenica Atwin, who defected to her party, while the NDP was on a swing to southwestern Ontario.

Trudeau has tried to draw a clear distinction between his party and the NDP during daily pitches to progressive voters, and his campaign has lately been circulating a graphic claiming that people voting for the New Democrats in certain districts would be denying the new Democrats. Liberals the opportunity to overtake. the Tories.

In Essex, Ontario, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said liberals bring up that argument at every election.

“Do not be afraid. Vote as your heart tells you and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, ”he said.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that it is not possible. If many of you vote for the New Democrat, we can form a government and we will make a big difference in people’s lives. “

With files from Althia Raj


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