Former prime minister Jean Chrétien has made an appearance in support of Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail, touting the Liberal government’s record as the party looks to gain ground in a competitive electoral race with less than a week to go until election day.
In a speech Tuesday evening to a packed room of about 400 supporters in Brampton, Ont., which is considered a key battleground, Mr. Chrétien spoke of the world being in turmoil and cited such things as the impacts of climate change.
Mr. Chrétien, who served as prime minister from 1993 to 2003, also stressed that now is not the time to move to the “far right or the far left.”
“It’s the time to be in the middle,” he said, referring to the Liberal Party’s position on the Canadian political spectrum.
The election campaign has entered a critical point. The Liberals and the Conservatives see each other as their main rivals and have been sharpening their messages ahead of Monday’s vote.
Former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion was also in attendance at the Brampton event. She told reporters she hopes the election will result in a majority government because, in her view, minority governments do not work.
“It means the opposition controls the votes on a lot of policy,” she said. “I hope that this time the Liberals will get a majority, so then we can make them accountable. There’s no excuses for them not being able to pass the legislation that is required to look after the people of Canada.”
She also said it is “unfortunate” an election was called during a pandemic.
“I don’t agree with that,” Ms. McCallion said, adding that she has heard about this from average people. “I think the government should be concentrating on the recovery and getting people back to work and getting the recovery, the economy, moving.”
On Aug. 15, Mr. Trudeau visited newly minted Governor-General Mary Simon at Rideau Hall, where she accepted his request to dissolve the 43rd Parliament. Mr. Trudeau had previously promised not to hold an election during the pandemic but told reporters he needed a new mandate.
“Canadians need to choose how to finish the fight against COVID-19 and build back better,” he said.
At 36 days, the campaign is the shortest possible period under federal law and is taking place more than two years before a vote was required under fixed-election-date legislation. Elections Canada has said the campaign will cost $610-million.
Ms. McCallion said Tuesday that she thinks Mr. Trudeau called an election to get a majority.
“I think that’s only logical,” she said. “I think he felt he needed a majority to deal with the recovery.”
She also said she supports Mr. Trudeau because he has “tried to do a good job.” She said, however, that this doesn’t mean she always supports the things he does.
“I’m not a Liberal, I’m not a Conservative and I’m certainly not an NDPer,” she said. “I support people that are in for the good, that run for office and get elected for the good of the people. And if they lose sight of that, then they should be kicked out of office.”
When asked if she felt comfortable in the crowded space in Brampton, the centenarian said that’s why she doesn’t believe an election should have been called during a pandemic.
“Governments have been saying, ‘Stay home, stay away, including in groups,’” she said. “And then an election is called, which brings people together in groups.”
On the issue of safety, Mr. Chrétien, 87, said he didn’t know the format for the event but felt safe because he has been vaccinated. He said he was happy he came.
The Liberals said there were 400 people in the room, which has a 1,000-person capacity under normal circumstances. They said the event was held in accordance with COVID-19 capacity limits in Ontario, where meeting and event spaces are capped at 50-per-cent capacity.
Ontario regulations also say members of the public must be able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the indoor portion of the event space. Liberal organizers created boxes on the ground with green tape to encourage people to practise physical distancing, but many stepped outside those lines in an attempt to get close to Mr. Trudeau. When he left the room, he was met by a crush of supporters.
With files from Laura Stone in Toronto
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