Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who just unveiled a cabinet reorganization that saw the majority of his front bench assigned to new jobs, took aim at Pierre Poilievre on Thursday, saying that the Conservative Leader is stoking fear without offering solutions.
While speaking in Summerford, N.L., on Thursday, Mr. Trudeau was asked about people in the province, particularly in rural areas, who rely on the oil and gas industry for their livelihoods and who feel like their industry is under attack by Liberal policies.
Mr. Trudeau responded by saying climate change is a fact that no one, except Conservatives, are debating any more, while he pointed to devastating effects of forest fires, Hurricane Fiona, record floods and rainfalls.
He said Canadians are facing a choice between “a responsible, ambitious, forward-thinking government that is preparing for the opportunities of the future and a party that is stoking anger and fear throwing up its hands saying ‘Everything is broken. I’ll reflect the anxiety everyone’s feeling into anger, won’t provide any solutions but we’ll all get mad as hell together.’
“That’s not how you build a country,” he said.
Mr. Trudeau also said the political debate right now seems to be between those who are “lying to workers and telling them that the world’s not going to change” and a government that acknowledges the world is changing and Canada is well-positioned to address it with innovation and a commitment to the future.
The world is taking notice on climate change and Europe is trying to accelerate the transition to alternative, lower-carbon solutions, Mr. Trudeau added, saying Canada will be a part of that.
The Liberals have been losing ground to Conservatives in a number of public opinion polls. With the revamped cabinet, the party is promising a greater focus on the economy and housing.
Despite ushering in a series of changes, Mr. Trudeau left Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne in their roles, along with Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. They are among the eight cabinet ministers who kept an existing portfolio, although several others saw minor changes.
On Thursday, Mr. Poilievre, on a tour through Northwestern Ontario, drew several hundred enthusiastic supporters to a midday rally in Sault Ste. Marie at the Machine Shop, a former industrial space turned into a soaring event venue.
Speaking to the crowd in a largely blue-collar city, Mr. Poilievre blamed government spending and Mr. Trudeau’s carbon-pricing plan for ballooning the cost of everything from gas to groceries, calling it “a tax that goes after people for doing things they have no choice but to do.”
He also drew a direct line between the Trudeau government’s environmental policies and a broader worldview.
“Canada is a resource-based economy, but that resource economy is under attack by hard-left woke ideologues that are determined to destroy the livelihoods of our workers,” he said, painting Mr. Guilbeault as being opposed to oil and gas, forestry, nuclear and even tidal power.
“They’re against all industry in this country. A Poilievre-led government would reverse this insanity.”
Mr. Poilievre also spoke about inflation and the cost of living, which have been key to the Conservative message for months.
Mr. Trudeau said Thursday that inflation has come down to the lowest level of any country in the G7, but that food prices are still high, particularly for families who have been struggling. He pointed to a series of steps the government has taken in response, including a federal grocery rebate.
Carlene Variyan, a former chief of staff in the Trudeau government who has also held senior roles on Liberal election campaigns, said Mr. Trudeau’s remarks on Thursday are a way to define Mr. Poilievre before the next election, particularly with swing voters whom the Conservative Leader is trying to sway back to his party.
The associate vice-president at Summa Strategies in Ottawa said the Liberals have been successful in the past by framing the choice in election campaigns as only between them and the Conservatives.
She said that not all Canadians may be fervent supporters of the government, but it is important to remind them that the “alternative is not one that they can credibly or seriously cast a ballot for. And I think it’s going to be effective.”