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Politics Conservatives attempt to attract new voters by pledging to make life more affordable as party launches election campaign

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer stops for a souvenir picture during a rally in Vaughan, Ont. on Wed., Sept. 11, 2019.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer launched his election campaign Wednesday morning in Trois-Rivières, with a pledge to voters to make life more affordable, and ended his day in the Ontario riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge surrounded by hundreds of supporters donning blue.

This is Mr. Scheer’s first federal campaign as Leader of the Conservative Party and he divided his first day between Quebec and Ontario, where he is trying to pick up seats.

Mr. Scheer talked extensively about how a Conservative government would make life more affordable, saying he would do this by repealing the carbon tax, balancing the budget and lowering taxes. He said life is getting more expensive for Canadians and people are “not getting ahead.”

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Dotted throughout both of Mr. Scheer’s speeches were sharp criticisms hurled at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in reaction to the latest report in The Globe and Mail, detailing how the RCMP are looking into potential obstruction of justice in the handling of the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, but their work has been stymied by Ottawa’s refusal to lift cabinet confidentiality for all witnesses.

Mr. Scheer spoke to an energized crowd of about 200 supporters at Port of Trois-Rivières, where attendees clapped as his campaign theme song blared “A brand new day, a better way, it’s time for you to get ahead,” into the open air. Conservative candidate Yves Lévesque, the city’s former mayor, spoke to the crowd, and Conservative Quebec MPs were in attendance.

A handful of public-service union members blared horns throughout Mr. Scheer’s speech, holding signs that said “Stop Scheer.” The protesters left before Mr. Scheer’s event ended.

Leaders took to the microphones to outline first glimpses of party election platforms and to take pokes at each other Wednesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially started the election race earlier in the day. The Canadian Press

The Conservative Leader acknowledged the 18th-anniversary of 9/11, and highlighted the generosity of Canadians during the terrorism attacks on the U.S. He then launched into his pitch to voters, vowing to balance the budget and lower taxes.

“You and your family are at the heart of the October 21 election: Who can you trust to help you and your family to get ahead? And the answer is not Justin Trudeau, who will only take more money from your pockets,” said Mr. Scheer. “He doesn’t know what it’s like to raise a family in difficult conditions."

The Conservatives are hoping to win seats in Quebec, including Trois-Rivières, where New Democrat MP Robert Aubin is seeking re-election. Despite the riding being NDP territory, Mr. Scheer opted to position himself as the best alternative to both Mr. Trudeau and the Bloc Québécois.

“This is important: It’s not the Bloc that will replace Justin Trudeau, it’s not the Bloc that will leave more money in your pockets. Quebeckers can only rely on us,” he said in French, adding that Bloc MPs “will always be powerless spectators, just armchair quarterbacks.”

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Speaking to reporters, Mr. Scheer said the Conservatives do not have the intention of intervening in the province’s law that bans public sector-employees from wearing religious symbols in the workplace, but it is not something they would bring in at the federal level.

He was also asked about the proposed Energy East pipeline, which Quebec has opposed. “All of our candidates, throughout Quebec, prefer that Quebeckers and eastern Canadians have the ability to purchase Canadian energy, Canadian oil and gas,” he said.

Last year, New Brunswick and Alberta started talking about resurrecting the project – cancelled by TransCanada Corp. in 2017 – which would transport crude from the oil sands to the East Coast. But Quebeckers and their provincial government were staunchly opposed to the pipeline.

After his rally in Quebec, Mr. Scheer was welcomed by more than 500 fired-up supporters at a Woodbridge park, but primarily campaign staff, who cheered as Mr. Scheer entered to his campaign song. Former journalist Teresa Kruze is running for the Conservatives in the riding, and she was joined by a number of local candidates.

Mr. Scheer repeated earlier vows to repeal the carbon tax and promised to make life more affordable.

“People with real struggles, that’s who Conservatives are in it for,” he said.

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With a report from Marieke Walsh

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