Erin O’Toole is telling disaffected voters to channel their anger and frustration toward Justin Trudeau by supporting his party, while the Liberal Leader tried to appeal to progressives to stop the Conservatives from being able to govern.
Heading into the final weekend of the federal election campaign, the two front-runners in the race are looking to prevent vote splits on either side of the political spectrum by painting themselves as the only plausible options for forming government after voters go to the polls on Monday.
The right-wing People’s Party of Canada, headed up by former Conservative leadership contender Maxime Bernier, is threatening to steal Tory votes away from Mr. O’Toole’s more mainstream party, while the New Democrats are pushing back against what they call Mr. Trudeau’s trail of broken promises after six years in government.
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called both the Liberal and Conservative leaders “bad for Canada” as he looks to send more MPs to Ottawa. In the last Parliament, the NDP played an influential role in shaping policy because the Liberals had to work closely with them in a minority. And Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said Friday that if Monday’s election produces another minority Parliament, he will also want to sit down with each party leader to find a way to make it work.
Neither Mr. Trudeau nor Mr. O’Toole would comment Friday on how they would work with other parties in a minority government situation.
Mr. O’Toole has given speeches in recent days that criticize Mr. Trudeau personally and paint him as a selfish and hypocritical politician who called a pandemic election for his own gain. Mr. Trudeau, on the other hand, has gone after the Conservative Leader as an environmental, social and scientific laggard who refuses to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for even his own caucus.
Speaking on Friday in London, Ont., Mr. O’Toole urged voters not to “reward” Mr. Trudeau for calling the election two years earlier than scheduled, at an estimated cost of $600-million. He referenced the protesters who have hounded some of Mr. Trudeau’s rallies, many of them openly supporting Mr. Bernier’s party, but did not refer to them by name.
“There’s a lot of people in this country who are angry at Mr. Trudeau. He only wants to talk about the protesters because it suits him. But there are millions more that are upset with him,” Mr. O’Toole said. “And if they allow that frustration to do anything other than vote Conservative, they’re voting for Mr. Trudeau.”
He added that he expects to win more seats in Ontario, and across the country. “We will look at the results on Monday, and always put the country first,” he said, when asked whether he would work with Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals to pass legislation in the event of a minority government.
Mr. O’Toole was also asked about his endorsement this week from former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney – but not Stephen Harper.
“I was very proud to serve in the Harper government and I was the last cabinet minister from that period, resolving concerns with Veterans Affairs,” Mr. O’Toole said. “I’m fortunate to call on the advice of all of our previous leaders to try and make sure we put together a plan to get this country back on track.”
He said he spoke to Mr. Harper this week.
Meanwhile, at a campaign stop in Windsor, Ont., on Friday, Mr. Trudeau focused on his party’s climate change policy, which he said was the only serious plan to both lower greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs.
He issued a call to progressives to vote for his party on Monday.
“You don’t have to make an impossible choice and vote strategically. You can actually vote for the party that is going to stop the Conservatives and move forward with the strongest plan to get things done,” Mr. Trudeau said.
He also warned that the NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party “cannot stop” Mr. O’Toole from governing.
“The only progressive choice to get the big things done in government is the Liberal Party of Canada,” he said.
Mr. Trudeau has been dogged with questions throughout his campaign, however, about why he decided to trigger an election during the fourth wave of a pandemic. He has responded by saying that he has absolutely no regrets and that now is an important time for Canadians to have their say about the path forward. He also said they need to choose “how to finish the fight against COVID-19 and build back better.”
Mr. Trudeau faced questions on Friday about the prospect of his party forming another minority government while polls indicate the Liberals and Conservatives remain in a tight electoral race. During the election campaign, he has not explicitly asked for a majority mandate though Dominic LeBlanc, a party stalwart and cabinet minister, has expressed confidence this week about the chances of forming one.
While speaking in the federal riding of Windsor West, which is currently held by the NDP, Mr. Trudeau would not speak about hypotheticals.
Meanwhile, some U.S. politicians weighed into the Canadian election this week. Mr. Trudeau was endorsed Friday by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, one day after former U.S. president Barack Obama. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders threw his support on Friday behind Mr. Singh.
At a stop in Sherbrooke on Thursday, Mr. Singh was asked if he would work with other parties within a minority government. Instead of directly answering the question, he talked about the NDP’s role in the previous Parliament.
“What we did for you in the minority government is get more help to you,” he said, referencing such things as the party’s push to increase the wage subsidy during the pandemic.
“We think that Mr. Trudeau is bad for Canada,” he added, citing what he said are things that the Liberals promised to do but never followed through. “He’s made things worse, not better.”
He later added that, “Mr. O’Toole is also bad for Canada,” because he doesn’t want to tax the wealthy, one of the NDP’s core promises.
Mr. Blanchet, the Bloc Québécois Leader, has said issues like increased provincial transfers for health and higher payments to seniors will be priorities for the Bloc, which held 32 seats in Quebec at dissolution. He was asked Friday if he wants to be the one who forces an early election if those demands are not met.
“I do not and there are many ways to avoid this. The first one is for the future prime minister to act responsibly,” he said at a news conference in Saint-Étienne-des-Grès, Que., near Trois-Rivières.
“If Canadians and Quebeckers decide for another time to have a minority parliament, it means the prime minister has the responsibility to make sure that we will have the required votes in order to go forward with a budget, and Speech from the Throne and whatever. So I’m certain that this is something that can be achieved.”
With reports from Menaka Raman-Wilms in Sherbrooke and Bill Curry in Ottawa
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