Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Conservatives who were part of the aggressive protests that forced the cancellation of a Liberal campaign event on Friday are not welcome on his team.
“If they were, they will no longer be involved with our campaign full stop,” Mr. O’Toole said at a campaign stop in Fredericton on Saturday.
Anti-vaccine and anti-mask protesters have attended almost all of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s events since he launched the federal election campaign on Aug. 15. Those protests reached a tipping point Friday night when safety concerns forced the Liberals to cancel their rally in Bolton, Ont.
The crowd of protesters arrived before the event started. They yelled obscenities, held profanity-laced signs and waved middle fingers raised above their heads. After a two-hour delay the Liberal campaign cancelled the event, citing safety concerns. Local police and Mr. Trudeau’s RCMP security detail were in attendance.
Conservative candidate Kyle Seeback is the MP for the Dufferin-Caledon riding north of Toronto that includes Bolton. Pictures posted to social media show people wearing “TEAM SEEBACK” T-shirts at the Liberal rally. In a brief statement posted on Twitter late Friday night, Mr. Seeback said those people are no longer part of his campaign.
“I learned tonight that a few of my supporters attended the protest outside Justin Trudeau’s event,” he wrote. “My campaign has zero tolerance for obscenities or threatening behaviour against any candidate.”
“Accordingly, these individuals are no longer welcome on my campaign.”
On his second day in Atlantic Canada, Mr. O’Toole denounced the protests at the Liberal rally.
“I strongly condemn any form of harassment and protest like we’ve seen,” he said. “We’re a democracy. We should be having a healthy and respectful debate of ideas and we have no time for people that bring in negativity to campaigning.”
Mr. O’Toole said he is focused on conducting a positive campaign, though days before the race was called, his party posted a video to Twitter depicting Mr. Trudeau as the bratty child in the movie Willy Wonka. In the movie the child is throwing a tantrum over candy. In the Conservative version, the Liberal leader is throwing a temper tantrum because he wants a majority government.
The video was removed from Twitter because of copyright infringement.
“We’re putting out a positive plan. And from myself right through to any volunteer, I expect professionalism, I expect respect. I respect my opponents,” Mr. O’Toole said Saturday.
Also Saturday, reporters travelling with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his campaign bus was met by a handful of anti-vaccine protestors who briefly blocked the road.
Mr. Singh also condemned the protesters who shut down the Liberal event the night before.
“No one should have to cancel their events where we have young people, we have volunteers, we have organizers, no one should have to cancel an event because they’re worried about danger to the safety of people coming out to a political event,” Mr. Singh said at an event in Sudbury. “That should not happen.”
The Conservatives are conducting a very different campaign tour compared to the other parties. Most of Mr. Trudeau’s events are being held outside and in public places, while the vast majority of Mr. O’Toole’s events are being held inside where protesters can’t access the gatherings. Saturday’s event in Fredericton was the first one held outside during the second week of the campaign. His rally later in the day in Charlottetown was also held outdoors.
Mr. O’Toole is also doing much less of the traditional mainstreeting or whistle-stops, where party leaders are more exposed to the general public.
Raucous protesters also greeted the Liberal leader earlier on Friday in Nobleton, Ont., where a chaotic scene developed during a photo-op in a bakery, where several unmasked demonstrators managed to get inside.
One young mother, holding a baby in one arm and shooting video on her phone in the other, accused Mr. Trudeau of “attacking” children and “funding segregation.” At least one protester was removed from the building.
“I’ve never seen this intensity of anger on the campaign trail, or in Canada. Not when I was a kid even when with my dad visiting out west, where we did see anger. Certainly not in my last 12 years as a politician,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters after the rally was cancelled.
Meanwhile, prominent Alberta Conservative incumbent Michelle Rempel Garner said she has been accosted by aggressive protesters twice in the last two weeks. In one case she said two men jumped out of a car with cameras and chased her down the street demanding she respond to conspiracy theories, and on Friday night she said while at dinner with her husband a man “aggressively approached us and cornered us at our table.”
“For these individuals in these moments, I feel like they don’t see me as a human. In those moments, I also fear,” Ms. Rempel Garner said in a statement published to her website on Saturday.
On Saturday Mr. O’Toole rolled out more policy proposals directed at encouraging competition and clamping down on the rising cost of living. He announced a Conservative government would increase the maximum penalty for price-fixing to $100 million from $24 million. He said the party would also introduce criminal penalties, including jail time, for company executives convicted of price-fixing.
“Competition drives prices down and gives consumers options at a price they can afford,” Mr. O’Toole told a small group of supporters in Fredericton.
In Sudbury, Mr. Singh announced an NDP government would forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt, “immediately and permanently” remove interest charges from federal loans, and double federal student grants.
“Students are struggling when they graduate,” Mr. Singh said. “We want to also forgive student debt to make sure that they’re not being crushed under the weight of that debt.”
Mr. Trudeau took a day off the campaign trail Saturday. But the Liberals unveiled two new ads. In one, the Liberal leader doubled down on his criticism of Mr. O’Toole’s stance against vaccine mandates for domestic air travellers and federal civil servants.
“I believe that vaccines should be mandatory for travel on planes and trains, because that’s how we’ll protect our kids and get back to normal,” he says in the ad, which features a clip of Mr. Trudeau receiving his own jab.
With reports from The Canadian Press.
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