Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is standing by four of his candidates who Liberals charge have made inappropriate comments in the past, saying they have apologized.
Speaking to reporters in an unexpected scrum on his plane travelling from Ottawa to Vancouver late Saturday night, Mr. Scheer said the Conservative Party is “very confident with the scrutiny” the party undertook in vetting candidates.
Mr. Scheer’s comments come after the fourth day the Liberals released videos and remarks made by Conservative candidates that Mr. Scheer has visited in the early days of the campaign, and which the Liberals say shows he’s embracing intolerant people into his party.
“As long as someone takes responsibility for what they’ve said, and addresses the fact that in 2019 some things that may have been said in the past are inappropriate today, that anything they’ve ever said in the past caused any type of hurt or disrespect to one community or another and have apologized for that, I accept that,” Mr. Scheer said.
So far this campaign, all parties have been the subjects of political attacks over past social media comments made by their candidates. The Liberals ousted a Quebec candidate because of concerns raised by Jewish groups; an NDP candidate in B.C. stepped down because of unspecified “problematic” posts; and the Greens kicked out a candidate in Ontario over an online comment aimed at Muslims.
Earlier on Saturday, Mr. Scheer was campaigning with Conservative candidate Justina McCaffrey in Kanata, which was meant to be a low-key campaign day, but ended with Ms. McCaffrey leaving the event before it was over and refusing to answer questions from reporters.
Liberal MPs Mélanie Joly and Maryam Monsef, who are also members of the Liberal cabinet, had posted videos online of Ms. McCaffrey. In one she tells a reporter she is bothered by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s “preoccupation with the French, for example, the Quebec people.”
In the other, she pitches a reality television show with far-right political commentator Faith Goldy, who was banned by Facebook for spreading hate.
Ms. McCaffrey apologized on Twitter for her comments about Quebec, saying she regretted her poor choice of words and respects both official languages. She said in a statement released by the Conservative Party that the video with Ms. Goldy is from 2013 and that she hasn’t seen her for “several years.” There is a photo of the pair online from 2017.
Mr. Scheer told reporters that he finds things said and done by Ms. Goldy in the recent past “intolerant” and that he wants nothing to do with it. He said he understands they have not had contact in “quite some time” and that Ms. McCaffrey has addressed it.
Mr. Scheer is in a tight national race with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. The latest nightly tracking poll from Nanos-Globe and Mail-CTV shows the Liberals at 35 per cent, the Conservatives at 32 per cent, the NDP at 17 per cent, the Greens at 10 per cent, and the People’s Party of Canada at 2 per cent. The Bloc Québécois were at 17 per cent in Quebec.
The Liberal lead in the poll is about equal to the margin of error.
The survey was conducted by Nanos Research and was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV. 1,200 Canadians were surveyed between Sept. 12 and 14, 2019. The margin of error is 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” A report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys can be found at https://tgam.ca/election-polls.
The Liberals flagged to journalists earlier this week that the Conservative candidate in Mississauga-Streetsville, Ghada Melek, was reportedly rejected by the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, but Mr. Scheer has said he believed she withdrew from the race. Ms. Melek was seeking the provincial nomination for the 2018 vote when Islamophobic tweets had surfaced.
Mr. Scheer said Ms. Melek has “accepted responsibility for what she said,” and that she has declared her support for people of all faiths and backgrounds.
Arpan Khanna, the Conservative candidate for Brampton-North, apologized for comments he made when he was a teenager after a Liberal MP tweeted a screenshot of a homophobic comment he made years ago.
The Conservative leader was also forced to clarify his position on abortion after Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, the Liberals’ Crown-Indigenous relations minister, tweeted a two-year-old video of his candidate for York Centre espousing strong anti-abortion views.
In the video, Rachel Willson said she was “shocked” to learn that Canada has no legal restriction on abortion and that she is part of a “no not this one” prayer campaign, which involves trying to find the names of women who are considering having an abortion.
“We have a group of intercessors, who, when we catch word either from a pregnancy centre or a person who has a friend, or however that information comes to us, when we catch word of someone who is considering abortion, you can contact us and let us know,” Willson said in the video.
Turning his attention back to his opponent, Mr. Scheer said that Mr. Trudeau “has still failed to condemn” remarks made by one of his own candidates who tried to hide anti-Semitic comments. Mr. Scheer was talking about an Imam who was running for the Liberals in Montreal, Hassan Guillet, until the end of August. He was ousted by the party for comments he made about Israel, and another that “Zionists control American politics.”
When asked if he is worried about the Liberals releasing more embarrassing footage and comments of candidates, Mr. Scheer said the party will address the situation on a "case-by-case” basis, and raised that the party recently turfed a candidate from Winnipeg after it was revealed he hid Facebook accounts where he made discriminatory comments.
Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21.
With files from The Canadian Press