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Politics Trudeau makes Vancouver first stop of election campaign, setting stage for race in B.C.

Justin Trudeau embraces Vancouver Kingsway candidate Tamara Taggart at a rally in Vancouver, Sept. 11, 2019.

STRINGER/Reuters

Justin Trudeau took the Liberal campaign to Vancouver on Wednesday, marking his first stop on the party’s election tour and setting the tone for a high-stakes race in British Columbia.

Mr. Trudeau led a rally for Tamara Taggart, a former television news anchor running for the Liberals in the riding of Vancouver Kingsway, on Wednesday night. Hundreds of people chanted “Justin, Justin, Justin!” as the he entered the packed hall at the Italian cultural centre to the newly announced Liberal campaign theme song One Hand Up, by Canadian band the Strumbellas.

“It just felt right that four years ago we launched our campaign right here in Vancouver and today, tonight, we’re back to share our plan to keep Canada moving forward and kick things off with a bang right here in Vancouver Kingsway,” an energetic Mr. Trudeau told the crowd.

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The Liberals won 17 of 42 seats in British Columbia – mostly in the Lower Mainland – in the 2015 election and are hoping for another strong performance when Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21.

But the political dynamic in the province has changed, especially in the Lower Mainland where Mr. Trudeau’s former justice minister and attorney-general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, is seeking re-election as an Independent – not under the Liberal Party banner.

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Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet in February after what she described as months of political pressure from officials in the Prime Minister’s Office to shelve the criminal prosecution of Montreal-based engineering firm, SNC Lavalin Inc. The issue eventually led Mr. Trudeau to expel Ms. Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus in April.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday that the RCMP met with her in Vancouver on Tuesday to discuss political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. News of the interview came after The Globe reported that the RCMP’s probe into potential obstruction of justice in the SNC-Lavalin matter has been stymied by the federal government’s refusal to lift cabinet confidentiality.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday before he departed for Vancouver, Mr. Trudeau was asked whether he started his tour in Vancouver because of its proximity to Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s riding. Mr. Trudeau did not acknowledge his former minister, instead pointing out that he also launched his campaign in Vancouver in 2015.

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 Liberals will also be fighting to maintain their presence in the Lower Mainland battleground ridings, through which the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline would run. The government purchased the Kinder Morgan pipeline and expansion project for $4.5-billion last year, reigniting concerns about the risks the pipeline expansion poses to British Columbia’s coastal waters.

Construction on the expansion is to restart this fall after it was stalled when the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the federal permit August of 2018.

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Anti-pipeline protesters lined up along the street leading into the Italian cultural centre in Vancouver on Wednesday night, with signs reading “stop the pipeline.” Mr. Trudeau was also briefly heckled by a man decrying the government’s climate policies during his rally, but the protester was drowned out by loud cheers from Liberal supporters.

Mr. Trudeau will be in Victoria on Thursday morning to make an announcement and take questions from reporters. He will then head to Kamloops to attend an event with Liberal candidate Terry Lake and end his day in Edmonton at another rally.

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