ONTARIO: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will be touring the country and making a final speech to voters ahead of Monday’s election, said on Sunday that only his liberals can end the COVID-19 pandemic and accused his main rival of taking the wrong approach.
Polls point to the political advantage going to Trudeau, who is ramping up attacks on conservative party leader Erin O’Toole over the pandemic. Trudeau favors vaccine mandates opposed by O’Toole, who favors testing to manage the public health crisis.
If Justin Trudeau wins, it would most likely be another minority government, again making him dependent on other parties to govern. Trudeau, 49, came to power in 2015.
O’Toole, 48, has been on the defensive since ally Jason Kenney, Alberta’s conservative prime minister, apologized on Wednesday for easing COVID-19 controls too early and mishandling the pandemic. The number of cases in the western province has risen.
“We don’t need a conservative government that won’t be able to show leadership on vaccines and the knowledge that we need to end this,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal.
Trudeau added that Canadians have to make “a very important choice, whether they want Erin O’Toole to continue working with Jason Kenney not to end this pandemic, or whether they want a liberal government.”
O’Toole has sidestepped questions about his past support of Kenney’s approach.
Sunday offered the last chance to convince voters. Parties are not allowed to campaign on election day. Trudeau plans to stop across Canada and cover some 4,500 km. O’Toole instead focused on parliamentary constituencies near Toronto, Canada’s largest city.
Justin Trudeau called the vote two years early to seek approval for his left-wing government’s handling of the pandemic and regain the parliamentary majority he lost in 2019. His initial healthy lead in the race disappeared amid discontent with the early call-up.
Polls show that neither the liberals nor the right-wing conservatives have the 38% public support needed for a majority.
The Trudeau administration has built up record debt to deal with the pandemic. O’Toole, who has said Trudeau will build into unsustainable debt if reelected, initially took the lead after hammering the prime minister on what he called an unnecessary power grab during the fourth wave of COVID-19.
To increase his appeal, O’Toole has sought to bring his party to the center by taking more progressive stances on gay rights and climate change than his predecessor.
“We’re not your grandfather’s conservative party. We reach out to everyone — we’re a big, blue positive tent,” O’Toole told supporters at a restaurant in Oakville, Ontario.
A senior Liberal campaign official said Trudeau had reached a late momentum. A series of opinion polls in the last few days shows that the Liberals and Conservatives were at about 32%.
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This is in favor of the Liberals, whose support is focused on large, constituency-rich urban centers. Conservative support is in the more sparsely populated rural areas and in the west of the country.
Justin Trudeau could be hurt if there is a low voter turnout, which favors conservatives.
If Trudeau wins another minority, he would most likely be reliant on Jagmeet Singh’s left-wing New Democrats, who want higher spending levels.
Singh said on Saturday that both Justin Trudeau and O’Toole have shown “an abject failure in leadership” in their handling of the pandemic, while also criticizing the early election call.