Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is crisscrossing the country making one last pitch to voters before the election on Monday, said on Sunday that only his Liberals could end the COVID-19 pandemic and accused his main opponent of taking the wrong approach.
Opinion polls show Trudeau gaining a political advantage over Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole as a result of the pandemic. O’Toole, who prefers testing to control the public health crisis, opposes Trudeau’s support for vaccine mandates.
If Trudeau does win, it would most likely be another minority government, leaving him dependent again upon other parties to govern. Trudeau, 49, took power in 2015.
O’Toole, 48, has been on the defensive since ally Jason Kenney, the conservative premier of Alberta, apologized on Wednesday for relaxing COVID-19 controls too early and mishandling the pandemic. Cases in the western province have soared.
“We do not need a Conservative government that won’t be able to show the leadership on vaccinations and on science that we need to end this,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal.
Trudeau added that Canadians “have a really important choice to make, whether they want Erin O’Toole to continue working with Jason Kenney on not ending this pandemic, or do they want a Liberal government.”
O’Toole has sidestepped questions about his earlier support for Kenney’s approach.
Sunday offered the last chance to sway voters. Parties are not allowed to campaign on election day. Trudeau intends to make stops across Canada, covering some 2,800 miles (4,500 km). O’Toole instead focused on parliamentary constituencies near Toronto, Canada’s largest city.
Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at an election campaign stop on the last campaign day before the election, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
Trudeau called the vote two years early to seek approval for his left-of-center government’s handling of the pandemic and regain the Parliamentary majority he lost in 2019. His initial healthy lead in the race vanished amid unhappiness with the early call.
Polls show neither the Liberals nor the right-leaning Conservatives having the 38% public support needed for a majority.
Trudeau’s government racked up record debt to tackle the pandemic. O’Toole, who has said Trudeau will amass unsustainable levels of debt if re-elected, initially took a lead after hammering the prime minister over what he called an unnecessary power grab during the fourth wave of COVID-19.
Aiming to broaden his appeal, O’Toole has tried to move his party toward the center, taking more progressive stances on gay rights and climate change than his predecessor.
“We’re not your grandfather’s Conservative Party. We’re reaching out to everyone – we’re a big, blue positive tent,” O’Toole told supporters at a restaurant in Oakville, Ontario.
According to a senior Liberal campaign official, Trudeau has gained late momentum. A series of polls conducted in the final days show the Liberals and Conservatives tied at around 32%.
This benefits the Liberals, whose support is concentrated in large urban centres with large constituencies. The Conservatives’ support base is concentrated in the country’s more sparsely populated rural areas and in the west.
Trudeau may suffer if voter turnout is low, which tends to favour the Conservatives.
If Trudeau is re-elected, he will almost certainly rely on the left-leaning New Democrats of Jagmeet Singh, who want higher levels of spending. Singh stated on Saturday that both Trudeau and O’Toole have demonstrated “an abject failure in leadership” in their handling of the pandemic, while also criticizing the early election call.