Trudeau faces big fight

World | REUTERS 21 Oct 2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, facing the loss of his parliamentary majority in an election today, traded attacks with his main rival on Saturday.

Trudeau came to power in 2015 promising "sunny ways" but saw his popularity drop earlier this year amid an ethics scandal.

The 47-year-old prime minister said Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer would slash spending and rip up Liberal plans to fight climate change.

Polls show the Liberals and the Conservatives in a dead heat, with neither able to capture a majority of the 338 seats in the House of Commons.

In the absence of an overriding narrative, dirty tactics have characterized the campaign.

Another example occurred on Saturday when People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier said his party was considering legal action against the Conservatives after the Globe and Mail newspaper reported that the latter had hired a consultant to "seek and destroy" the PPC party and bar Bernier from participating in televised debates.

Bernier, a former Conservative cabinet minister, lost the Conservative leadership race to Scheer in 2017 and started his own right-leaning party, which could still split some of the Conservative vote. "This is the kind of dirty politics that confuse Canadians' faith in politics," Bernier said in Sainte-Marie, Quebec. "[Scheer] is ready to steal the election with lies and manipulations."

Scheer, speaking in Toronto, repeatedly refused to answer questions about the report, saying only: "We don't make comments on vendors that we may or may not have engaged with."

A Nanos Research poll for the Globe and Mail and CTV released on Saturday put the Liberals at 32.6 percent public support and the Conservatives at 30.3 percent. The left-leaning New Democrats, who compete for the same voters as the Liberals, were at 18.4 percent.

Trudeau sidestepped questions about his plans if he did not win a majority. Minority governments in Canada rarely last more than 2 1/2 years.

Scheer said Trudeau would spend his first 100 days negotiating a coalition with the New Democrats that would impose tax hikes. "Justin Trudeau has made it clear he will pay any price to stay in power, and he will use your money to do it," he said.

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