Canada PM Trudeau vows to crack down on hospital protests, says rival backs extremists

·2 min read
Canada's Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a drive-in election campaign rally in Oakville

By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said if reelected he would ban people from protesting outside hospitals and accused his chief rival of supporting those who oppose COVID-19 vaccinations.

Recent polls show Trudeau's ruling Liberals have recovered from early setbacks and could eke out another minority government in the snap Sept. 20 election he called to gain approval for how he handled the pandemic.

Organizers of previous demonstrations against vaccine mandates promised to mobilize again across Canada on Monday and Trudeau said Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole was "giving into his anti-vaccination fringe elements in his caucus".

O'Toole is cool to the idea of mandates, saying he prefers use of rapid testing. The 48-year-old is trying to expand support by pushing more centrist policies.

"(He says) 'The Conservative Party is a big tent under my leadership', meaning there is room in his Conservative Party for anti-vaxxers," Trudeau said.

Trudeau said the Liberals would make it a criminal offence to block access to buildings that provide health care, including hospitals, abortion clinics, pharmacies and testing centers.

Earlier in the day O'Toole stepped up his attacks on Trudeau, portraying him as a scandal-hit party goer obsessed with keeping power. O'Toole noted photos of a young Trudeau dressed in blackface had emerged during the 2019 election race.

"Every Canadian has met a Justin Trudeau in their lives -- privileged, entitled and always looking out for number one ... he'll say anything to get elected, regardless of the damage it does to our country," he told a campaign event.

Trudeau, 49, has been in power since November 2015.

A Nanos Research rolling telephone poll of 1,200 people for CTV on Monday put the Liberals on 33.2% public support with the Conservatives on 30.2%. The poll is considered accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Such a result on election day would suggest another minority government for Trudeau.

(Writing and additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa;Editing by Alistair Bell)

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