One day after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau dropped in on Fredericton, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole made a last-minute stop in Saint John in a final scramble for votes ahead of Monday's federal election.
O'Toole appeared with five of his New Brunswick candidates, including Saint John-Rothesay's Mel Norton, in the iceless ice shed of a local curling club.
He sent a clear signal to supporters of the People's Party of Canada that they should be supporting him instead.
"There is only one leader that can replace Justin Trudeau," he said.
"Channel that frustration to replace Mr. Trudeau. We hear you. We know you're frustrated, which is why we have a plan to get our country back on its feet."
O'Toole avoided several questions from reporters on decisions by Premier Blaine Higgs and his Alberta counterpart Jason Kenney to reimpose public-health restrictions in the face of rising COVID-19 case numbers.
Alberta reported more than 1,600 new cases on Wednesday, and New Brunswick's active-case count of 336 on Thursday is close to the province's all-time pandemic peak of 348 in January.
O'Toole would not say what he thinks of Higgs's announcement Wednesday that proof of vaccination will be required to enter non-essential businesses and facilities starting next week.
"I will always work with the provinces on their decisions related to proof of vaccination, QR codes, vaccine passports," he said.
People's Party supporters oppose such requirements and O'Toole dodged a question over whether he is happy people with such opinions are not part of his Conservative Party.
"For anyone that wants to build a better country, anybody that wants to secure jobs, anyone that wants to rebuild our health care system after 18 very difficult months, there is one choice in this election. It's Canada's Conservatives," he said.
Questioned about banned firearms
O'Toole also fielded a question about the M14 semi-automatic rifle, the kind of firearm used in the fatal shooting of three Codiac RCMP officers in Moncton. It's among the guns banned by the Trudeau Liberal government.
"The tragic shooting in Moncton is still something that resonates today," O'Toole said.
But he did not say directly whether his promised "non-partisan, fully public review" of firearms classifications could lead to the weapon becoming legal again.
"We need to keep guns out of the hands out of the hands of criminals and give the resources to police officers to do that," he said.
O'Toole's stop followed one by Trudeau late on Wednesday, when he appeared with Fredericton candidate Jenica Atwin at a local craft brewery.
The Liberal leader talked up the massive spending by his government to subsidize wages and businesses during the pandemic.
"We knew as a government that we had to have your backs," he said, and every step of the way, Conservatives were busy telling us, 'No, no, you're doing too much.'"
Atwin left the Green Party in June to join the Liberals and become their candidate. In 2019, she won a tight three-way race in Fredericton over Conservative Andrea Johnston and Liberal Matt DeCourcey.
Johnston is running again this time, and the Green candidate is Nicole O'Byrne.
In recent weeks Trudeau and O'Toole have both visited another riding that was close in 2019, Miramichi-Grand Lake, but neither leader made stops there this time.