With just six days left in this election campaign, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is ramping up the pressure on his Liberal opponent — urging Canadians to punish Justin Trudeau for triggering what he called an "unwanted and unnecessary election."
Since day one of the campaign, opposition leaders have centred their critiques of Trudeau on the election call itself — an effort to capitalize on lingering frustration among voters over the decision to hold an election campaign in the middle of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters at a campaign stop in Russell, Ont., today, O'Toole said that a leader who calls a snap election during a health crisis "is not a person you can trust." He said Trudeau is trying to stage a self-interested "power grab" at a dangerous time.
'The choice is clear'
"For Canadians, the choice is clear. Do we reward Mr Trudeau for calling an unnecessary $600 million election in the middle of a pandemic?" O'Toole said, before going on to cite the example of one of Trudeau's most prominent critics — former justice minister Jody Wilson Raybould.
"Jody Wilson Raybould had the audacity to say 'no' to Justin Trudeau. On Monday, you can say 'no,' too," O'Toole continued. "'No' to being taken for granted. 'No' to more corruption. 'No' to more borrowing. 'No' to more lies. 'No' to more of the same.
"Justin Trudeau started this election. But you can finish it."
Trudeau launched his own assault on the Conservative leader today. At a campaign stop in Richmond, B.C., the Liberal leader said Canada is at a critical juncture in the pandemic and voters should have a say on how the country is governed in the next phase of this fight.
Trudeau said an O'Toole government would "take Canada backward" by dumping Canada's new greenhouse gas emissions targets and adopting "Stephen Harper's approach on the environment."
Flanked by former B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who has endorsed the federal Liberals' climate plan, Trudeau said his party is the only one with a credible plan to bring down the emissions driving climate change.
Trudeau also said that a vote for the Conservatives threatens the public health picture because O'Toole is opposed to mandatory vaccines for federal public servants and the travelling public. He has accused O'Toole of deferring to the "far right, anti-vax" fringe elements of the Conservative Party by opposing vaccine mandates.
Last week, O'Toole was forced to defend a partially vaccinated candidate who was campaigning at a Peterborough, Ont. retirement home — a decision the Liberals have called irresponsible.
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"Mr. O'Toole is laying out a vision that would take us back on climate change, on the economy, and to a time when assault rifles were legal in our communities. Erin O'Toole can't lead on vaccines — he can't get his candidates vaccinated. He can't explain why it's OK for unvaccinated candidates to be going to seniors' homes," Trudeau said today.
"We are the ones who can stop Conservatives," he said, slamming the NDP as an unserious option that "didn't put forward a real plan."
O'Toole said Trudeau is pushing the anti-vaccination narrative about the Conservatives because he "isn't interested in a serious debate about issues. The only thing that matters to him is his job."
'It's not 2015, Mr. Trudeau'
The Conservative leader said Trudeau is reviving well-worn anti-Conservative attack lines about abortion and two-tier health care and is "railing against a platform and a party that no longer exists anywhere other than his imagination."
"It's not 2015, Mr. Trudeau. It's 2021. And people aren't interested in the past. They care about the future," he said.
With the right-wing People's Party seeing much higher levels of support than in the 2019 campaign, O'Toole said "a vote for anyone other than Canada's Conservatives is a vote for more of the same from Mr. Trudeau."
Asked how he can claim to have run a positive campaign when he's personally attacking Trudeau, O'Toole said he spent the first 30 days pitching his plan for the economy, families and mental health. Now, he said, "I'm asking people to choose who they trust with their future. I think Canadians deserve an honest and ethical government and one with a plan."