Trudeau, Scheer dodge questions, trade barbs on final push to election day

Trudeau, Scheer dodge questions, trade barbs on final push to election day

Two leaders vying to be the next prime minister of Canada repeatedly dodged questions from reporters today, with Justin Trudeau refusing to speak about electoral reform or post-election scenarios and Andrew Scheer deflecting calls for an explanation on allegations his party orchestrated a smear campaign against a rival political party.

Instead, the Liberal leader reverted to a message track about the dire consequences of Conservative cuts, while the Conservative leader warned about the "costly coalition" of the Liberals and NDP if voters don't elect a majority Tory government.

In the final crucial days of the campaign, Scheer continued to raise questions about what a Liberal-NDP coalition would mean for the country's finances.

He has been accused of trying to fearmonger by spreading disinformation that a Liberal-NDP coalition would raise the GST and that the Liberals plan to legalize hard drugs.

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

"We have been very open and clear with Canadians about what we are going to offer as a government. We will lower their taxes. We will put more money in their pocket. We will get back to balanced budgets over a responsible period of time," Scheer said during an event in Toronto.

"On the contrary, what they don't have from Justin Trudeau is a clear explanation about what an NDP-Liberal coalition would look like … which taxes he would raise to pay for the NDP's promises. That's what Canadians have the right to know in the next few days before election day."

Scheer was asked repeatedly about reports that Daisy Group, the firm led by former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella, was behind a social media campaign to put the People's Party of Canada on the defensive and keep leader Maxime Bernier out of the federal leaders' debates.

Documents obtained by CBC News outline the work done by several employees of Daisy on behalf of an unnamed client. A source with knowledge of the project told CBC News that client was the Conservative Party of Canada.

Scheer refused to confirm or explain his party's involvement today.

"As a rule, we never make comments on vendors that we may or may not have engaged with," he said at least a dozen times.

Trudeau was asked if he had any concerns the Liberal Party may have been similarly targeted, but he turned it back to an attack on Conservative cuts.

"We've seen through this campaign that the Conservatives have had to use the policies of fear and division and, indeed, just make stuff up in order to get their message across," he said during an event in Hamilton. 

"Why? It's because they have nothing to offer Canadians except $53 billion worth of cuts."

The leaders are making their final pitches and driving home their key messages in the final days of a campaign that's too close to call.

Close national race

According to the latest CBC Poll Tracker, which aggregates all publicly available polling data, the Liberals have regained their seat advantage over the Conservatives, but remain in a close national race in public support and well below the numbers needed to win a majority government.

After making considerable gains in the polls, the NDP and Bloc Québécois appear to have hit a ceiling, but they could hold the balance of power in a minority Parliament.

Trudeau ducked a series of questions about what he will do if he wins a minority on Monday and repeated his pitch for Canadians to elect a strong progressive government to stop Conservative cuts.

Asked whether the "marathon" tour of three provinces right across the country in the final days of the campaign is an act of ambition or desperation, Trudeau expressed confidence about Monday's results.

He said Canadians get to make a choice about whether they want to tackle climate change, make life more affordable and get guns off the streets.

"That's what we need a progressive government for. We're not going to go for the Conservative cuts and an approach on climate change that does absolutely nothing and leaves it to future generations," he said. "On Monday, Canadians right across the country are going to choose forward."

The NDP was quick to fire out a "Fact Check" bulletin about Trudeau's "dodged questions."

"It's impossible to keep track of how many direct questions from reporters that Justin Trudeau has dodged. It's simpler to just list the straight answers he gave today," it read.

A blank page followed.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spent the day in battleground British Columbia, emphasizing his party's plan to make housing more affordable.

"Owning a place is no longer even a dream. They can't imagine renting a place that's affordable," he said.

"It's a real fear, and we want to change that."

The NDP has promised to build 500,000 affordable housing units over 10 years. Asked by reporters if that's a realistic timeline, Singh said the affordable housing shortage is a "crisis" that needs ambitious solutions, not half measures.

Big crowds, different chants

Trudeau attended a rally in Winnipeg Saturday evening that packed more than 1,500 people into a cultural centre. Speaking without a Teleprompter, Trudeau acknowledged the states of emergency last week due to a snowstorm and talked about the strength of Winnipeggers before launching into a 15-minute speech that prompted shouts of "four more years!"

Meanwhile, there were shouts about Trudeau of a different kind at Scheer's rally in Richmond HIll, Ont., near Toronto.

In what was his biggest rally of the campaign so far, Scheer had to shut down chants of "lock him up" aimed at Trudeau. 

Scheer was delivering his regular stump speech at a packed banquet hall north of Toronto when he brought up Trudeau's ethics violations.

"He still won't let the RCMP investigate the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal," Scheer told an audience of as many as 2,000 people, according to party estimates. 

"And that's why when we form government, we will hold a judicial inquiry into his scandal to get to the bottom of what he's done," Scheer shouted. 

Brief applause and cheers gave way to chants of "Lock him up! Lock him up!" Scheer looked uncomfortable, using his hand to try to wave off the chant. 

"Uh, well, or, ... we're going to get to the bottom of his scandal" Scheer said.

"We're going to vote him out! Vote him out," he said, as the crowd picked it up.

The "lock her up" chant is synonymous with Donald Trump and his presidential election campaign rallies of 2016, when he encouraged the chants directed at his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.