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 fear-monger by spreading disinformation that a Liberal-NDP coalition would raise the GST and that the Liberals plan to legalize hard drugs.
“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 about whether the “marathon” tour of three provinces in a swing 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.