OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau ended the first official week on the federal election campaign trail where he started — trying to convince voters that he is the centrist choice, and pitting Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair against each other.
In the middle of a sweltering, packed meeting hall in Ottawa's west end on Sunday, Trudeau repeatedly insisted that he's prepared to govern the country from the political middle ground, countering the message with which the Conservatives have constantly bombarded Canadians over the airwaves — that Trudeau is "just not ready."
Leading into a week when the Mike Duffy fraud trial is expected to re-ignite voter anger over the Senate expense scandal, Trudeau also accused Harper of making mistakes in choosing senators and dealing with controversy; again, fighting back against a Tory message that the Liberal leader has shown a lack of acumen.
"I think we're going to be reminded yet again this week of Mr. Harper's lack of respect for democracy and of his extremely poor judgment," Trudeau said in response to questions about the Duffy case.
But it was remarks made last week by a New Democratic Party candidate over the Alberta oilsands and environmental protection that gave Trudeau an opportunity to portray himself as the party leader who can govern from the centre, in contrast to Harper and Mulcair.
Linda McQuaig, a well-known author and journalist running for the NDP in a Toronto riding, told a CBC panel that a lot of Alberta crude may have to "stay in the ground"
for Canada to meet its climate change targets.
Earlier Sunday, Harper volunteered a response to McQuaig's comments by calling them evidence that the NDP has a "not-so-hidden agenda" of being against resource development, even though Mulcair has made clear he's open to oilsands production.
The contrast between the Conservatives and New Democrats could not be more clear, said Trudeau.
The Tories want to open the flood gates on development, regardless of the environmental consequences, and the New Democrats want to clog Canada's economic engine with red tape that would hamper industrial production, he suggested.
"What all Canadians know is the way to grow a strong economy in the 21st century is by caring for the environment," Trudeau said before climbing on his campaign bus.
"And you don't get to make a choice between one or the other."
Trudeau took aim at Harper's economic policies Sunday as he had all week, accusing the Conservatives of failing with their plan to create jobs and a better life for middle income earners.
The Liberal leader also loudly shrugged off the Conservative party's ability to raise campaign funds, urging supporters to knock on as many doors as possible in the nation's capital until Oct. 19, in an effort to prove that money won't buy Harper a fourth consecutive chance at power.
"Show Stephen Harper that all the money in the world can't stop change when Canadians want change," Trudeau shouted as he ended his last stump speech of the week.
Trudeau was to be in Montreal on Monday where he was expected to start week two of his campaign by holding a news conference with Liberal candidates from the region before attending an evening rally in the city.
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