01/06/2017 05:36 EST

Trudeau Ditches International Summit In Favour Of Canadian Tour

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is ringing in the new year with a determined effort to re-establish his connection with grassroots Canadians after closing out 2016 amid accusations of kowtowing to wealthy donors at elite Liberal fundraisers.

Trudeau is planning to embark on a campaign-style tour, talking to average folks at coffee shops and church basements across the country.

His communications director, Kate Purchase, says Trudeau will make three or four pit stops each day of the tour.

It was initially slated to take up six or seven days over the next three weeks, with breaks for a trip to the World Economic Forum annual summit in Davos, Switzerland, and a two-day cabinet retreat before Parliament resumes at the end of the month.

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Justin Trudeau meets a child in Toronto. (Photo: Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

But the Prime Minister's Office announced Friday that Trudeau has cancelled plans to attend the Davos summit to allow for an expanded tour that would see him spend more time meeting more Canadians in more locations across the country.

The first leg of the tour is to start at the end of next week with Trudeau travelling Highway 401 from Ottawa to London, Ont., with an overnight at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

That will be followed up by stops in British Columbia, Quebec and the Prairies, with events still being planned for the Atlantic provinces.

Purchase says the events will be a mix of traditional town hall-style, question-and-answer sessions and more informal mingling with people in coffee shops and church basements.

"The prime minister wants to hear from them how they are feeling at the start of 2017, what their concerns and anxieties are and what we can do to help alleviate that."

"We see this as part of a concerted effort to remain connected to Canadians, at home in their communities," she says.

"The prime minister wants to hear from them how they are feeling at the start of 2017, what their concerns and anxieties are and what we can do to help alleviate that."

The tour may also be intended to reverse the slippage in Trudeau's popularity over the final months of 2016 as he deflected allegations of unethical fundraising practices over his appearance at multiple events where donors contributed as much as $1,500 to the Liberal party in order to rub shoulders with the prime minister.

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Justin Trudeau walks along the deck while touring the CCGS Wilfrid Laurier during a boat tour of Burrard Inlet near Vancouver in November 2016. (Photo: Ben Nelms/Reuters)

It will also feed into consultations leading up to his government's second budget, likely to be introduced in February or March.

The budget, the highlight of the winter parliamentary sitting, is expected to focus on the government's innovation strategy, which Purchase describes as anticipating economic opportunities of the future and helping middle-class Canadians take advantage of them.

Cabinet retreat in January

In addition to the tour, Trudeau is to convene a cabinet retreat in Calgary on Jan. 22-24.

He held a retreat in nearby Kananaskis in the spring, but Purchase says the Calgary gathering will give ministers a chance to tap into the mood in the oilpatch following decisions late last year to approve two pipelines and to impose a national price on carbon as part of a pan-Canadian climate change strategy.

As for the Davos summit, Jan. 17-20, the PMO says the Canadian government will be well-represented with a number of cabinet ministers in attendance.

"The forum is a prime opportunity to highlight Canada's strength as a place to invest, grow and establish new business opportunities and our ministers will be doing that work and building new relationships," said spokesman Cameron Ahmad.

This year's summit is focused on a theme close to Trudeau's heart: developing ways to ensure the benefits of economic growth and social progress are spread more equitably, to counter the frustration over unevenly shared prosperity that has led to an explosion of protectionism, populism and nativism around the globe.

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