TORONTO — Justin Trudeau acknowledged Wednesday that he could lose the upcoming election, painting the possibility that Canadians wake up on Oct. 22 in the shadow of a Conservative victory.
The Liberal leader made the remark during a campaign stop in the Montreal riding of Hochelaga, currently held by the NDP. He accused Conservatives of running one of the “dirtiest” campaigns after being asked about the $312,450 that The Manning Centre, a conservative think tank, spent on third-party, anti-Liberal ads.
“We know that the Conservative party is running one of the dirtiest nastiest, campaigns based on disinformation that we’ve seen in this country,” Trudeau said.
Asked if he still thinks he’s doing politics differently, Trudeau said in French that he can’t believe Quebecers will choose a government that “refuses to do anything about climate change,” a reference to Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.
Calling on Canadians to pick a “progressive government, not a progressive opposition,” Trudeau said that every election presents a choice for voters. “And I’m not taking any of Canadians’ votes for granted.”
The Liberal leader shared a premonition last year that Canadians were facing “perhaps what will be the most divisive and negative and nasty political campaign in Canada’s history.” Shortly before the start of the election, Trudeau said in a podcast interview with The Economist that he would not be “looking for wedge issues” during the campaign.
Liberals have since launched numerous attacks aimed at Conservatives on same-sex marriage, abortion, and gun control. Conservatives have also raised eyebrows with their own tactics, including issuing new releases driven by innuendo and debunked rumours about Trudeau’s past as a teacher in Vancouver.
Disinformation campaigns have also polarized debate, from Conservative ads accusing Liberals of wanting to decriminalize hard drugs to Liberals claiming Conservatives want to keep semi-automatic firearms on the street.
Conservatives and Liberals are neck-and-neck in polls in this last week of the election. The narrowing race has drummed up chatter about a minority government, prompting leaders to talk publicly about coalition government scenarios.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reiterated Wednesday that political discourse should allow for campaigns to be respectful,with space for differing opinions to be expressed. He said he hasn’t sat down to evaluate if this year’s election is “worse” than others.
Speaking to reporters in Jack Layton Park in Hudson, Que., Singh warned voters to not be swayed by politicians stoking people’s anxieties to get them to the polls.
“I also want to push back: Do not vote out of fear and don’t let Mr. Trudeau encourage you to vote out of fear,” Singh said, eliciting claps from supporters and incumbent NDP MPs flanked around him. “Nothing good in life comes from making a decision out of fear.”
Singh is at the helm of his first federal election campaign, as is Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. A reporter asked the NDP leader how he’s found the campaign.
He highlighted some “troubling” moments, making explicit reference to the revelations that Trudeau wore blackface that made international news last month. This and other issues may have been “hurtful” and “hard to deal” for some people watching the news.
“Mr. Trudeau seems to be focusing on me or Mr. Scheer. I’ve been focusing on people,” Singh said.
At a skating rink in Essex, Ont., Scheer was forced to channel his former House Speaker days and called “order” during when a crowd of rowdy supporters heckled a reporter for asking about a Conservative election win being contingent on vote splitting.
Liberal Transport Minister Marc Garneau attacked the Conservative leader shortly before his media availability, circulating a clip of Scheer sitting down during a rendition of “O Canada” sung in the House when legislation to make the anthem gender neutral passed third reading.
“The Liberals were using our national anthem for a political statement,” Scheer told reporters.