O’Toole, Singh target Trudeau over pandemic election call

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Published September 3, 2021 at 11:44 am

Trudeau elbows supporters

OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is finding himself under fire this morning from his political opponents over the timing of an election call during the fourth wave of COVID-19.

Trudeau triggered the election three weeks ago, and it wraps on Sept. 20.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is labelling it a selfish decision and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is suggesting Trudeau might seek another vote if he doesn’t receive a majority mandate.

Both say they are prepared to fight an election virtually if case counts jump and public health officials demand renewed restrictions.

The comments come just ahead of a COVID-19 update from the Public Health Agency of Canada that will include new modeling for the fall.

Trudeau is scheduled to speak later this morning in Mississauga, as he and other leaders are hoping to get a boost after last night’s French-language debate.

Four of the main party leaders went head to head Thursday night in Montreal in the first televised debate of the campaign, trading barbs over the COVID-19 pandemic, health care and systemic racism in Quebec, a key battleground in Canada’s 44th federal election.

The French-language debate on TVA, one of the province’s most-watched networks, comes at the midpoint of the campaign and could prove crucial to the outcome on Sept. 20 as Quebec becomes a three-way fight between the Liberals, Bloc Québécois and Conservatives.

Trudeau, O’Toole, Singh, and the Bloc’s Yves-François Blanchet took part, with the three opposition leaders accusing Trudeau of unleashing an election unnecessarily amid rising COVID-19 cases and a crisis in Afghanistan.

Trudeau’s minority government was elected in 2019 before the pandemic struck and upended federal priorities, which he said necessitated a fresh mandate from voters.

The debate covered three main subjects: the pandemic, social policy and the recovery.

The Green Party’s Annamie Paul and Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, were not invited to participate.

Vote-rich Quebec has proven volatile in past elections, swooning for the NDP under Jack Layton in 2011 and swinging unexpectedly toward the Bloc two years ago.

In 2019 the Bloc more than tripled its seat count to 32, pushing the Liberals down to 35 in Quebec and the Tories to 10 while the NDP plummeted to just a single seat in Montreal — a far cry from the 16 they won in 2015 or their high-water mark of 59 under “le bon Jack.”

The Canadian Press

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