On the final day of campaigning in a tight election battle, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned that his Conservative opponents would weaken the nation’s battle against the coronavirus and said Canadians need a government that follows science.
“We do not need a Conservative government that won’t be able to show the leadership of vaccinations and on science that we need to end this,” Trudeau said during a campaign stop in Montreal on Sunday.
Polls show Trudeau’s Liberal Party is in a close race with the rival Conservatives and that it is unlikely on Monday to get the outright majority needed to govern without the help of an opposition party to remain in power.
According to a poll tracker by Canadian broadcaster CBC, the Liberals had 31.4 percent support, compared with 30.9 percent for the Conservatives as of Sunday. But the Liberals were expected to win the most seats in parliament and had a three in five chance of getting a minority government.
Trudeau, 49, called the vote two years early in hopes that his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic would help the Liberals achieve the parliamentary majority they lost in 2019. He first took power in 2015.
His initial healthy lead vanished amid voter unhappiness with the early call. Polls show that neither the Liberals nor their rival right-leaning Conservatives have anywhere near the 38 percent public support needed for a majority.
Trudeau, whose government racked up record levels of debt to tackle the pandemic, intends to fly from one end of the country to the other on Sunday, covering some 4,500km (2,800 miles) in a last-minute bid to rustle up votes.
“We now get to pick the right direction for our country: to keep moving forward, or to let Conservatives take us back,” Trudeau told a crowd of about 200 volunteers at his first event of the day in Montreal.
In contrast, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole plans to spend the entire day in parliamentary constituencies near Toronto, Canada’s most populous city and a pivotal one for any party seeking to win power.
The Conservatives made important gains in the early days of the election campaign after O’Toole, 48, hammered Trudeau over what he called an unnecessary power grab during the fourth wave of COVID-19.
“We’re not your grandfather’s Conservative Party. We’re reaching out to everyone – we’re a big, blue positive tent,” O’Toole told supporters at a restaurant in Oakville, Ontario.
But in recent days the Conservative leader has been on the defensive over his opposition to the idea of vaccine mandates. He has refused to say how many of his party’s candidates are unvaccinated and Trudeau has been reminding Canadians of that at every opportunity.
O’Toole has described candidates’ vaccine choice as a personal health decision, but a growing number of vaccinated Canadians are becoming increasingly upset with those who refuse to get vaccinated.
Trudeau supports making vaccines mandatory for Canadians to travel by air or rail, something the Conservatives oppose. And Trudeau has pointed out that Alberta, run by a Conservative provincial government, is in crisis.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, an ally of O’Toole, said the province might run out of beds and staff for intensive care units within days amid a surge in coronavirus infections.
Kenney has apologised for the dire situation and is now reluctantly introducing a vaccine passport and imposing a mandatory work-from-home order two months after lifting nearly all
A Conservative victory on Monday would represent a rebuke of Trudeau, whose opponent has a fraction of his name recognition. O’Toole, 47, is a military veteran, former lawyer and a member of parliament for nine years.
If Trudeau does come back with another minority, he would most likely depend once again on the left-leaning New Democratic Party of Jagmeet Singh.
The NDP is currently polling in third with 20 percent support, according to CBC.