By Stephane Mahe
WINDSOR, Ontario (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who looks set to lose his majority after an Oct. 21 election, on Monday said he needed a strong government to continue standing up to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trudeau’s remarks were unusually forceful, especially since the two leaders looked to have patched up relations after Trump accused the Canadian of being weak and dishonest last year.
Polls put Trudeau’s Liberals as level with the Conservatives of Andrew Scheer and suggest they will lose their majority in the House of Commons. This would leave them relying on smaller parties to govern.
Trudeau, campaigning on the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, noted the Liberals had overseen the successful negotiation of a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement last year. The talks were tough at times and Trudeau said Scheer had favoured capitulating to the U.S. side.
“We need to continue to have a strong government with a clear focus on standing up for Canadians, standing up to Donald Trump, standing up to the forces of populism and chaos around the world,” Trudeau told reporters in Windsor, Ontario, which sits opposite Detroit.
A Nanos Research poll released on Monday put the Liberals at 32.3% public support and the Conservatives at 32.1%. The left-leaning New Democrats of Jagmeet Singh, the most obvious choice of partner for a Liberal minority government, were at 19.2%.
Singh indicated on Sunday he would be open to a coalition government with the Liberals, who have struggled to open a clear lead over their rivals since the emergence of photos last month showing Trudeau in blackface.
Canada has had only one formal coalition government ever, in 1917. The New Democrats have struck informal deals to keep minority Liberal governments in power, most notably from 1972-1974 and in 2005.
Asked about a possible coalition with the New Democrats, Trudeau replied, “I’m campaigning hard to stop Conservative cuts and elect a progressive government.”
The Conservatives announced their platform last week and outlined tens of billions of dollars in spending reductions.
The New Democrats hold both of Windsor’s parliamentary seats. Trudeau is also scheduled to tour a constituency the New Democrats hold in London, Ontario.
The Conservatives said a coalition between the Liberals and New Democrats would drive up taxes and kill jobs, telling supporters in an email that “Justin Trudeau will pay any price to stay in power. And it’s your money he will pay with.”
(Reporting by Stephane Mahe in Windsor, Ontario; Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Matthew Lewis)