By Kelsey Johnson
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday accused his Conservative rival of running a nasty and divisive campaign just days before voters head to the polls in a tight election race.
“The Conservative party is running one of the dirtiest, nastiest campaigns based on disinformation that we’ve ever seen in this country,” Trudeau told reporters during a campaign stop in Montreal.
Polls show Trudeau’s Liberals are in a statistical tie with the opposition Conservatives. A Nanos Research overnight poll for CTV and the Globe and Mail newspaper put the Conservative Party at 32.5%, the Liberals at 31.9%, and the left-leaning New Democrats (NDP) at 18.8%. Canadians vote on Oct. 21.
On Wednesday, Trudeau, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and NDP chief Jagmeet Singh were all stumping for votes in Quebec, a province that is a key political battleground, home to 78 of the 338 seats up for grabs. The Conservative leader was also scheduled to campaign in Ontario.
In the only English-language debate, Scheer said Trudeau was “a phony and a fraud” who did not deserve to govern. Scheer has repeatedly said Trudeau will raise taxes immediately after the election – a claim Trudeau has denied.
The Conservatives were the source of a video of Trudeau in blackface in the early 1990s. They gave it to Global News to authenticate and it emerged a day after the first blackface picture was published by Time magazine.
“Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives are choosing to play very divisive games and to use politics of fear and division to try and get Canadians to vote for them,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau targeted his Conservative counterpart near the end of the nearly six-week official campaign period, which has been characterized by mudslinging on both sides, and as he seeks to motivate his supporters to get out and cast a vote.
“Dear friends, we may wake up Tuesday morning and have a government led by Andrew Scheer. And the only way to avoid that is to vote for the Liberal party,” Trudeau said in French.
On his part, Scheer has had to deal with repeated references by Trudeau to his personal anti-abortion stance, even though the Conservative leader has said he won’t limit a woman’s right to choose.
“Justin Trudeau has been dividing Canadians – pitting regions of our great country against each other,” Simon Jefferies, a spokesman for Scheer’s campaign, said in a statement, adding Trudeau “should take a look in the mirror.”
Also in Montreal on Wednesday, Singh was asked by reporters what made his party different from the governing Liberals.
“We are actually progressive,” Singh said, drawing laughter from the crowd. Trudeau, he said, “promises something that will help people out, but then does the opposite.”
(Additional reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Editing by Cynthia Osterman)