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Canada's Trudeau, main rival exchange attacks as campaign grinds to an end

Canada's Trudeau, main rival exchange attacks as campaign grinds to an end
Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigns for the upcoming election in the Hamilton Fire Department in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe -
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STEPHANE MAHE(Reuters)
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By David Ljunggren

HAMILTON, Ontario (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, facing the loss of his Parliamentary majority in an election next week, traded attacks with his main rival on Saturday as a bad-tempered campaign entered the last few days.

Trudeau came to power in 2015 promising “sunny ways” and a new way of doing politics but saw his popularity drop earlier this year amid an ethics scandal. Images of him in blackface emerged last month, further hurting his Liberal Party ahead of the Oct. 21 election.

The 47-year-old prime minister, his voice increasingly hoarse, said Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer would slash spending and rip up Liberal plans to fight climate change.

Polls show the Liberals and the Conservatives in a dead heat, with neither able to capture a majority of the 338 seats in the House of Commons. This would leave the winner in a vulnerable position, seeking to govern with smaller parties.

“I know Canadians want a strong progressive government that would stop Conservative cuts,” Trudeau told a rally in a fire station in the Ontario city of Hamilton, to the west of Toronto.

In the absence of an overriding narrative, dirty tactics and awkward moments have characterized the campaign.

A Nanos Research poll for the Globe and Mail and CTV released on Saturday put the Liberals at 32.6% public support and the main official Conservatives at 30.3%. The left-leaning New Democrats, who compete for the same voters as the Liberals, were at 18.4%.

Trudeau sidestepped questions about his plans if he did not win a majority. Minority governments in Canada rarely last more than two and a half years.

Scheer, speaking in Toronto, said Trudeau would spend his first 100 days negotiating a coalition with the New Democrats that would impose tax hikes.

“Justin Trudeau has made it clear he will pay any price to stay in power, and he will use your money to do it,” he told reporters. There has only been one coalition in Canadian history, in 1917 during World War One.

Trudeau and Scheer made multiple trips to Ontario, which accounts for 108 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons. The Liberals hold 76 of those seats.

Trudeau was scheduled to make four stops in Ontario before flying later on Saturday to the western provinces of Manitoba and Alberta, where anger against the Liberals is rising over government environmental measures that critics complain will hobble the energy industry.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Hamilton, Ontario; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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