Canada’s 43rd general election is officially underway.
Voters will head to the polls on Oct. 21, giving Canadian politicians 40 days to get their message out across the country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement at Rideau Hall after a meeting with the Governor General on Wednesday. Trudeau said Canadians will make an important choice this fall and urged them to stick with his party. He also blasted the previous Conservative government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“(Last election) Canadians chose a new team that was ready to invest in people and in their communities, a team that understood that even if we live in the best country in the world, it’s always possible to do better,” Trudeau said in front of a crown of supporters. “Even though we have a huge amount of work still to do, we spent the last four years making things better and we have the record to prove it.”
The Prime Minister was eager to talk about his party’s accomplishments, which he says include renegotiating NAFTA, strengthening the Canada Pension Plan and working towards reconciliation.
However, he spent the first few minutes of his campaign answering questions about a Globe and Mail report on the SNC-Lavalin affair. The paper reported on Wednesday that that the RCMP is looking into potential obstruction of justice claims, but have been blocked by the federal government’s refusal to lift cabinet confidentiality for all witnesses.
When asked about the report on Wednesday, Trudeau gave a brief answer saying the government had given out “the largest and most expansive waiver of cabinet confidence in Canada’s history.”
When asked by reporters to explain what mistakes he made in the SNC-Lavalin affair, Trudeau said he was defending Canadian jobs, and that he would do so again in the future.
“My job as Prime Minister is to be there, to stand up for and defend Canadian’s jobs, whether it’s communities right across the country, pensioners or families, I will always defend the public interest. I will always defend peoples’ jobs,” he said.
When asked about criticisms that he was inauthentic, Trudeau said voters know “very well” that he is focused on making the right choices for Canadians.
“We are all in for building a better future for Canadians,” he said.
Scheer and Singh take aim at Trudeau on opening day of campaign
The rest of Canada’s party leaders didn’t hesitate to condemn the Prime Minister as they got their campaigns underway, particularly Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
Speaking prior to the Trudeau’s announcement, Scheer called on the Prime Minister to immediately waive cabinet confidentiality so the RCMP could conduct a thorough investigation.
He added that the Liberal Party has lost the moral authority to govern, said he thinks the Conservative Party’s platform will resonate with Canadians.
“This scandal is not about the impact on the polls. It’s about integrity as to whether Justin Trudeau has the moral authority to continue to govern,” Scheer said.
“If (Trudeau) had nothing to hide, he would waive the privilege and let the RCMP do their work,” he added.
Singh echoed those sentiments as he opened his campaign in London, Ont. He told a roomful of supporters that Justin Trudeau “is not who he pretended to be” last election, and urged Canadians to reject both the Liberals and the Conservatives in this year’s election.
“Four years ago, Justin Trudeu charmed us with pretty words and empty promises,” Singh told those in attendance. “He said the right things, but he didn’t do them. Behind closed doors, Justin Trudeau does whatever the wealthy and powerful corporations want him to do. It’s clear Justin Trudeau isn’t who he portended to be.”
Greens and PPC looking to make historic impact
Green Party leader Elizabeth May opened her campaign in Victoria, B.C. by calling this year’s vote “the most important election in Canadian history.” May hammered the other major parties for talking tough when it came to climate change, only to avoid taking the necessary action.
“This election is about telling the truth to Canadians about how serious the climate emergency really is,” she said to a round of applause from supporters. “We do that in order not to create fear. We do that in order to give everyone hope. We have a plan. We know this is a climate emergency and we don’t just use the words without understanding their meaning.”
May said the government’s $4.5-billion purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline shows they aren’t serious about fighting climate change, and she called on Canadians to support a party that is.
People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier opened his campaign with local candidates in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke-North. Bernier spoke about a number of policy proposals, including the PPC’s pledge to balance the budget in two years, and said he’s looking forward to facing off against his old party.
“I like competition,” he said. “Look at our platform and their platform. Andrew Scheer is saying he will give you a tax rate over here and another tax rate over there. For us, we don’t do any pandering. What we’re doing right now is based on what we believe, and we don’t do any compromises with our principles.”
The Conservative platform calls for a number of tax cuts, including removing the federal portion of income tax from EI maternity and EI parental benefits, and removing the GST from home heating and energy bills.
Bernier added that he expects to be on stage for the English language national leaders’ debate on Oct. 7. The PPC has appealed a ruling from the Leaders’ Debate Commission that excluded Bernier from both the English and French language debates. The final verdict is due by Sept. 16.
“I’m pretty optimistic that we will be there because without us it won’t be a real debate,” Bernier said. “They’re all about the same on a lot of policies, so it’s important. I’m looking at this campaign, and I’m thinking we will be a huge surprise on the 21st of October.”