OTTAWA: Justin Trudeau began his bid for re-election Wednesday by framing the next 40 days as a time for Canadians to make a choice: whether they want more of his sunny ways or a return to the gloomier days he says are characteristic of life under a Conservative government.
But clouding over his optimism was the SNC-Lavalin scandal, given fresh life by a Globe and Mail report that the RCMP’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice in the matter has been limited by the shroud of cabinet confidence.
Moments after emerging from Rideau Hall, where he asked Gov. Gen. Julie Payette to dissolve Parliament, Trudeau faced a barrage of fresh questions on the affair.
He declined to address what personal mistakes he might have made in the saga, which saw the ethics commissioner declare Trudeau broke the law by trying to influence a decision on whether the Quebec engineering firm should go to trial on charges related to alleged corrupt dealings in Libya.
“My job as prime minister is to be there to stand up for and defend Canadians’ jobs,’’ he said. “I will always defend the public interest.’’
Before jumping on his own campaign plane this morning, a fired-up Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the SNC-Lavalin story showcases his belief that Trudeau has lost the moral authority to govern.
“Over the next five weeks I will be explaining the reasons why Justin Trudeau has lost that authority and our alternative plan,’’ he said in French.
Scheer was spending Day 1 of the campaign in Quebec and Ontario, while Trudeau headed to Vancouver, the same place he launched his bid in 2015.
Polls suggest the Liberals and Conservatives are running neck-and-neck, while the NDP and Greens are fighting for third.
The NDP are launched their campaign todayin London, Ont., one of the regions of the province where they think they’ll be able to hold onto seats. The Greens are in their own comfort zone of British Columbia, where Elizabeth May began her campaign in Victoria.
At the dissolution of Parliament, the Liberals hold 177 seats, the Conservatives 95, the NDP 39, the Bloc 10 and the Greens 2. There are eight independents _ including former Liberal cabinet ministers Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould. The People’s Party of Canada has one seat and former New Democrat Erin Weir sits as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Five seats are vacant.
The Leger poll – conducted two days ago – has put Conservative support at 35 per cent nationally to the Liberals’ 34 per cent _ essentially a tie The NDP and Greens were also tied at 11 per cent, with Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party bringing up the rear with just three per cent.
The poll of 1,546 eligible voters selected from Leger’s online panel was conducted Sept. 6-9. Internet-based surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered random samples.
The poll suggests the Liberals were ahead in Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces that account for almost 60 per cent of the 338 seats up for grabs.
In Ontario, support for the Liberals stood at 37 per cent, compared to 31 per cent for the Conservatives, 15 per cent for both the Greens and NDP and two per cent for the People’s Party.
In Quebec, the Liberals enjoyed the support of 37 per cent, well ahead of the Conservatives at 22 per cent, the Bloc Quebecois at 21 per cent, the Greens at 10 per cent, the NDP at six per cent and the People’s Party at five per cent.
The Liberals are counting on making gains in the two largest provinces to compensate for losses elsewhere. But Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said Liberal hopes of cashing in on a possible NDP collapse in Quebec could be stymied by the Conservatives and the Bloc. Both were in the range needed to pick up seats in the province.