September 13, 2021

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The head of Canada’s opposition Conservatives, facing possible election defeat, on Monday stepped up his attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, portraying him as a scandal-hit party goer obsessed with keeping power.

Recent polls show Trudeau’s ruling Liberals have recovered from early setbacks and could eke out another minority government in the snap Sept 20 election he called to gain voter approval for how he handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, an ex-air force helicopter navigator, noted photos of a young Trudeau dressed in blackface at parties had emerged during the 2019 election race.

“When Mr. Trudeau was partying – and we’ve all seen the photos – I was doing search and rescue missions in the military,” O’Toole, 48, told a campaign event near Ottawa.

“Every Canadian has met a Justin Trudeau in their lives — privileged, entitled and always looking out for number one … he’ll say anything to get elected, regardless of the damage it does to our country.”

Trudeau, 49, has been in power since November 2015.

The comments represent a notable sharpening in tone from O’Toole, on the defensive recently over his right-leaning party’s gun rights stance. Last week he scrapped a promise to eliminate a ban on some assault weapons after Trudeau accused him of cozying up to the gun lobby.

Asked whether he felt the chances of victory receding, O’Toole accused Trudeau of “promising unlimited debt, higher taxes, and continued cover-ups and scandals.”

A Nanos Research rolling telephone poll of 1,200 people for CTV on Monday put the Liberals on 33.2% public support with the Conservatives on 30.2%. The poll is considered accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Such a result on election day would suggest another minority government for Trudeau, who told an Ontario rally on Sunday that O’Toole was friends with the gun lobby and people who opposed vaccinations against COVID-19.

(Additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Vancouver; Editing by Alistair Bell)