Trudeau’s message got the biggest and warmest reception at a jam-packed banquet hall in Milton, where Liberals are hoping their candidate, Olympian Adam van Koeverden, can unseat incumbent Lisa Raitt, the deputy leader of the Conservative party.
Van Koeverden got the crowd warmed up with a little help from Ed Robertson, of the band Barenaked Ladies, who led a singing of “O Canada.”
Then it was Trudeau’s turn. He painted the election as a critical moment for the future of the country with implications that will stretch beyond the term of the next government.
“This election is so important because we are facing a choice that is not just about the next four years. It’s about the next 40 years,” Trudeau said, citing the need to act on climate change.
“Over the next two days, we need to keep working incredibly hard,” Trudeau implored supporters. “We need to make sure that everyone understands that this election is about our collective future.”
Trudeau accused Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives of dusting off “exactly the same plan” as former prime minister Stephen Harper, quipping, “this may be the first time on the record that the Conservatives decided to recycle something.”
“There’s nothing for Canadians in that platform except cuts, cuts, cuts,” he said.
Outside the Milton rally, Megan Grieve said the issue for her this campaign is women’s reproductive health programs. “There’s no other viable choice,” Grieve said of her support for the Liberals.
“I’m fiscally conservative but I feel the social issues are more important to me,” said Grieve, who grew up in Milton but now lives in Etobicoke.
The 30-year-old said issues of affordable housing and child care benefits are also critical to her age cohort.
Saturday’s crowded schedule saw Trudeau start in Niagara Falls and move on to stops in Hamilton, Brantford and Milton before heading west to Winnipeg and Calgary and ending the day in Vancouver.
Asked whether the packed itinerary was a sign of political desperation or ambition, Trudeau recalled the similar final few days of the campaign four years ago.
“There are many things that remind me of that 2015 campaign including this last swing across the country, where we get to talk to everyone about how important their choice is on Monday,” he told supporters gathered at the Hamilton Fire Department’s training academy.
“It is a moment where we get to determine what our future will look like,” he said.
There are certainly some echoes from Trudeau’s 2015 campaign, like the rock star welcome that greets him at some campaign stops. The Liberal leader was mobbed in Brantford, now held by the Conservatives. After making brief remarks, he dove into the crowd to shake hands under the warm fall sun. The Milton banquet was packed with supporters eager to catch a glimpse of the Liberal leader.
But in a sharp break from the hopeful final weekend four years ago, the race is tight this time around. So too are questions now to Trudeau about the future for him and his party, though few produced substantial answers on Saturday.
Asked whether a Liberal majority is still possible, Trudeau replied, “I know that Canadians area focused on that positive choice they are making. Canadians are looking at Monday … as their opportunity to move Canada forward.”
Asked if he’s worried he could be out of job after Monday’s vote, he said only, “I’m very excited and confident about that choice Canadians are making.”
Trudeau refused to answer any questions about a minority government, whether they have merit or can be productive, or comment on the example of such governments in other countries. Instead, he fell back to his campaign lines.
“I’m focused on the important choice Canadians are making right now as they reflect on their vote on Monday, as they listen to their kids talk about the importance of fighting climate change and building a better country,” Trudeau said.
“Canadians across the country are facing a very clear choice, one that will allow them to stop Conservative cuts and elect a progressive government that will stand up to Jason Kenney and Doug Ford,” he said.
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That reference to premiers of Alberta and Ontario had the crowd cheering in support.
He also declined when asked whether the Liberals would reopen the issue of electoral reform — a high-profile pledge they abandoned in their first term — if the New Democrats made that a condition of their support in a minority Parliament.
As they are doing in these final days, Trudeau hopscotched from one riding to another now held by either the Conservatives or New Democrats. It was his third visit of the campaign to Hamilton, where Liberals hope to displace New Democrats. In Niagara, they hope that Andrea Kaiser can win the riding long held by Conservative Rob Nicholson, a former cabinet minister, who did not run again.
The visits are meant to give a last-minute boost to local candidates in hopes of garnering enough support to push the results in their favour. But the visits are also meant to project an aura of confidence.