London West was painted blue and red on Friday as the battleground riding saw its third and fourth visit from separate federal party leaders this week.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was the first to make a campaign stop in London, Ont., with a news conference at the Bellamere Winery and Event Centre in the city’s northwest end in the early afternoon.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau arrived less than an hour later at an unannounced visit to Old South where he addressed supporters outside of Storm Stayed Brewing Company.
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The Forest City stumping showdown saw a similar request emerge from the remarks of the political rivals as they urged Canadians to cast a vote that would prevent the opposing party from winning.
O’Toole repeated his attacks on the Liberal Leader for calling an election during the COVID-19 pandemic and cited an Elections Canada prediction that the 2021 contest will cost $610 million.
“If Justin Trudeau is rewarded for calling a $600-million dollar election in the middle of a pandemic, everything you’ve come to dislike about Mr. Trudeau, the lectures, the division in this country, the hypocrisy, the rising prices, they will all only get worse,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole also fielded questions from reporters, including several that asked about the surge in COVID-19 cases being reported in Alberta.
This week, the province announced new health measures, including a vaccine passport system, in an effort to prevent its health-care system’s collapse.
O’Toole committed to working with “provinces and premiers of all political stripes,” but did not elaborate further.
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“Let me say to Albertans, and families even in southwestern Ontario where we lost a young child, we will stand and fight COVID-19 alongside you and if there’s anything the provinces need, including a steady supply of vaccines, including leadership on rapid tests, I will be there as Prime Minister,” O’Toole told reporters.
Reporters pressed O’Toole further on Alberta and asked for his opinion on Premier Jason Kenny’s handling of the pandemic in that province.
“The most important thing is I don’t care about their political party, I care about the Canadians in their provinces,” O’Toole responded.
“I wish we had a prime minister that did that. I wish we had a prime minister that didn’t try and pick fights in an election he called in a pandemic when we could be working together, all political stripes, to help people.”
Trudeau’s remarks were more brief as the Liberal leader gave a speech to supporters gathered in London’s Old South neighbourhood.
“Obviously, the first priority has to be ending this pandemic for good, and on that we need unequivocal, determined leadership,” Trudeau said.
“It has become crystal clear over the past weeks that Erin O’Toole is not willing to lead on vaccines. He is so busy trying to make room for anti-vaxxers in his big tent party that he can’t even demand that his own candidates be vaccinated.”
Trudeau also accused O’Toole of attempting to reverse the 2020 ban the Liberals placed on “assault-style weapons,” however the Conservative leader has said that ban will stay in place.
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The Liberal leader also addressed a developing situation at Western University, where roughly 8,000 students walked out of class on Friday to protest what they call a “culture of misogyny” on campus after a series of sexual assault allegations surfaced in recent days.
“It’s not okay for women to feel unsafe in their classrooms, in their workplaces. We have taken strong stands as a Liberal party, we will continue to,” Trudeau said.
“Thank you to the students who are out there marching, saying ‘This has to change.’ Our government will be there with you.”
Trudeau ended his remarks by appealing to left-leaning voters who are still on the fence.
“You can both vote for the best party to prevent O’Toole from becoming prime minister and the party with the best and most ambitious plan on the things that matter to progressives,” Trudeau said.
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Friday was the latest round of campaign stops for London West.
On Wednesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke to a crowd of more than 100 supporters in the city’s Wortley Village neighbourhood. A larger and less-masked crowd was seen hours later as PPC Leader Maxime Bernier paid a visit to Springbank Park.
With an incumbent void left by two-term Liberal MP Kate Young no longer seeking re-election, London West is predicted to be open for the taking from either the Liberals, the Conservatives or the NDP.
On a national scale, the latest polling done for Global News suggests the Liberals and the Conservatives are in a dead heat as the campaign draws to a close.
Canadians cast their ballots on Sept. 20.
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