Ottawa: Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, trailing in opinion polls, has vowed not to back down against the “anti-vaxxer mobs” as he was struck by gravel thrown by a group opposed to vaccination mandates.
As the national election campaign enters its final weeks, Trudeau had earlier attacked his main rival, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, for pandering towards “anti-vaxxers”. But while at a campaign stop in London, Ontario, on Tuesday, he was confronted by angry protesters.
Trudeau downplayed the incident but later acknowledged that he may have been struck by some of the projectiles.
“There was little bits of gravel,” he told reporters. “It’s no big deal.”
A rolling Nanos Research survey of 1200 people for CTV on Sunday put the Conservatives at 34.9 per cent, with the Liberals at 33.4 per cent, and the left-leaning New Democrats at 18.9 per cent. A day earlier, Nanos had the Conservatives at 35.5 per cent and the Liberals at 33 per cent.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced heated responses throughout the election campaign.Credit:Bloomberg
With just two weeks left before the September 20 election, Trudeau had earlier attempted to claw back some ground from Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, who on Sunday scrapped a campaign promise to eliminate a ban on some assault weapons, a sensitive issue in Canada after mass shootings in recent years.
O’Toole “will say anything to try and get elected,” Trudeau told supporters at a campaign event in southern Ontario, Canada’s most-populous province. “That’s not leadership. That’s not integrity.”
After being criticised by O’Toole for calling the election two years early during a rising fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trudeau assailed his rival’s opposition to vaccine mandates, including for his own candidates.
Trudeau, who has pledged to make vaccines mandatory for public servants, said O’Toole was pandering to anti-vaxxers just as he had to the gun lobby. Anti-vax hecklers have shouted abuse and even death threats at Trudeau throughout his campaign.
“Erin O’Toole is at least taking some of his cues from [the anti-vax crowd],” Trudeau said.
“Canadians are beginning to see that that’s the future being offered by Erin O’Toole, a future of wishy-washy, weak leadership where he doesn’t stand up for what he believes in, doesn’t tell Canadians what he actually believes,” he said.
Speaking in Ottawa, O’Toole refused to say how many of his candidates had not been inoculated. He has said those who are not vaccinated must be tested daily.
“Our approach, with respect to vaccinations, is we try and encourage and inform and work with people, but we will respect their personal health decisions,” O’Toole said.
Canada has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with 67.5 per cent of its population fully vaccinated according to Our World in Data.
Liberal strategists have said the crucial period of the campaign starts after Labor Day, because Canadians have been more focused until now on their summer vacations than the election.
There are two debates this week, one in French and one in English, the only occasions left in which all the candidates will face one another on national television ahead of the vote.
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