Trudeau takes aim at O’Toole in address to Liberal party faithful

Trudeau said O’Toole painted a worst-case scenario for the vaccine rollout that never came to pass

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took aim at Erin O’Toole in a speech to fellow Liberals Saturday afternoon, accusing the Conservative leader of not being interested in “real solutions to real problems.”

Trudeau was the final speaker at the Liberal’s convention Saturday, speaking from a studio to make his pitch to party members. The convention also had speeches from former Bank of Canada and Bank of England governor Mark Carney and panels with most of the Liberal cabinet speaking about the pandemic and the expected recovery.

Trudeau took aim at O’Toole during the speech arguing he has made conflicting commitments and said whatever it would take to get elected.

“He’s already shown that he’s willing to say different things to different people at different times if he thinks it will help him get ahead,” he said. He says he wants to make communities safer. But to get the support of the gun lobby, he promised to make assault weapons legal again.”

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The pandemic forced the convention to go virtual this year, as it has for the Conservative convention last month and the NDP convention, which is also taking place this weekend. The party dozens of policy proposals and endorsed a wide array of policies, including pushing for the government to pursue a basic income and a high-speed rail network.

Trudeau accused O’Toole of muddying the waters about public health restrictions and suggested he wasn’t speaking to Canadians.

“How disconnected do you have to be to flirt with disinformation on public health and vaccines, while a deadly virus takes loved ones, friends, and neighbours?” He asked.

He said O’Toole painted a worst-case scenario for the vaccine rollout that never came to pass.

“While Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives gleefully told Canadians it might be years until they got their shot, the reality is very different.”

The government has received about 10 million vaccines so far, but Canada is still behind many western nations. Trudeau said the numbers are only going to grow as the spring continues.

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“There are millions more vaccines on the way, and we are on track to meet our commitment that every Canadian who wants to be, will be fully vaccinated by the end of the summer.

Still work to do

Trudeau made no mention of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and little mention of the Bloc Quebecois, focusing his remarks on O’Toole. Most public opinion polling has Trudeau’s Liberals in front, with O’Toole in second place.

Trudeau lauded his government’s work during the pandemic, including supports for small businesses like the wage and rent subsidy, as well as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

But he also said there was more to be done to reduce inequality, but he stressed the government still has much work to do.

“There are over four hundred thousand kids who were lifted out of poverty these past years with programs like the Canada Child Benefit. Well, when some of them are at risk of going hungry again because of this pandemic,” he said “That means there’s still work to do.”

The prime minister has repeatedly said he doesn’t want an election until the pandemic has passed, but has also said he doesn’t control that outcome in a minority parliament. Trudeau encouraged party members to reach out to their neighbours and show them the Liberals can be the party for them in the coming campaign.

“Reach out your hand to a neighbour who had a blue, or orange, or green lawn sign last time around. Phone up a friend who has a different perspective, and maybe didn’t vote for us in the past.”

MPs will return to the House of Commons on Monday and a budget is expected on April 19, which will be a key confidence vote and could force the country into a spring election.

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Trudeau takes aim at O'Toole in address to Liberal party faithful