Liberals hit Ontario's manufacturing heartland, singing praises of new NAFTA
HAMILTON -- Talking about international trade might be an usual way to pump up a crowd, but Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is hoping for an uncommon result in the rust belt of southern Ontario.
On a swing through the struggling manufacturing heartland, including three ridings that have long been held by the New Democrats, Trudeau got people cheering Monday by billing his government's NAFTA rescue mission as a critical victory for Canada that his rivals would abandon if given the chance.
When U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to get rid of the North American Free Trade Agreement and imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, Trudeau stressed how his government worked with others -- including some traditionally aligned with the New Democrats, hint hint -- to get a deal.
"Canadians from labour, from different political parties, from different orders of government, all pulled together, spoke as one strong voice, stood up for Canada and we got it done," Trudeau told a sizable crowd at a brewery in Hamilton.
He was speaking in Hamilton-Centre -- a riding NDP MP David Christopherson, who is not seeking re-election, has held since 2004. And he depicted the hard-charging New Democrats as opponents of the new North American deal who would scrap it if they win.
"(At) a time when we have finally secured our most important trade deal with our closest neighbour, the NDP want to go back to the negotiating table with Donald Trump, want to set aside a NAFTA that protects workers, protects jobs right across the country," Trudeau said.
Earlier Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused Trudeau of lying about the NDP position on NAFTA.
"What we are calling for is this: the current protections that are in place are not enforceable and that means our Canadian workers are not being protected," Singh said in Vancouver.
Since the start of the campaign, Andrew Scheer has been Trudeau's primary target as the Liberal leader tries to frame the Oct. 21 election as a choice between Liberals and Conservatives.
But with polls suggesting Singh's New Democrats have been clawing their way back from political obscurity, particularly since the rookie leader's strong performances in last week's televised debates, Trudeau has been directing more of his fire in their direction as well.
Throughout the day, he also continued to warn voters away from the New Democrats, calling that a path to a Conservative government that would hearken back to the Harper era.
"There have been great, strong progressive oppositions in the past," Trudeau said in Windsor, Ont., where he began the day.
"I was there for almost 10 years of a Harper government that, despite all the strong fighting we did from opposition, kept moving ahead with its cuts."
Dennis Gerencser, a retired millwright who came to the Trudeau rally in Hamilton, said he has supported the NDP in the past, but thinks the Liberals have the best chance to stop the Tories.
"If nothing else, he's got a better chance at winning," said Gerencser. "He can do the country good. You've got to back a winner."
Earlier Monday, Trudeau portrayed the Conservatives as enemies of the agreement who urged the Liberal government to give in to the demands of Trump and the forces of American protectionism.
"We secured a good trade deal with our most important trading partner at a time of American protectionism and uncertainty," Trudeau said in Windsor, home to one of the busiest border crossings in the country and an enduring symbol of Canada-U.S. trade.
"And all the while, Andrew Scheer was saying that we had to cave, that we had to just get any deal at any cost, because NAFTA was too important and because that's what Stephen Harper told him to say," Trudeau said, the Detroit skyline looming large behind him.
Monday also saw Trudeau joined by his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and their three children, Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien, at several campaign stops.
It was the first time his family has appeared on the campaign trail since the security threat at a rally in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday night, where Gregoire Trudeau ended up not joining him on stage as originally planned.
They were not, however, by his side at a stop in Cambridge, Ont., where Liberal supporters tried -- and often failed -- to use campaign signs to block a nearly-naked protester from view.
At a campaign stop in London, Ont., Gregoire Trudeau told the audience, many of them members of visible minority communities, they are the ones working to show diversity makes Canada a better place.
"It's you, it's in your lives, every single day, the sacrifices that you make through your jobs and your families, that will allow us to create more equality and more love and more unity and more justice in this country," she said.
The family also visited a restaurant in Tilbury, a community in Chatham-Kent, Ont.
Mellissa Patrick watched her three-year-old daughter, Megan, dance around the restaurant after the Trudeau family left, recalling how the little girl had been unable to walk earlier this year.
She said her daughter has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer in the bone marrow, and needs to travel to London, Ont. about once a month to receive chemotherapy treatments.
Patrick said she wanted to thank Trudeau for the Liberal campaign pledge to devote $30 million to pediatric cancer research next year.
"It's a long road for childhood cancer and we need the funding and it needs recognition," she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2019.