TORONTO — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the security threat that forced him to wear a bullet-proof vest at a Saturday rally is an unfortunate consequence of the polarization of politics in Canada and elsewhere.
“We have seen an increase in polarization in election campaigns around the world,” Trudeau said Sunday, where he helped youth pack canned goods and other items for a Thanksgiving food drive at a church in Toronto.
“Increased politics of fear and negativity and now, as we have seen from the Conservative party, flat-out lies,” Trudeau said.
The Liberal leader said he was not blaming the Conservatives for the unspecified security threat. He said the decision to have him wear body armour and add a highly visible RCMP presence at the rally in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday night was based on the event.
Still, he did not hold back his criticism when asked how the Conservatives have adopted a decidedly sharper tone in recent days on the campaign trail.
That has included telling Canadians the Liberals want to legalize all drugs, when they have said repeatedly they have no plans to do so, and insisting a re-elected Liberal government would impose a tax on home sales, which they have flatly denied.
“The reality is the Conservative party is continuing to spread falsehoods to Canadians to try and scare them into voting for them or against us and I don’t think that has its place in Canada,” he said.
Trudeau would not comment specifically on the nature of the threat. He said the campaign followed RCMP advice on Saturday night, when a crowd of roughly 2,000 people waited at a rally that was delayed by about 90 minutes.
“My first concern was for the safety of my family and for all the Canadians in the room,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau, who is known to walk through the crowds to shake hands and pose for photos with supporters, said the threat would not change how he campaigns.
“The importance of getting that connection with people, talking with people about the very very clear choice they are facing between Conservative cuts or a progressive government, means that I am as motivated as I have ever been to get out and connect with people every chance I get,” he said.
There was no sign of the bullet-proof vest or the added security in the room on Sunday, where he was joined by Masai Ujiri, the president of the Toronto Raptors basketball team.
Ujiri said he supports Trudeau both now “and when he is the prime minister again.”
Trudeau was also joined by Ahmed Hussen, his immigration minister and the Liberal candidate seeking re-election in the riding Trudeau was in Sunday morning.
Trudeau is heading into the final week of the campaign trying to beat back surging support for the NDP and Bloc Quebecois. He is campaigning in and around Toronto for the rest of the day, including an afternoon stop in Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, a riding the Liberals want to win back from Conservative Leona Alleslev. She won the riding in 2015 as a Liberal but crossed the floor to join the Conservative caucus in 2018.
On the campaign trail in Burnaby, B.C., NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said it is “wrong” Trudeau is facing threats requiring increased security.
“I want to let Canadians know you can have all sorts of opinions and it’s OK to disagree, but there should never be fear for any leader from any party to feel like there’s any threat to themselves,” said Singh.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2019.
Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press