Wednesday 16 October 2019

Trudeau slides in polls as blackface issue 'blots out sun'

Wide open: Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is ahead in some polls. Photo: Reuters/Christinne Muschi/File Photo
Wide open: Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is ahead in some polls. Photo: Reuters/Christinne Muschi/File Photo

David Ljunggren

Canada's Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer has overtaken Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of next month's national election, polls showed yesterday, after past images of Mr Trudeau in blackface emerged last week.

The two had been running neck-and-neck until 'Time' magazine published a picture of Mr Trudeau in dark make-up at a 2001 "Arabian Nights" party, when he was a 29-year-old teacher. Two other images and a video of him in blackface later emerged.

Now, Mr Scheer is the clear front-runner with as much as a five-percentage-point lead, according to three different polls conducted after the images were published and released between late Monday and early yesterday.

"Right now, the election has become a referendum on Justin Trudeau," Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker said in an interview. "Is he trustworthy? Is he competent?"

The old blackface pictures of the prime minister have taken over the campaign narrative ahead of the October 21 vote and are "blotting out the sun", Mr Bricker said.

Conservatives would win 36pc of the vote compared with 32pc for the Liberals, the Ipsos poll for Global News showed, while the Angus Reid Institute puts Mr Scheer's party at 35pc versus 30pc for Mr Trudeau's Liberals. Ekos Politics has the Conservatives at 35.3pc and Liberals at 32pc.

On the flip side, the Nanos Research poll for CTV and the 'Globe and Mail', which is conducted daily, has the Liberals taking back the lead with 35.1pc against 33.5pc for the Conservatives after a series of policy announcements in recent days.

The announcements kept coming yesterday, when the Liberals committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 if re-elected, and they also said they would beat the current 2030 emissions goal.

Ekos pollster Frank Graves said the initial dramatic shift in public opinion caused by the scandal had receded, but there were increasing questions about Mr Trudeau's leadership and the race was wide open.

"The backlash may very well be a product of issues around Mr Trudeau, rather than the blackface episode itself," Mr Graves said.

"The race now appears much tighter and less predictable than it did before."

Mr Trudeau has also pledged to create a national prescription drug plan if re-elected.

Mr Trudeau, accusing the Conservatives of planning major spending cuts, said he would make sure all Canadians had access to a family doctor and affordable medicine.

"No one should go without the care they need because they don't have access to a family doctor. And no one should have to give up food and heat to be able to pay for healthcare," Mr Trudeau said.

Canada's universal healthcare system does not include universal coverage for prescription drugs, and primary care doctors are scarce in many areas.

The cost of the proposal would be about C$6bn (€4.1bn) over four years, and Ottawa would work with the 10 provinces and three northern territories to implement the changes, Mr Trudeau said.

The healthcare pledge came on the back of other major campaign announcements since last Friday, when he vowed to ban military-style assault weapons.

On Sunday he pledged to eliminate some taxes and slash mobile phone bills by a quarter.

Irish Independent

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