By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) – In the absence of an overriding narrative, dirty tactics and awkward moments characterized Canada’s official campaign, making it a bumpy ride into Monday’s federal election.
The fortunes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s media bus illustrate how things for the six competing parties have gone. On Sept. 11, the first day of the campaign, the bus collided with the wing of the Trudeau-branded airplane, putting it out of commission for weeks.
A couple of weeks later, the bus got stuck turning in to a British Columbia parking lot for a rally. Police blocked the road and journalists were asked to get out and push. It happened again in Montreal on Thursday.
“The pitfalls and mishaps have had more prominence because there has been no over-arching story,” said Paul Adams, a journalism professor at Carleton University.
Four years ago, Liberal leader Trudeau won a majority in parliament after embracing “change” as his campaign narrative after almost a decade of Conservative Party rule.
After a six-week campaign, Canadians vote on Oct. 21 with polls showing a dead heat between the two frontrunners, Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
The most explosive moment of the race was when Time magazine published a picture of Trudeau, who has been a champion of Canadian multiculturalism, in blackface in 2001. The next day, a blackface video of Trudeau from the early 1990s surfaced after it was leaked by the Conservatives to a broadcaster.
No angels themselves, Liberal officials had spent two years collecting video clips, documents and social media posts they could use against the Conservatives, two Liberal officials, who were not authorized to speak on the record due to the sensitivity of the information, said recently.
Trudeau this week called the campaign one of the “dirtiest, nastiest” in the country’s history.
TREES AND BACON
Scheer had his own squirm-worthy moment when it was revealed he held American and well as Canadian citizenship. A few weeks later, former U.S. President Barack Obama turned his back on his fellow countryman and endorsed Trudeau.
At an October leaders’ debate, one man showed up dressed as Captain America holding a sign that read: “Make Andrew Canadian Again”.
Scheer also was found to have exaggerated his work as an insurance broker, which political satirist Rick Mercer quipped “is something you’d never put on your dating profile.” It turns out Scheer never held a license.
Trudeau, who loves to canoe, paddled around a lake in Ontario before promising to help lower-income families take a camping holiday. Previously, he promised to use revenue from an oil pipeline to plant 2 billion trees over the next decade.
“The number of people who are going to want knees and hips in the next few years is probably equal to the number of trees that Trudeau wants to plant,” said Mercer, referring to Canada’s aging population.
New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh has emerged as a potential kingmaker after a deft response to Trudeau’s blackface scandal and strong debate performances, saying Canadians did “not need to choose between Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny” in reference to the Trudeau and Scheer climate policies.
Meanwhile, Green Party leader Elizabeth May sparked controversy after her party posted an altered picture on her website showing the disposable cup she was holding at an event turned into a reusable one, complete with party logo and a metal straw.
Maxime “Mad Max” Bernier, the leader of the far-right Peoples Party of Canada, is running a tough race against several candidates in his Quebec riding, including another man called Maxime Bernier.
The second Bernier was put forward by the satirical political group, the Rhinoceros Party, which is officially registered with Canada’s federal election regulator. They promise to nationalize bacon and make “Sorry” the new official motto of Canada.
On Monday, Canadians vote and the campaigns – along with their buses – will grind to a halt.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Hamilton, Ontario; Editing by Matthew Lewis)