Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau paid Hamilton a visit days after his campaign was rocked by the unearthing of controversial photos from his past.
The prime minister was at the David Braley Health Sciences Centre in downtown Hamilton on Monday to announce his plan to launch a national pharmacare program before heading east to Stoney Creek, where he was joined by local MP Bob Bratina for a tour of a family-owned bakery and deli.
About half a dozen protesters gathered outside of Elm Grocery and Deli during Trudeau’s visit, including a yellow vest protester who criticized the Liberal leader through a megaphone. A few chants of “down with Trudeau” clashed with cheers from the group of Liberal supporters clad in red.
Richard Baruzza, who co-owns the bakery with his siblings, said he’s a non-partisan voter but he doesn’t think Trudeau wearing racist makeup years ago has had an impact on his policies.
“I believe in redemption,” said Baruzza. “I believe that this does not completely negate him from being able to run the country. I think the country’s been run quite well for the last four years.”
Bratina, whose campaign office is next door to Baruzza’s family business, said he has been knocking on doors in the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek riding and hearing from residents.
“I honestly went to so many doors, and my volunteers who were standing beside me would tell you how many people wanted everyone to put all that stuff in the past because they’re dealing now with the issues — seniors’ issues, health issues, economy and so on,” said Bratina.
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“Most of the people I talked to were not wanting to get engaged beyond saying, ‘Why don’t they just forget about it and move on? He apologized. Next.'”
Bratina also faced some controversy earlier this year after a couple of steelworkers claimed he swore at them during a meeting at his parliamentary office in February. Bratina acknowledged the meeting was tense but denied using foul language.
Two steelworkers unions are planning to hold another rally in front of Bratina’s office on Oct. 3, but the MP said he’s not worried, citing his history of walking picket lines with steelworkers and occupying the Burlington Canal lift bridge with them while he was mayor of Hamilton in 2011.
Two other federal party leaders visited Hamilton within the last week.
On Thursday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pledged to introduce free pharmacare and dental care while appearing at a halal restaurant in Stoney Creek. Singh also addressed Trudeau’s past instances of wearing blackface and brownface, calling it “hurtful” to Canadians who have faced racial discrimination.
On Wednesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer stopped at a barbershop on Concession Street, where he promised to reduce corporate welfare at the taxpayers’ expense. Scheer has said that Canadians cannot accept Trudeau’s apology for wearing racist makeup, adding he lied about the existence of an additional video and that “an apology based on a lie is not a real apology.”