Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is targeting voters in Ontario’s struggling manufacturing heartland, billing his government’s NAFTA rescue mission as a critical victory that his NDP and Conservative rivals would abandon.
In the southwestern Ontario border city of Windsor, home to one of the country’s busiest border crossings and an enduring symbol of Canada-U.S. trade, Trudeau depicted the hard-charging New Democrats as enemies of the new North American trade deal who would scrap it outright if given the chance.
And he portrayed Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives as enemies of the agreement who urged the Liberal government to give in to the demands of U.S. President Donald Trump and the forces of American protectionism.
“We were able to stand up to Donald Trump and his punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum. We were able to stand up when he wanted to tear up a trade deal that Windsor, indeed all Canadians, rely on,” Trudeau said, the Detroit skyline looming large behind him.
“We secured a good trade deal with our most important trading partner at a time of American protectionism and uncertainty. 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.”
He also warned that Scheer’s proposed $53 billion in cuts to services would undermine the economic benefits of the new NAFTA, which has yet to be ratified in either the U.S. or Canada.
But with polls suggesting that Jagmeet 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.
“The NDP? The NDP have said they want to tear up the current NAFTA deal and renegotiate it with Donald Trump,” he said. “That’s not standing up for workers, that’s not standing up for Windsor.”
And he 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.
“I was part of a number of opposition parties who were standing up strongly to Stephen Harper as he went ahead with cuts to culture, attacks on unions, cuts to infrastructure, cuts to our veterans, cuts to Canada’s fight against climate change, cuts to Canada’s place in the world.
“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.”