Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is staying silent on the possibility of a summer election, insisting Wednesday that his campaign-style tour across the country this week is simply to highlight the ongoing work of his government.
Trudeau was in Calgary to announce federal funding for the city’s Green Line light-rail transit project and to meet with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. The trip followed similar funding announcements for the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan on Tuesday and a steel plant in Ontario on Monday.
Asked by reporters if his nationwide tour is a sign that Canadians should expect to head to the polls soon, Trudeau seemed almost offended that his announcements should be seen as a campaign preview.
“I think Canadians should be and can be expecting that their elected leaders work hard for them every single day,” he said.
“The announcement we’re making today, the announcements I’ve made earlier in the week, the work we continue to do to deliver for Canadians as we come out of this pandemic is something we’ve been talking about and working on for a long time.”
Talk of a potential election has been building as COVID-19 cases decline and vaccination rates increase. Trudeau last week took advantage of eased restrictions in Ontario by getting a new haircut and shave, and he has been attending more public events over the past month.
Trudeau has also been vocal recently about the difficulties of leading a minority government, where legislation can be scuttled unless another party supports the Liberals. Last month, he accused Parliament of “obstructionism and toxicity” that he blamed for the delay of several bills.
His announcement on Monday from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to provide a steel plant up to $420 million to phase out coal-fired steelmaking further fanned expectations that his government is preparing to send Canadians to the polls.
On Tuesday, the prime minister signed an agreement with the Cowessess First Nation that makes it the first in Canada to take back control over children in care. Federal legislation enabling an overhaul of Indigenous child welfare was passed in 2019 and came into force last year.
The First Nation, east of Regina, announced last month that ground-penetrating radar detected a potential 751 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school nearby. Several similar discoveries have been made across the country in recent weeks.
Trudeau on Wednesday took particular issue with the idea that the Cowessess announcement was a campaign event or a response to the residential school discovery, saying the move had been in the works “for years.”
He said he will continue to focus on issues like the ones he’s highlighted this week, which “make a real, tangible difference in people’s lives, right at this particular moment as we’re reopening our economies.”
“These are things we were elected to do in 2019, these are the things were elected to do in 2015, and there’s still a lot more to do, and we’re going to keep working on it,” he said.
The latest Ipsos poll conducted for Global News suggests 38 per cent of decided voters would vote for Trudeau’s Liberals if an election were held tomorrow — putting the party in a strong position to regain a majority.
The Conservatives, according to the poll, would earn 26 per cent of the vote, while the NDP has secured 20 per cent of decided voters.
–With files from the Canadian Press