Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau fired the first shot in Monday’s battle for vote-rich Ontario by telling its voters not to “double down” on a Conservative government after they elected Doug Ford as premier.
Trudeau used a new promise of a national pharmacare program to portray Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer as a faithful Ford follower who won’t defend their interests in fighting for better access to doctors, drugs or mental health counsellors.
He branded it as an attempt to take the country back to the era of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, deriding his “trickle down” economics that he said “failed” Canadians.
The Liberals say they would implement a national formulary and establish the Canada Drug Agency to make purchasing of medication more efficient.
The pledge follows a similar commitment from the NDP, who are proposing to spend $10 billion a year to ensure that all necessary medication and medical devices are free at the point of care starting in 2020.
Trudeau is promising that a re-elected Liberal government would invest $6 billion over the next four years to kickstart negotiations with the provinces aimed at improving a range of health-care services for Canadians.
He was erecting a virtual troika of Conservative bogeymen after last week’s shocking blackface controversy in which his brand, and his re-election chances, took a major hit with the emergence of images of him in black or brown makeup at costume events before he entered politics.
The images dominated the campaign, offending many and raising questions about the Liberal leader’s judgment. Trudeau has repeatedly apologized, saying his dressing up was racist, but has asked Canadians to judge him on his record.
On Monday, he positioned himself as a defender of public health who will stand against Conservative cost-cutting.
“The question becomes for Canadians: who do you want negotiating with Doug Ford when it comes to your health?” Trudeau said in Hamilton.
Trudeau repeated that line, using it as a mantra to frame himself as the best defender of Canada’s sacrosanct public health care system regardless of his past conduct.
“That is the choice people are facing: whether we continue to move forward, or we go back to the Harper years by doubling down on Conservatives who believe in cuts,” said Trudeau.