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Trudeau says threat to his safety grows from online polarization and hate

Last Updated Oct 13, 2019 at 1:46 pm EDT

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lends a hand at a Toronto-area food bank where he was joined by Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri. CITYNEWS/Ryan Belgrave

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says a security threat that forced him to wear a bullet-proof vest on Saturday is an unfortunate consequence of an online campaign of hate and lies that is polarizing politics both in Canada and around the world.

Trudeau is also accusing the Conservatives of “reprehensible” conduct and “flat-out” lying to Canadians about the Liberals, but he is not blaming them for whatever threat prompted an increase security presence on his campaign.

He says the blame for the threat – which neither he nor the RCMP will explain – lies at the feet of the person or people who made it.

Trudeau says his priority on Saturday was for the safety of his family and the 2,000 Canadians who were in the building for the event.

He says the campaign followed RCMP advice.

There was no sign of the bullet-proof vest or the added security today as he campaigned at a Thanksgiving food drive at the Remnant Tabernacle Church Of God Seventh Day, where he was joined by Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri.

Trudeau is heading into the final week of the campaign trying to beat back surging support for the NDP and Bloc Quebecois and says nothing about the threat will change how he campaigns through to voting day on Oct. 21.

Polls suggest a tight race at the top between the Conservatives and Liberals with eight days to voting day and as advance polls open for the third of four days.

There was a palpable sense of nervousness at the prospects of a Conservative victory among the crowd at Trudeau’s rally on Saturday, which included multiple cabinet ministers and a long list of Toronto-area candidates.

“Am I anxious? Yes, I am,” said Ken Dietz, who has been volunteering along with his wife for former Olympic athlete Adam van Koeverden’s Liberal campaign in the riding of Milton.

Dietz said his anxiety was grounded in fears a Conservative government would roll back what steps the Liberals have taken on climate change and implement sweeping spending cuts like what happened under Stephen Harper and, more recently, Ontario’s Premier Ford.

“My hope is people in Ontario will think about what’s happening here,” Dietz said in reference to recent cuts implemented by the Ford government.

“They may say it’s provincial. No, it’s conservative.”

Sinead Zalitch, who was at Saturday’s rally with her service dog, expressed similar sentiments.

Zalitch has an extremely rare vascular disorder called Parkes Weber Syndrome, and she said she is worried a Conservative government would cut services for the disabled.

While she would prefer a Liberal majority, Zalitch said she would be OK with a minority Liberal government supported by the NDP or Greens.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is taking a down day in Ottawa after spending time in British Columbia, while Green Leader Elizabeth May is also opting for family time with her husband and Green candidate John Kidder and their children.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is spending his Sunday in B.C., starting in Burnaby where he’ll vote in an advanced poll before moving on to Surrey for a rally, and then to Port Moody for a volunteer blitz event. People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier is staying put in his Quebec riding of Beauce.

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