RICHMOND, B.C. - Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau urged climate-minded British Columbians to cast a ballot for his party on Sept. 20, saying only the Liberals have a real plan to fight the environmental crisis.
During an event in Richmond, B.C. Tuesday, he asked progressive voters to cast their ballots strategically, saying his party is the only one that can stop the Conservatives. Polling suggests the two parties are neck and neck.
"We are the ones that can stop the Conservatives from getting elected and taking us back on climate change," he said at the event where he was flanked by local candidates, including Jonathan Wilkinson, who is seeking re-election and served as environment minister in the Liberal minority government.
Andrew Weaver, the former leader of B.C.'s Green Party who has endorsed the Liberal climate plan, was also with Trudeau.
Weaver praised the Liberal plan for banning the export of thermal coal, tackling methane reduction, focusing on zero-emission vehicles and for balancing the economy with environmental protections.
Trudeau said progressive voters should vote for the party with the best climate change plan and that the Liberals meet that goal.
He accused the NDP of not being ambitious enough on climate change and the Tories of wanting to go backward.
"British Columbians get the importance of protecting this extraordinarily rich and diverse environment," Trudeau said.
"We understand how necessary it is to cherish it, to celebrate it, and to do the things necessary to make sure that future generations can both thrive and enjoy everything that we only sometimes take for granted, because it’s hard to take for granted this extraordinary place."
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has faced criticism from environmental groups for promising to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, rather than matching the Liberals' new target of reducing emissions between 40 per cent and 45 per cent.
Trudeau repeatedly insisted Tuesday that O’Toole's approach to climate would follow that of former prime minister Stephen Harper, and accused the Conservative leader of wanting to revive the Northern Gateway oil pipeline through the Great Bear rainforest.
Energy economist Mark Jaccard has said that while the NDP promises bigger cuts to emissions than the Liberals, the NDP's plan doesn't contain enough detail to show a path to meeting the target.
"Anyone who knows that climate change is real and that we have to listen to science and experts will have a hard time understanding why the NDP didn’t bother to put forward a real plan," Trudeau said.
"That’s part of the choice we have to face right now in this election, because Mr. O'Toole is laying out a vision of this country that would take us back."
Trudeau was spending a second straight day in the Greater Vancouver area, where several experts have said the race could be tight in several ridings.
When Trudeau called the election, the standings in B.C. stood at 17 Conservatives, 11 Liberals, 11 New Democrats, two Greens and one Independent.
In the 2019 election that resulted in a minority Liberal government, the Liberals lost six seats in B.C., the Conservatives gained seven seats and the NDP dropped three.
Carla Qualtrough, who is running for re-election in Delta, acknowledged the race in her riding is tight, but added she hopes the Liberal climate platform will help to tip the vote her way.
"I'm hopeful, but I’m super competitive and we are not leaving anything on the table," she said.
Trudeau stressed his connection to B.C., describing memories of canoeing, hiking, talking to fishermen and ordering fish and chips at Steveston Wharf with his aunt.
He then took a walk with local families, where he could be seen pushing a stroller with two young children down a trail by the Fraser River.
Trudeau then flew to Brampton. Ont, where he was introduced at a raucous indoor evening rally by former prime minister Jean Chrétien.
The 87-year-old accused O'Toole of "speaking out of both sides of his mouth" on issues such as gun control and child care, and accused Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet of trying to speak for Acadians and Quebecers.
He told the hundreds of people that surrounded the stage that the world is facing a number of challenges including social change in the United States, the threat of China and climate change.
"It's not the time to move to the far right or the far left, it's the time to be in the middle," he said. "It's the time to be reasonable."
Trudeau himself was mobbed by enthusiastic supporters following his stump speech, despite organizers asking people to stand in squares that had been taped on the ground. Liberal staffers said there were some 400 people in attendance and that the gathering met local COVID-19 rules limiting indoor venues to half capacity.
The rally was also attended by 100-year-old former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion. McCallion told reporters after the event that she doesn't agree with calling an election during the pandemic but nevertheless feels that "minorities don't work" and said she hopes Trudeau's Liberals win a majority.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2021.