Final debate behind them, federal leaders begin sprints to Oct. 21 voting day

OTTAWA — Party leaders entered the home stretch of the federal election campaign Friday, picking up the pace of their cross-country travel as they confronted the reality of a shrinking number of days left before Canadians go to the polls Oct. 21.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was in B.C. to unveil his party’s platform — detailing the billions in cuts he would make to pay for his promised universal tax cut and a host of boutique tax credits, all while balancing the budget in five years. He’s also planning to spend the campaign’s final week detailing what his government would do in its first 100 days.

The choice facing voters, Scheer asserted, is: “A Justin Trudeau-led government that makes life more expensive and a new Conservative government that will make life more affordable.”

The Liberals actually scooped Scheer by releasing the costing portion of the Conservative platform before the leader’s announcement. They framed the Tory blueprint as $53-billion worth of cuts, including $18 billion from planned infrastructure spending and another $14 billion in “hidden” cuts to unspecified operating expenses.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was also in B.C. on Friday, but only after an exceptionally early morning rally at a downtown Ottawa food court, where he took a pot shot at Scheer for waiting until after the debates to finally release his platform.

“The reality is, I think we all know it, you don’t release your best work at 6 o’clock on the Friday of a long weekend,” said Trudeau, who released his party’s platform on Sept. 29.

In addition to the platform launch, Scheer was scheduled to attend an evening rally in Langley, B.C. Trudeau was scheduled to attend three events in the province, including an evening rally in NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s Burnaby South riding.

Singh began the day early in Ottawa as well, with the release of his party’s platform. It includes a series of tax increases, which Singh insisted will impact mostly the wealthiest Canadians, aimed at raising more than $30 billion next year to help pay for a national pharmacare plan, dental care and more affordable housing. It anticipates large deficits throughout the next four years.

Singh was scheduled to do some mainstreeting in Montreal before flying off for an evening event in Brampton, Ont., his old stomping grounds as a provincial politician before he jumped to the federal arena two years ago.

Green Leader Elizabeth May talked about foreign policy at the campaign office of her party’s candidate in Ottawa Centre first thing, before decamping for a series of events in three different locations in New Brunswick.

Even Maxime Bernier, who has spent most of the campaign in his own Quebec riding, was on the move. The leader of the fledgling People’s Party of Canada was scheduled to attend an evening rally in Halifax.

The early starts and packed schedules signalled a new full-tilt pace in the campaign as it heads down to the wire on Oct. 21.

With advance polls open Friday through Monday, and families expected to discuss politics as they sit down to turkey dinners, both Trudeau and Singh are to campaign non-stop over the Thanksgiving weekend. It was not clear whether Scheer or May will take a day off. Bernier is scheduled to campaign in his home riding of Beauce all three days.

Liberal strategists say Trudeau will have no time off and will keep up a gruelling pace right up to voting day. The Liberal party is also planning to start a barrage of new ads, having saved much of its advertising budget for the final 10 days of the campaign.

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