OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole warned supporters Saturday that they’re not welcome on the Conservative campaign if they engage in harassment and intimidation of other party leaders.
The warning came one day after several Conservative campaign workers were spotted among a crowd of raucous protesters who forced the cancellation of a Liberal event featuring Justin Trudeau in Bolton, Ont.
At least four volunteers for local Conservative MP Kyle Seeback were photographed among the angry, obscenity-spewing crowd, wearing blue “Team Seeback” t-shirts.
Seeback issued a statement late Friday saying those individuals are no longer welcome on his campaign.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also condemned the protesters, saying no one should have to cancel an event over safety concerns.
O’Toole insisted Saturday there’s no room in the Conservative campaign for negativity.
“We’re running on a positive campaign for the future of this country,” he said during a stop in Fredericton, N.B.
“I strongly condemn any form of harassment and protest the like we’ve seen. We’re a democracy, we should be having a healthy and respectful debate of ideas and we have no time for people who bring in negativity to campaigning.”
O’Toole appealed to everyone to “put the country and our democracy first” and said that’s the behaviour he expects from “every single member of our team, from the leader to the first time someone’s volunteering.”
Trudeau has been dogged by protesters throughout the campaign, most of them voicing angry opposition to mandatory vaccinations, masks and lock downs that have been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A planned event in Bolton on Friday evening was cancelled because, Trudeau said later, the RCMP determined that it could not keep attendees safe.
O’Toole, who has rejected Trudeau’s calls for mandatory vaccinations for everyone in federally regulated work places and for a federal fund to help provinces create vaccine passports, rejected suggestions that he shares some responsibility for inflaming protesters.
He reiterated that he encourages all Canadians to get vaccinated but respects their personal choice.
“We will always respect people making their personal health decisions,” he said, adding that he will similarly honour provinces’ right to decide whether to create so-called passports that would enable people to show proof of vaccination.
Singh also spoke out against the toxicity of Friday’s protests against Trudeau.
“No one should have to cancel their events where we have students, we have young people, we have volunteers, we have organizers, no one should have to cancel an event because they’re worried about a danger to the safety of people coming out to a political event,” he said during a campaign stop in Sudbury, Ont.
“That should never have happened. And that’s wrong.”
But Singh also noted that the vast majority of Canadians agree with getting vaccinated and want to “take care of one another.”
He reiterated his call for a national vaccine passport.
Trudeau took a day off the campaign trail Saturday. But the Liberals unveiled two new ads, in one of which the Liberal leader doubles down on his criticism of O’Toole’s stance on mandatory vaccinations.
“I believe that vaccines should be mandatory for travel on planes and trains, because that’s how we’ll protect our kids and get back to normal,” he says in the ad, which features a clip of Trudeau receiving his own jab.
“Conservative politicians say they would scrap our plan, and won’t even require their own candidates to get vaccinated. This is no time to back down from doing the right thing.”
The federal election is scheduled for Sept. 20.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 28, 2021.
The Canadian Press