OTTAWA — The federal party leaders are making their final pitches to Canadians as one of the longest, most unpredictable national election campaigns since Confederation grinds to a close before Monday’s vote.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, fresh off a controversial Saturday night rally with former Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug, made whistle stops in a couple of Toronto’s suburban 905-area code ridings before winging west to Saskatchewan and then British Columbia.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also began the day in Toronto with a rally but heads east to Montreal to close out his 78-day campaign.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, was in Edmonton Sunday morning where he made an unorthodox pitch to Quebeckers, half a continent away, to get on board with a new national government after a decade of Harper government rule.
“People in Quebec need know that Alberta matters, that our country needs Alberta to succeed,” Trudeau told an energetic rally in Edmonton before moving on to Calgary. “But so too do Quebeckers need to be reminded that our country needs them to engage, too.”
Trudeau pitched the message as a matter of bringing the country together.
Harper was rallying fiscal conservatives to come together.
“Voting Conservative means this — no money, no money comes out of your pocket of middle-class Canadians, no money comes out to pay for the tax hikes and the deficits of the Liberal party,” an angry and energized Harper said in Newmarket, Ont.
Harper is all but ignoring the New Democrats in his final appeals to voters as he focuses on his attention on the front-running Liberals.
“We do not want to go back to the days where the government ran for a handful of Liberal special interest groups and the bureaucracy,” said Harper. “And the Liberal campaign, when you cut away all the fancy rhetoric, that’s all it is really about.”
Mulcair was in downtown Toronto, working to unseat Liberal incumbent Chrystia Freeland with star NDP recruit Jennifer Hollett.
The NDP leader is levelling his final salvos at the Liberals, despite spending much of the campaign asserting the ballot-box issue is removing Harper’s Conservatives from office.
Mulcair, like the Conservatives, is working to make a match set of Trudeau and Ontario’s Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has roiled Ontario’s electorate with a series of policy choices after winning a majority last spring.
“What Mr. Trudeau calls ‘real change’ is actually just the same old Liberal party with the same old insiders pulling the strings and the same old scandals,” Mulcair charged.
The frenetic final appeals bring to an end the lengthiest Canadian campaign since the 19th century, when candidates travelled by horse and buggy and ballots were collected over months due to weak transportation.
What began Aug. 2 as a tight, three-way race with the NDP in the lead and Liberals trailing appeared to flip on its axis in the final week, with Trudeau’s Liberals surfing into election day on a rising wave of public opinion.
When parliament was dissolved for the election, the Conservatives had 159 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, the NDP had 95 and the Liberals 36.
Thirty new seats have been added this election, including 15 in Ontario, bringing the total to 338 and upping the number of seats needed for a bare majority to 170.