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Justin Trudeau’s Ontario road show takes on partisan edge


OTTAWACanadians who want to meet Justin Trudeau during his upcoming road tour town halls are being asked to first register their personal details with Liberal MPs.

That puts a political taint on the prime minister’s attempt at grassroots mingling, Conservative MP Candice Bergen (Portage–Lisgar) said Wednesday.

“Don’t call it an open town hall when it’s actually a Liberal rally,” she said. “It’s not at all the back-to-the-people tour that the prime minister described.”

Trudeau’s tour, which kicks off Thursday in Ontario, was originally framed as an effort by the prime minister to reconnect with Canadians on their priories.

“The prime minister wants to hear from them on how they are feeling at the start of 2017, what their concerns and anxieties are, and what we can do to help alleviate that,” spokesperson Cameron Ahmed told the Star last week.

But the road trip — which continues on to Quebec, Prairies, and B.C. — has taken on partisan overtones as Liberal MPs hosting Trudeau at some of his Ontario stopovers are using their websites to glean personal data of those who want to attend.

Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen, who is hosting Trudeau’s Thursday town hall event in Kingston, promoted the event on Twitter and Facebook. “The prime minister wants to hear from you about issues that matter to you and our community as we enter the new year,” Gerretsen wrote.

His social media postings directed those who want to attend to sign up on his web page. To register for the event, attendees are asked to provide their name, email, postal code and telephone number.

Liberal MPs Peter Fragiskatos (London North Centre), Neil Ellis (Bay of Quinte), Maryam Monsef (Peterborough-Kawartha), Kate Young (London West), are all doing the same for Trudeau’s two-day swing through Ontario.

Such personal data has been invaluable to political parties to help identify potential supporters.

In an interview, Gerretsen said that people are “encouraged” to sign up so organizers can get a sense of the expected crowd but said registration wasn’t mandatory to attend.

This is open to the public, this is meant for the public,” he told the Star.

“We’re hoping to get a lot of people out,” he said. “If there’s somebody in the community who wants to say something to the prime minister, this is their opportunity to do it.”

“I’m encouraging anybody who is interested to let us know by registering and come on out,” Gerretsen said.

But Bergen said the organization of the events, including the collection of personal data, raises questions whether taxpayers should be on the hook to pay the tour.

“I think there are a lot of questions about who is paying for it, what are they doing with the information,” she said in an interview.

“What’s he planning via the Liberal website is not a Tim Horton’s, town hall coffee shop event. I think that’s clear,” Bergen said.

Instead, she said it appears these events are “Liberal partisan event where they’re getting data and information and building up their own brand.”

Officials in Trudeau’s office refused to discuss the road tour itinerary this week, even though Liberal MPs have been publicly advertising his stops.

On Thursday, Trudeau is scheduled to make stops in Kingston, Napanee and Belleville before heading to the military airbase in Trenton, where he will meet personnel and spend the night.

On Friday, Trudeau starts his day north of Cobourg, heads to Peterborough for an event with Maryam Monsef, then to Burlington for a session with cabinet newcomer Karina Gould and wraps up in London, with a town hall.

TORONTO STAR | NEWS | CANADA

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