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Party leaders fan out for final 48-hour campaign surge


The federal party leaders will be criss-crossing the country this weekendmaking their final push as one of the longest federal election campaigns in recent Canadian history winds down to the last 48 hours.

With all the party platforms unveiled, and no more new promises, the leaders will spend these last frenetic days trying to rally their activists and supporters to go to the polls on Monday. And although issues like the niqab ban at citizenship oath ceremonies may have captured the spotlight during the campaign, the focus now is mainly on the economy.

They’re all going to try to show energy, going to try to show enthusiasm, going to try and look like winners,” said David McLaughlin, the former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney.

On Saturday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will start off in Halifax, head off to Saint John and then Thunder Bay, Ont., before travelling to Winnipeg, his third stop in the city as the party hopes it has a good chance of flipping four or five ridings in that province. He will end up in B.C. on Sunday, where by all accounts it’s an extremely competitive race, before heading back to Quebec for election day.

Over the past week, polls have suggested that the Liberals had the momentum heading into this final weekend. But that has been deflated somewhat by the resignation of Trudeau’s national campaign co-chair Dan Gagnier.

Gagnier stepped down after it was revealed he had sent a detailed letter to five TransCanada Corp. officials behind the proposed Energy East pipeline, outlining how they could best lobby a government — including a Liberal government — to have the pipeline approved.

While it may not be an October surprise —  an event that could have a drastic effect on the course of the election —  it’s certainly an unwanted distraction, as both Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair have sought to exploit the issue and link it to Liberal scandals of the past, including the sponsorship scandal.

‘We’re not going back’

Mulcair, in particular, has made it a major focus, and at a rally in Edmonton on Friday, the line “We’re not going back,” in reference to the sponsorship scandal, became a theme of Mulcair’s speech, with supporters repeating the mantra to him en masse.

The crowd in Edmonton was larger than at any rally in the past two weeks. Key organizers of the NDP, which polls suggest are trailing in third, believe that those national polls don’t reflect the truth on the ground, as the party will be using more paid organizers than ever before and focusing a larger share of its campaign budget on supporting that ground game.

Mulcair’s itinerary will include a swing through Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal for oversized campaign rallies in an effort to spur the NDP’s get-out-the-vote operation — the most expensive and “impressive” in the party’s history, according to insiders.

On Saturday, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper will be in Laval, Que., where the Tories are hoping to gain back territory in the Quebec City area. The party is aiming to double its existing seat count from five to 10 in Quebec.

But Harper is also slated to make a controversial appearance at an event being held in Toronto Saturday night that’s being supported by city councillor and former mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug.

Harper is being criticized for attending an event with the notorious former mayor, a former crack cocaine smoker also known for racist and misogynistic tirades. But the Fords have a committed voter base that may be able to deliver some crucial Toronto votes to the Tories.

Harper will also make a stop in Oakville, Ont., where he will appear with Tory candidate Terence Young, who has also sparked some controversy. At a recent all-candidates debate, Young said a federal Liberal government would mandate “legally protected brothels with madams and all that goes with that because the Liberals have promised to legalize the selling of women in Canada.”

The Tories have targeted ethnic social conservatives with ads that claim Trudeau’s plan to legalize marijuana would make access easier to kids. They have also warned that Trudeau wants safe drug injection sites in neighbourhoods and that he is favour of legalizing prostitution, which would put “brothels in our communities.”

Meanwhile, Conservative Party organizers are left with the task of trying to keep or boost morale over the next days. Several high-level Conservative activists and politicians who spoke to The Canadian Press said spirits are low inside the party, particularly in Ontario where Liberal numbers have surged.

But the race could come down to which party is best at mobilizing the vote. The Tories traditionally have an advantage in that area, as many of their supporters are older and more likely to go to the polls, meaning the race could still be very tight.

CBC | Politics News