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Liberals face uphill battle after Trudeau’s controversies

Canadians are heading to the polls on Monday to vote in Parliamentary elections. But after four years in power and a string of recent controversies, current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his majority Liberal Party are facing a tough race against Conservative and progressive challengers, who are campaigning on a platform of change. Special Correspondent Benedict Moran has a preview.

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  • Alison Stewart:

    Canadians go to the polls tomorrow in a national election that could return Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his liberal party to power for another four-year term. But the race is close.

    While in office, Trudeau has succeeded at making a new trade deal with the U.S. among other accomplishments. But he's also faced some scandals as of late which have turned the tide on his popularity.

    NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Benedict Moran has our story.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Teresa Kruze is a Conservative Party candidate running for Parliament in Canada's upcoming federal election. Today, she's out canvassing on a message of change.

  • Teresa Kruze:

    Going door-to-door is key. Because that's where we're really going to be able to engage with people, and to tell them there is an alternative to Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, and what our platform is.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Kruze is a candidate in Vaughan, on the outskirts of Toronto, Canada's biggest city. Nationally, 338 seats in the Lower House of Parliament are up for grabs, but this area in particular is a battleground. Liberals currently hold the majority, but in elections past, the region has ping-ponged between parties. Kruze is promising residents of this neighborhood the conservatives can make life more affordable.

  • Teresa Kruze:

    "We want to lower your personal taxes, which will be nice, that'll put more money back into your pockets at the end of the month. And we're also going to get rid of the carbon tax."

  • Benedict Moran:

    This morning, she has found a supporter.

  • Benedict Moran:

    "Do you, how is your family leaning, do you think you might be voting Conservative?"

  • Benedict Moran:

    Kruze's opponent in Vaughan is incumbent Francesco Sorbara. He was elected in 2015 on a wave of liberal support.

  • Francesco Sorbara:

    Come stai! Tutto bene?

  • Benedict Moran:

    Today, he's visiting an Italian community center. Italians make up the largest base of immigrants here. It's a community Sorbara calls his own. But despite his being a familiar face, polls show the race between Sorbara and Teresa Kruze is a toss-up. So he is out campaigning, too.

  • Francesco Sorbara:

    729 dollars a year we're going to raise the old age security pension.

  • Benedict Moran:

    The race is close in part because Sorbara, like many liberal candidates, is campaigning for re-election in parliament downticket from the increasingly unpopular Prime Minister, and leader of the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau. That sometimes makes it difficult to convince some Canadians to stay on his side.

  • Italian Man:

    Anybody but Trudeau!

  • Francesco Sorbara:

    Awkward laugh. That's ok.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Because of Trudeau, this election season, liberals across the country are embattled. Four years ago, Justin Trudeau led his liberal party to overwhelming victory on a platform of middle class tax cuts, infrastructure investment, and support for the poor.

  • Justin Trudeau:

    Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight, it's time for a change in this country, my friends, a real change.

  • Benedict Moran:

    When he took office in 2015 after nearly a decade of conservative leadership, he called himself a feminist and appointed an ethnically diverse and gender-balanced cabinet. Under his leadership Canada accepted tens of thousands of refugees. His economic policies helped lift hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of poverty. And in order to fight climate change, he passed a country-wide carbon tax. But he faced questions about his commitment to fighting climate change when his government bought the Transmountain Pipeline Project from a private company, which would triple exports of crude oil out of Alberta. Trudeau has also been accused of ethics violations after he pressured his former Attorney General to cut a deal with a company facing corruption charges. All of this caused Trudeau's poll numbers to plummet says nonpartisan pollster Shachi Kurl.

  • Shachi Kurl:

    We saw a politician with so much popularity, personal appeal, and political capital that it seemed like he could do no wrong. But time has a way of taking care of that, and over the last four years this Prime Minister has been on a bit of a spending spree when it comes to political capital, and now the credit cards are maxed out, and he is in the fight for his political life.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Four weeks ago, embarrassing images of Trudeau in blackface appeared online, some taken when he was a teenager. Others when he was older. He has apologized.

  • Justin Trudeau:

    This is something that I deeply, deeply regret.

  • Benedict Moran:

    The apology hasn't stopped his main opponent from making the most of his vulnerability.

  • Andrew Scheer:

    "He said he would be different, but as the last four year have shown, Justin Trudeau is not as advertised."

  • Benedict Moran:

    Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer is running to replace Trudeau as Prime Minister.

  • Andrew Scheer:

    "It is such a pleasure for me to be here."

  • Benedict Moran:

    He is pledging to balance the budget, in part by reducing spending on infrastructure, and cutting foreign aid by 25-percent. He's also promising tax benefits.

  • Andrew Scheer:

    We are going to lower the first income tax bracket. We're going to bring back the public transit tax credit. We're going to make maternity leave benefits tax free, ladies and gentlemen.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Liberals say these proposals would raise Canada's national debt, and Scheer's pro-oil policies would be devastating for the environment. And they point to Scheer's own political liabilities. Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper revealed that Scheer had never told the public he holds both Canadian and American citizenship, which Scheers critics pounced on as evidence of his untrustworthiness. Meanwhile, Trudeau has pledged to plant two billion trees within ten years to absorb carbon emissions.

  • Justin Trudeau:

    The contrast, and the choice, again in this election is between a government committed to doing much more in the fight against climate change or a Conservative Party that refuses to understand that it is the great fight of our time.

  • Benedict Moran:

    But at a Liberal Party rally, a protestor decried Trudeau's purchase of the Transmountain Pipeline Project, screaming in French, 'you are not the solution, you are the problem.'

  • Protester:

    You are a climate criminal! Climate criminal!

  • Benedict Moran:

    And at the first national debate in October, a progressive on Trudeau's left emerged as a dynamic candidate. Jagmeet Singh of the new Democratic Party hadn't been polling well nationally. But after a lively performance at the first debate, his approval ratings jumped.

  • Jagmeet Singh:

    Mr. Trudeau, I know that you say a lot of nice things. And you've been saying a lot of great things on the stage today. But the problem is that you said a lot of these things in 2015. And you made it sound like you would make climate a big priority. But the reality is you did all these things, you bought a pipeline. What's it going to take to follow through on these commitments? Cause your words are not good enough anymore.

  • Benedict Moran:

    Trying to capture some of the dissatisfied progressive vote, he has promised to launch a universal Pharmacare plan that would make sure no one has to pay for prescription drugs out of pocket. And he appears to be having an effect. Polls suggest that smaller parties like his won't get enough seats in Parliament to form a government, but they may control the balance of power if Trudeau or Scheer can't win an outright majority. Meanwhile, candidates from Trudeau's Liberal Party, like Francesco Sorbara, hope voters appreciate the ways in which the Prime Minister and his party have governed.

  • Francesco Sorbara:

    I look at our record as extraordinarily progressive. Compassionate. Measure after measure that is benefiting Canada today, and for the future. No government is perfect and I think you know I'd be the first to raise my hand. No individual is perfect.

  • Benedict Moran:

    They also hope voters forgive the flaws of the party's leader.

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