Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau returns to Greater Victoria on eve of election

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau rallied supporters at the Bard and Banker pub on Sunday night ahead of what pollsters predict could be an historic finish in battleground B.C.

“Such an incredible corner of the country,” Trudeau told the packed house of Liberal candidates and supporters.

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“I couldn’t imagine a better place to wrap up this campaign than with all of you.”

There's a lot going on in this election, he said, with a lot of attacks and a lot said. “Andrew Scheer seems to want to make you think this election is about me. This election isn't about me. This election is about you. This election is about Canadians. This election is about our future and our kids’ future.”

Trudeau said the Liberal government was “just getting started.”

On Monday, "I need all of you and all of your friends to get out and vote," said the Liberal leader, who visited Saanich at the start of the campaign.

“Mobilize the vote. Make sure Liberals and progressives get out to vote and show that we are a country, ambitious and looking towards the future and ready tomorrow night to choose forward.”

The Liberals and Conservatives are locked in a dead heat federally. Aggregated polls had the Conservatives at 32.0 per cent and the Liberals at 31.8 on Sunday.

“We haven’t seen an election this close easily in a generation — 30 or 40 years we haven’t seen anything this close,” said David Black, a Royal Roads University political analyst.

“This is where the outcome will arguably be defined,” Black said. “B.C., as unlikely as it is, may be the place where the shape of this government is ultimately decided, whether it’s a Conservative or Liberal minority given that the two largest parties are essentially tied here” a day before votes are cast.

The fact that Trudeau as well as Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Leader Elizabeth May all campaigned in B.C. on Sunday testifies to the province’s crucial role, Black said.

Scheer, in Vancouver on Sunday, said there is still time for voters to look at party platforms and swing tomorrow’s election.

May was campaigning on Vancouver Island on Sunday — spending time at Big Wheel Burger in Victoria with candidate Racelle Kooy, in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke with David Merner and in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford with Lydia Hwitsum.

Having attracted large crowds in Saanich and Oak Bay on Friday night and more in Burnaby on Saturday, Singh was campaigning in Vancouver and Surrey on Sunday.

“B.C. is the most volatile province right now, there are more three- and four-party competitive races races than you typically see elsewhere across Canada,” Black said. It makes predicting an outcome, very difficult, he said.

“That makes this race tantalizing for strategists,” he said. “And it creates a certain amount of drama that this race is close and competitive.”

When Parliament dissolved, the Liberals held 17 of 42 seats in B.C. and Trudeau’s visit is about them holding on to as many of those seats as they can, Black said. Eight Liberal-Conservative races in the Lower Mainland are “toss ups,” he said.

Here on the Island, voters lean more left than the rest of the country, so what will be “weighing on people’s minds Monday” will be what a vote for the Greens or NDP means in the face of a Conservative or Liberal win, Black said.

The fact that Trudeau is ending his campaign in Victoria is more about the province as a whole than about Victoria Liberal candidate Nikki Macdonald, Black said. Polls are suggesting the race in the riding is between Green candidate Racelle Kooy and New Democrat Laurel Collins, he said.

“The decision to end in Victoria is more about the importance of B.C. generally to the possibility of a Liberal minority government,” Black said.

Since the 1990s, the Island has had only two Liberal MPs, including Keith Martin, who was first elected under the Reform Party banner. David Anderson represented Victoria from 1993 to 2006. The riding has been held by the NDP since.

Macdonald isn't fazed. She notes her father, Donald S. Macdonald, was thought to be a long shot in 1962 when he ended a 30-year Conservative reign in his Toronto riding and won the Rosedale seat for the Liberals, becoming a cabinet minister.

The political story on the last day of campaigning is the closeness of the election, said Black, adding that could help drive up voter participation.

As Trudeau left the pub Sunday night, he was swarmed for selfies from teens through seniors. He obliged each and every one for that time, it seemed as though it was 2015 again.

"In 2015 we made a choice as a country to pull together and pick a better government — that invests in people, invests in communities, invests in families, invests in the future and fights climate change and that's exactly what we are doing," he told the crowd inside.

"Canadians came together from coast to coast to coast to say enough to Stephen Harper's cuts."

That choice has worked out for Canadians, Trudeau said. "Over that four years the Liberal government created over one million new jobs, most of them full time, and the lowest unemployment rate in four years ... and lifted 900,000 people out of poverty," he said, as the crowd chanted "four more years."

He also lauded B.C.'s carbon tax while promoting the federal version. "For the first time ever we have a pan-Canadian framework to fight climate change that means the entire country is following B.C.'s lead and we have put a price on pollution right across the country."

On the campaign trail Trudeau has talked of the diversity of the nation, which Black said can be found in B.C., a resource-driven province also focused on ending climate change. “In B.C. you see that split more than in any other province.”

In B.C. there is much support for the carbon tax, which the Conservatives say they will cancel.

And while Trudeau has faced criticism about expanding the pipeline, others in Alberta and in the Interior and northern B.C. have accused him of not doing enough for the oil and gas sector, Black said.

“There’s a certain poetry to his presence here,” he said. “B.C. frames this grand bargain that this government will be remembered for, win or lose this election.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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