By David Ljunggren
WHITBY, Ontario (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, trying to retain power after scandals dimmed his image, on Friday said he was fighting for every vote in an election next week and conceded his main rival could win.
Polls show Trudeau’s Liberals are locked in a tie with the opposition Conservatives ahead of the vote on Monday and will not capture enough seats for a majority. That would leave them in a weakened position, reliant on smaller parties to govern.
Trudeau has spent much of the campaign in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, which accounts for 108 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons. The Liberals hold 76 of those seats and need to retain them to stand a chance of winning.
“I’m not taking any vote for granted. I know Canadians are reflecting on the kind of future they want,” he told reporters in the town of Whitby east of Toronto.
“There is a chance there could be a Conservative government and that would mean cuts,” he said.
The Liberals’ experience in Whitby underlines the challenges facing Trudeau. Liberal legislator Celina Caesar-Chavannes used to hold the Whitby seat but quit in March after what she said was a clash with Trudeau over his leadership style.
Her departure came shortly after two prominent female cabinet ministers resigned following a scandal over what they saw as inappropriate pressure from Trudeau to drop a corruption trial against a construction firm.
The affair damaged Trudeau’s credentials as a feminist. This is important, since women voters heavily favored him in the 2015 election that brought him to power.
Trudeau side-stepped a question on whether the experience of Caesar-Chavannes would hurt the Liberals in Whitby.
A Nanos Research poll for the Globe and Mail and CTV released on Friday put the Conservatives on 31.6% public support and the Liberals on 31.5%. The left-leaning New Democrats were on 19.0%.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is calling for a majority government to stop what he says would be a coalition between the Liberals and the New Democrats.
Such a government would hike taxes while slashing payments to the provinces to cover health care costs, he said on Friday.
“Those claims are entirely untrue. It is unfortunate that the Conservatives keep having to make up attacks against us,” said Trudeau. In recent weeks the Conservatives have run ads accusing the Liberals of planning to legalize hard drugs.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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