Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole ripped into his Liberal opponent today, saying it was irresponsible for Justin Trudeau to hold a sizeable indoor campaign rally during the pandemic.
Speaking to reporters at a campaign stop in Saguenay, Que., O’Toole said Trudeau’s “entitlement and privilege were on full display” last night when he hosted some 400 people at a banquet hall in Brampton, Ont.
“Justin Trudeau held an event in a packed room in contempt of common sense and social distancing guidelines. That’s Justin Trudeau — the man who lectures you about the rules he isn’t willing to follow himself,” O’Toole said.
“As I’ve said, he’s always looking out for number one.”
Photos of Liberal supporters packed closely together at venue in a city that was once Canada’s COVID-19 hotspot raised some alarm on social media.
The Speranza Banquet Hall has a pandemic-era capacity of 500, down from the normal limit of 1,000 — so the 400-strong Liberal crowd did not violate provincial rules that limit indoors events to 50 per cent of regular capacity.
Under Ontario’s current COVID-19 guidelines, the Roadmap to Re-open, indoor gatherings of this sort are permitted as long as people can maintain a two-metre distance from each other.
While Liberal organizers were heard urging attendees to keep their distance, supporters crowded together near the stage to see Trudeau, former prime minister Jean Chretien and former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion.
Attendees were crammed at the front of the room with little space separating them, while the back of the vast banquet hall sat largely empty.
“This pattern of behaviour on COVID will only get worse if Trudeau is rewarded for plunging the country into a $600-million election in the middle of a pandemic,” O’Toole said.
Trudeau defended the event Wednesday, saying the campaign “followed all public health guidelines around capacity.” He said that high vaccination coverage means more events like last night’s rally can be held safely.
“We need to recognize that close to 80 percent of Canadians have done the right thing and gotten themselves vaccinated. And that means those people being able to come back to doing the things we love is more and more of a possibility,” he said at a campaign stop in Halifax.
WATCH: Trudeau responds to Hazel McCallion’s criticism of election call
Trudeau said he wouldn’t take lessons from O’Toole on pandemic management when the Conservative leader isn’t even demanding his candidates get vaccinated before hitting the campaign trail. O’Toole has also opposed vaccine mandates for federal public servants and the travelling public.
“Erin O’Toole is supporting his candidates who are anti-vaxxers like Ted Falk, who’s deliberately putting out disinformation, false information on the dangers of vaccines to his constituents. That’s not the way we move forward. We need to respect public health guidelines and we need to get people vaccinated,” Trudeau said — referring by name to a Conservative candidate in Manitoba who apologized after he was quoted in a local newspaper spreading misinformation about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also faced questions today about an indoor rally he held inside a small airport hangar in Windsor, Ont. — another former COVID-19 hotspot in the country’s largest province.
“I understand people’s concerns,” Singh said before blaming Trudeau for the capacity crunch.
“This election shouldn’t have been called in the first place. It was a selfish decision by Mr. Trudeau to call an election with the fourth wave.
“We always try to do our best to make sure we’re outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. We had the hangar doors open, but it’s a fair point to raise. We’re going to be as vigilant as possible.”