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Trudeau Plays Up Policy Changes After Blackface Scandal

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the Minhas family before speaking at an election campaign stop in Brampton, Ontario, Sept. 22, 2019.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tries to lure Canadian voters with climate and tax-related policy changes ahead of a national election in October, the fallout of the blackface scandal continues to dog him, and some polls showed Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer taking the lead on Tuesday.

During a campaign stop on Tuesday in Burnaby, British Columbia, Trudeau pledged to halve the corporate tax paid by companies that develop zero-emissions technologies and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

"Years from now, I want to look my kids in the eyes and say we stepped up on climate change," Trudeau said.

The Liberal leader has recently promised also to ban military-style assault weapons and to introduce a national prescription drug plan, in an attempt to get his campaign back on track as blackface photos of him from the past emerged last week and threatened his re-election bid.

While one poll suggests that strategy might be working, others showed the Conservatives taking the lead, with less than four weeks to go before the Oct. 21 vote.

The two leaders had been running neck-and-neck until Time magazine published a picture of Trudeau in dark makeup at a 2001 "Arabian Nights" party, when he was a 29-year-old teacher. Two other images and a video of him in blackface later emerged.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks during Question Period in the interim House of Commons in the West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, Feb. 25, 2019.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks during Question Period in the interim House of Commons in the West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, Feb. 25, 2019.

Now, Scheer is the clear front-runner with as much as a 5-percentage-point lead, according to three different polls conducted after the images were published and released between late Monday and early Tuesday.

"Right now, the election has become a referendum on Justin Trudeau," Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker said in an interview. "Is he trustworthy? Is he competent?"

Old blackface pictures of the prime minister have taken over the campaign narrative ahead of the vote and are "blotting out the sun," Bricker said.

Conservatives would win 36% of the vote compared with 32% for the Liberals, the Ipsos poll for Global News showed, while the Angus Reid Institute puts Scheer's party at 35% versus 30% for Trudeau's Liberals. Ekos Politics has the Conservatives at 35.3% and Liberals at 32%.

On the flip side, the Nanos Research poll for CTV and the Globe and Mail, which is conducted daily, has the Liberals taking back the lead with 35.1% against 33.5% for the Conservatives after the policy announcements in recent days.

Trudeau made Tuesday's announcement in B.C., on the west coast, where his party is battling against the Green Party for several seats and in the riding now held by left-wing New Democrat party leader Jagmeet Singh, who's party has climbed in the polls since the blackface scandal.

It is also the province where his government is moving ahead with the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, a project that could be considered anathema to fighting climate change.

Singh, who promoted his own climate plan in Manitoba, described Trudeau's new climate policies as "pretty words, empty promises, but no action."

"Instead of addressing climate change, the Liberals spent billions of taxpayer dollars buying an oil pipeline that will threaten our environment and violate Indigenous rights — and the Conservatives don't believe we're in a climate crisis at all," Singh said.

Scheer criticized the lack of detail in Trudeau's recent announcements.

"He is proposing plans with no details, he's making up policy on the fly," Scheer said at a campaign stop in Thorold, Ontario. "So excuse me if I don't have any confidence in Justin Trudeau's proposals."

Speaking at Cracker Jack's Bar and Grill, Scheer pledged a series of measures for small businesses if elected, including lower taxes.