OTTAWA — With three months to go now until the election, the Liberals are intensifying their campaign efforts with Prime Minister Trudeau hitting party events to drum up support and by ensuring his long-time friend and former senior adviser is in the fold.
A Liberal party official confirmed Sunday that Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts is playing a key role in the party’s election campaign — and the pace of it stepping up quickly.
Butts, a close long-time friend of Trudeau, resigned in February amid the SNC-Lavalin controversy, citing allegations from anonymous sources that he pressured former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to assist the Quebec engineering giant to be considered for an agreement akin to a plea bargain.
Butts issued a statement at the time saying he categorically denied the accusation that he or anyone else in his office pressured Wilson-Raybould, adding that they acted with integrity.
“Any accusation that I or the staff put pressure on the Attorney General is simply not true,” he wrote.
“But the fact is that this accusation exists. It cannot and should not take one moment away from the vital work the Prime Minister and his office is doing for all Canadians.”
Since the winter, the SNC-Lavalin affair has been connected to sliding support for the Liberals reflected in a number of public opinion polls.
The Liberals insist, however, they’re hearing positive feedback during canvassing efforts and that they have more field volunteers on the ground than in any other election.
The party is also seeing continued growth in grassroots fundraising, spokesperson Braeden Caley said Sunday, adding it closed out last month with its best-ever June fundraising results and that four out of the last five months have amounted to monthly bests.
More than 204,000 Canadians have registered as new Liberals since the last federal election, he said, noting the upcoming campaign will offer “a clear choice” between the Liberals and the Conservatives.
In Ontario, a key battleground for every election campaign, the leadership of Premier Doug Ford is expected to figure prominently in the federal discussion. The Liberals have indicated they’ve heard a strong response about Ford’s policies during door-knocking efforts.
Behind the scenes, the Liberals have also made key decisions, like who will take on starring roles in the campaign.
In May, the party announced that Jeremy Broadhurst, the former chief of staff to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and the party’s national director from 2013 to 2015, will lead the national campaign.
The platform committee is being co-chaired by Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale and Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier, Caley said Sunday.
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Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press
Three confirmed dead in fiery Alberta crash with semi trucks, passenger vehicles
CEREAL, Alta. — A Saskatchewan man says a well-timed pit stop may have helped him avoid getting caught in a fiery 10-vehicle crash in southeastern Alberta that killed three people.
Dore Germo and his wife left Kelowna, B.C., on Monday after a holiday visiting friends and, after a night in Calgary, were on their way home to Warman, Sask., on Tuesday.
They stopped for gas and a break in Hanna, Alta., about 80 kilometres from where seven passenger vehicles and three semi trucks collided on Highway 9.
The couple could see smoke as they continued east, but they thought it was just a grass fire.
Then they saw flashing lights and heard sirens and a police officer was running down the middle of the road yelling, “Get out!”
Germo says they were directed to a rural side road to get around the crash, and from there they could make out a tanker truck and burned vehicles amid the smoke.
“It was quite a sickening kind of empty feeling once you realized that — yes — those are people just going about their day and travelling somewhere,” Germo said in an interview Wednesday.
“It kind of looked like a bomb had gone off because there were these burnt out vehicles and it was very eerie.”
He said he’s praying for those involved.
“The first thing you think of is those poor families.”
RCMP confirmed Wednesday that three people were found dead at the scene of the crash between the small communities of Chinook and Cereal, about 300 kilometres east of Calgary. Ten people were injured, two critically.
One of the semi trucks that was carrying fuel ignited, causing several vehicles to catch fire, and another truck was carrying butane.
A stretch of Highway 9 was expected to remain closed until about mid-day, while crews clear the collision area and recover dangerous goods in one of the trucks.
The RCMP’s victim services unit is providing support to people involved in the crash.
“The investigation into this collision remains a lengthy process given the nature of the crash scene,” RCMP said in Wednesday’s release. “It is anticipated that it will take several weeks for the collision analyst to complete the investigation.”
— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary
The Canadian Press
Military faces calls to train soldiers to identify neo-Nazis, hate-group members
OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to train its recruiters and other service members to identify and screen out members of hate groups.
The military is also being accused of failing to take the issue seriously by adopting what several experts say is a wait-and-see approach rather than actively weeding out such individuals.
The criticism follows an internal military report and several high-profile incidents linking some service members to right-wing extremists and hate groups.
That includes an investigation this week into a reservist in Manitoba who is suspected of being a recruiter for a neo-Nazi group.
The Defence Department says the military already uses interviews and background checks to screen recruits for hateful beliefs and behaviour and takes very seriously any reported incidents by current personnel.
But several experts tell The Canadian Press that is not good enough, and that the military must launch a campaign similar to efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct to truly root out extremist beliefs and behaviour.
The Canadian Press
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