Canada's Trudeau slammed over rising inflation as election race tightens

·3-min read
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigns in Halifax, Nova Scotia

By Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - The leader of Canada's main opposition party on Wednesday said a surge in inflation last month highlighted the failure of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's economic policies, and urged Canadians to vote out the government in an election on Monday.

Erin O'Toole, whose Conservatives are tied in the polls with Trudeau's center-left Liberals, said Canadians were experiencing an affordability crisis and blamed what he called the prime minister's reckless spending and massive debts.

"It's troubling that Justin Trudeau seems to not care about the sky-rocketing cost of living that is being imposed on Canadians through inflation," O'Toole said in a statement.

Statistics Canada said the annual inflation rate in August accelerated to 4.1%, the highest level since March 2003, in part due to the soaring cost of gasoline and the fact that prices in August 2020 were depressed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Liberals, in power for the past six years, racked up record debt and the highest budget deficits since World War Two. Trudeau is promising more investments if he wins.

The Liberal leader said he recognized families were concerned about affordability, and that is why his government had spent heavily to shield businesses and people from the worst of the pandemic.

He told reporters in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that Canada "is bouncing back ... from an extreme crisis of this pandemic that has caused a lot of disruption and yes, is increasing prices."

The Bank of Canada says the spike in prices is temporary and that it expects inflation to settle back down towards the central bank's 2% target by 2022.

O'Toole, speaking to reporters in Saguenay, Quebec, said a Conservative government would tackle high inflation by cutting the pace of spending and allowing more competition in the wireless and internet markets.

The Conservative leader is promising to balance the budget within a decade without making cuts but has not explained how.

The left-leaning New Democrats, who are competing with the Liberals for the support of progressive voters in the Sept. 20 federal election, said the inflation data showed "people can't afford Justin Trudeau's empty promises anymore."

Trudeau, who heads a minority government that relies on the support of opposition parties to pass legislation, called the election last month, two years early, to seek voters' support for his recovery plan. The Liberals, however, have seen their early lead in the polls quickly fade amid voter fatigue and unhappiness with the early election call.

A rolling Nanos Research telephone survey of 1,200 Canadians for CTV on Wednesday put public support for the Conservatives at 31.2%, the Liberals at 30.5% and the New Democrats at 21.4%. Such a result could lead to a deadlock in which no party is able to form even a stable minority government.

The survey is considered accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

(Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao)

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