With just three days left before Canada votes in a hotly contested election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative rival Andrew Scheer on Friday ratcheted up the mudslinging, as both seek to avoid ending up with a minority government.
Policy announcements gave way to calls to vote strategically on Monday — for Trudeau’s Liberals, that means staying in power and preventing a rollback of his progressive policies.
They claimed the Tories were seeking to allow assault rifles on Canadian streets.
Conservatives countered with attack ads accusing Trudeau’s camp of seeking to legalize hard drugs and raise taxes.
As the nasty jabs fly, pollsters predict a minority government — but it was still unclear if it would be Liberal or Conservative.
Trudeau and Scheer, whose own lackluster campaign has cost his Conservatives, are now neck-and-neck, each with 31-32 percent support.
If those numbers hold up, neither of the parties — which have alternately ruled Canada since Confederation in 1867 — will win a majority mandate.
Whichever wins the most seats in parliament out of 338 up for grabs would have to ally with one or more smaller parties to prop up a minority government.
“It boils down to a choice between Conservative cuts, and a Liberal government that will continue to make life more affordable for Canadians, fight climate change and get guns off our streets,” Trudeau said at a campaign stop in Whitby, Ontario on Friday.
The prime minister’s campaign was hurt by a scandal over his past wearing of blackface makeup, as well as a lingering backlash over his firing of Canada’s first indigenous attorney general.
The Liberals also lost ground in the home stretch to a surging New Democratic Party (NDP), whose leader Jagmeet Singh impressed Canadians with his strong debate performances.
The revived separatist Bloc Quebecois, which had been declared dead two elections ago when it was reduced to a smattering of seats in parliament, has also eaten into the Liberals’ onetime lead.