Trudeau absent from first debate; holds rally in Edmonton

EDMONTON – (CityNews) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was noticeably absent from the first leader’s debate, drumming up Liberal support in Alberta.

Inside the Arts Barns building on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, one man was asked to leave very early as he heckled Trudeau. He left without incident.

At the rally, Trudeau said the rest of the country won’t forget Alberta as it goes through tough economic times due to drops in oil prices.

“I’ve made a point of coming to Alberta, and to Edmonton, many, many times since I became prime minister because this province, its people, matter,” he said, promising that a Liberal government “will always have your back.”

Trudeau’s rally started late, ensuring that it would overlap with the start of the Maclean’s/Citytv leaders debate, where a podium remained open for him.

After an event promoting the Conservative pledge to cut taxes on parental-leave benefits, Scheer said he wasn’t surprised Trudeau would be a no-show at the debate, given the recent Globe and Mail reports that have thrust the SNC-Lavalin affair back into the headlines. But the Liberal leader is also gun-shy when it comes to talking about Canada’s place in the world, he added.

“I note that this evening, a part of the debate will be focused on foreign affairs,” said Scheer. “And if there’s one area where Justin Trudeau’s failures have been so visible to Canadians, so evident that Canadians can immediately understand, it’s on the subject of foreign affairs.”

Singh said he was disappointed Trudeau had decided to skip the event, as Canadians expect him to show up and defend his record.

Even before they took to the stage, with its empty spot for Trudeau, opposition leaders were accusing the Liberal leader of dodging the debate because he’s afraid to run on his record.

READ MORE: Trudeau won’t take part in Citytv, Maclean’s Leaders’ debate: Liberal party

Earlier in the day, Trudeau stuck by his decision to participate only in two official debates next month and a third in French hosted by TVA. And he suggested he’d prefer to be on the campaign trail in B.C. and Alberta anyway.

“The opportunity to get out across this country, speak with Canadians, listen to them, and talk about how we are going to build a better future for everyone and how we’re going to choose a better future for everyone is at the core of what this election is all about for me,” he said in Victoria, where he announced an expansion of a program to help first-time homebuyers.

“I’m going to keep doing that.”

There was a large crowd inside the venue and only a few protestors held signs outside.

— With files from The Canadian Press. 

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