CARAQUET, N.B. – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau waded into a noisy crowd of thousands of people celebrating their Acadian culture in northern New Brunswick Saturday night, hoping to garner support in a riding that has voted New Democrat for the last 18 years.
Trudeau shook hands and posed for pictures as he made his way through crowds at the Festival acadien de Caraquet.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate an extraordinarily resilient people,” Trudeau said, barely audible over the drone of noisemakers.
At every opportunity, Trudeau introduced Serge Cormier — his party’s candidate in Acadie-Bathurst — a riding held by the NDP’s Yvon Godin since 1997. But Godin isn’t running in the current federal election, and the Liberals are looking for a chance to recapture the seat, which used to be a stronghold for them.
Trudeau is quick to criticize the plans of Tom Mulcair, saying the New Democrat leader is offering “a mirage.”
“He promises a national minimum wage, but doesn’t tell people it’s not going to touch more than 99 per cent of everyone who earns minimum wage,” he said.
“We don’t need empty promises. We need a strong team and a strong vision and that’s exactly what we’ve got here.”
Earlier Saturday in Toronto, Trudeau said Prime Minister Stephen Harper should fire some of his senior staffers.
It’s over revelations this week about the $90,000 payment from Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright to cover Sen. Mike Duffy’s questioned expenses.
When it was revealed in June 2013 that Wright gave Duffy the money out of his own pocket, Harper insisted Wright was the only PMO staffer in on the scheme.
But Duffy’s trial has heard evidence this week that half a dozen PMO staff and Conservative party brass were in the know about Wright’s plan — including Ray Novak, Harper’s current chief of staff.
Harper changed his tune Friday, telling reporters in the Northwest Territories that the “vast majority” of his staff didn’t know about the plan.
Before the payment became public, the plan was to say that Duffy repaid the expenses.
Trudeau said Saturday in Toronto that Harper’s closest advisers “conspired to mislead the Canadian people and instructed ministers of the Crown to mislead Parliament.”
Harper “hired the staffers, and is keeping them on the public payroll while they run his election campaign even though he knows full well everything that they did,” Trudeau said while attending a union event at a Toronto park.
“If Stephen Harper had any respect left for the office he is privileged to hold, he would fire these people immediately.”