The Liberal re-election caravan will be taking wing later today after the party’s chartered plane was damaged Wednesday night in a minor collision with a bus on the airport tarmac in Victoria, B.C.
The plane had just landed in the British Columbia capital after transporting Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, his team and several journalists travelling with the campaign across the country for day one of the federal election race.
A bus, used to transport journalists from the plane to the terminal, was parked close to the plane. As it departed, the bus drove under the wing of the plane, making a loud scraping sound as the top of the bus slowly dragged under the wing.
Trudeau has a busy flight schedule planned for Thursday, with stops in Kamloops, B.C., and Edmonton.
Campaign officials now say a new Air Transat plane has been procured, although this one doesn’t feature the partisan branding of its predecessor, which included Trudeau’s name in big red block letters.
Fresh from campaign event
The incident happened shortly after Trudeau’s first 2019 election campaign event.
Trudeau headed Wednesday to what he calls his “second home” in British Columbia, headlining a boisterous evening rally in the riding of Vancouver Kingsway — right next door to the constituency held by his former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Trudeau’s government faced a crisis last winter after allegations that Wilson-Raybould had faced inappropriate pressure from the prime minister, his office, other ministers and bureaucrats to end the criminal prosecution of Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould quit Trudeau’s cabinet over the affair, followed by cabinet ally Jane Philpott. Trudeau eventually kicked both women out of the Liberal caucus and they are now seeking re-election as Independent candidates.
Shortly before Trudeau took to the stage, Wilson-Raybould was rocking the Liberals once again, telling the Globe and Mail that she was recently interviewed by the RCMP about the SNC-Lavalin affair. She called on Trudeau to waive cabinet confidentiality to allow the Mounties to thoroughly question witnesses and determine whether to launch a formal investigation.
Trudeau didn’t mention Wilson-Raybould, but told hundreds of party faithful it “just felt right” to start the 2019 campaign in B.C., the same place he launched the 2015 campaign.
“My friends, it is so good to be home. You all know how proud I am to be a son and a grandson of British Columbia,” he told the cheering throng, playing up his family connections to the province.
He recounted time spent with his maternal grandparents and working as a teacher in the province, saying: “Some of my best memories in the world are right here in B.C.”
Not everyone at the rally today was a supporter of <a href=”https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@JustinTrudeau</a> or the Liberal party. When these teens with <a href=”https://twitter.com/sustainteens?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@sustainteens</a> chanted during Trudeau’s speech, crowd drowned them out cheers. Now singing loudly, demanding climate justice. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cdnpoli</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/cbcnewsbc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@cbcnewsbc</a> <a href=”https://t.co/676h5skyMy”>pic.twitter.com/676h5skyMy</a>
Liberal strategists say Trudeau intends to spend much of the first week of the campaign on the offence, hitting ridings currently held by other parties but that Liberals believe they have a chance of picking up. That includes a number of ridings in B.C., where a four-way fight among the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens is making outcomes particularly unpredictable.
On that score, Vancouver Kingsway fits the bill. It has been held by New Democrat Don Davies since 2008. He captured 45.7 per cent of the vote in 2015, almost 20 points ahead of the second-place Liberal contender.
Prior to that, the riding was held by David Emerson, who won originally as a Liberal in 2004 only to cross over to the Conservatives immediately after the 2006 election to serve in Stephen Harper’s first cabinet.
This time, the Liberals are running a high-profile candidate, former CTV-B.C. evening news anchor Tamara Taggart.
In 2015, the Liberals won 17 of B.C.’s 42 seats. While they believe there are seats to be gained in the province, they will also have to fight to retain what they already have in a province where concern about climate change is paramount.
B.C. is home to the strongest opposition — including environmentalists, Indigenous communities, Vancouver’s mayor and the province’s NDP government — to the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Trudeau’s government purchased to ensure a way to get Alberta oilsands crude to the B.C. coast.
A small group of young anti-pipeline protesters interrupted Trudeau’s speech several times Wednesday, but were quickly drowned out by cheering partisans. Trudeau ignored them.
While NDP fortunes have been on the skids elsewhere, the party is still in contention in B.C. The Green party, meanwhile, is hoping for a big breakthrough in the province, which is currently home to Green Leader Elizabeth May and the only other elected Green MP, Paul Manly.
Intent on turning the election into a polarized choice between the Liberals and Conservatives, Trudeau went on the attack against the Tories but made no mention of any other rival party.
He accused Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives of having no new ideas, saying they were regurgitating the same “failed” policies of Harper’s government, which he described as tax breaks for the wealthy and cuts in services for everyone else.
Trudeau extolled his government’s record of investing in people and communities, boasting that his policies have helped spur economic growth, create jobs and lift 900,000 Canadians out of poverty.