Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned to the campaign trail on Sunday in his bid for re-election in October as polls showed his ruling Liberals starting to suffer with voters after photos emerged of him in blackface.
Trudeau has repeatedly apologized for the photos, which jarred with his oft-stated position that he wants to improve the lot of minorities in Canada and prompted accusations of hypocrisy.
Trudeau was headed for the Ontario city of Brampton, where 58% of the population is either south Asian or black. The Liberals took all five of Brampton’s seats in 2015 and need to retain them to stand a chance of winning the Oct. 21 election.
Before the photos emerged last week, surveys of public opinion strongly suggested Trudeau would beat the opposition Conservatives of Andrew Scheer, who is a legislator.
But a Nanos Research poll released on Saturday said the Conservatives would win 36.8% of the vote and the Liberals 32%, the largest gap between the parties since campaigning started on Sept 11. If that ends up as the result, Scheer could end up with a minority government.
The theme of Trudeau’s campaign stop in Brampton is making life more affordable for Canadians, which had been one of the main thrusts of the campaign before the photo scandal.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is due to attend a Toronto town hall hosted by the National Council of Canadian Muslims on Sunday. The council has accepted Trudeau’s apology after initially issued an angry statement.
Freeland has said she was saddened by the photos but stressed she fully backed Trudeau. Other Liberal legislators and candidates have also expressed unhappiness.
Insiders have dismiss the idea of anyone in the party mounting a challenge against Trudeau during the campaign, saying that would be tantamount to electoral suicide.