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Trudeau defends large campaign rally, says he followed COVID-19 health guidelines


MONTREAL – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on Wednesday defended a large indoor rally he held in Brampton, Ont., Saying his party was following public health guidelines.

Hundreds of people surrounded the stage during Tuesday night’s event, where he was introduced by 87-year-old former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Supporters assaulted Trudeau at the end of the event, despite organizers asking people to stand in squares taped to the ground.

Liberal employees said there were around 400 people in attendance and the rally followed local COVID-19 rules limiting indoor venues to half of their capacity.

Trudeau was asked on Wednesday about the wisdom of hosting such a big indoor event, which was also attended by 100-year-old former Mississauga, Ont., Mayor Hazel McCallion.

“First of all, no one is telling Hazel McCallion or Jean Chrétien what to do or not to do,” he told reporters in Halifax.

“I was so happy that they chose to join us for this event, which followed all public health guidelines.”

Trudeau says it’s important to recognize that nearly 80 percent of eligible Canadians are vaccinated.

“And that means for these people, being able to start doing the things we love again is more and more of a possibility.”

Chrétien and Trudeau both gave separate speeches on a stage in the middle of a Brampton Convention Center ballroom, surrounded on all sides by an enthusiastic crowd who applauded as they criticized the other party leaders and promoted the liberal platform on vaccines, environment and child care.

In his speech, Chrétien defended Trudeau’s decision to send Canadians to voting booths, saying election calls are “a tradition” for minority governments after two years.

He sharply criticized O’Toole and Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet, and said Canadians need a centrist government to deal with issues such as climate change and the challenges posed by China.

“Now is not the time to go to the far right or the far left, this is the time to be in the middle,” he said.

When asked later if he felt comfortable in the midst of a large crowd, Chrétien admitted that he hadn’t known the format beforehand.

“I didn’t have a podium so no, it wasn’t the environment I’m used to,” said Chrétien, who added that he had been vaccinated.

“But I’m glad I came. I’ve been on the track for a while, and being back on the track wasn’t too bad.”

McCallion said after the event that crowds were just one reason an election shouldn’t have been called during a pandemic.

“The governments said, stay home, avoid forming groups, then an election is called that brings people together in groups,” McCallion said.

Despite her criticism of the election call, McCallion also acknowledged that minority governments “don’t work,” and said she hoped Trudeau’s Liberals would win a majority on September 20.

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