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Justin Trudeau rallies N.S. supporters with fond memories as controversies rage

HALIFAX — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited friendly Nova Scotia territory on Wednesday evening to thank fundraisers and recall happier times, as controversies rage in Ottawa.

The prime minister began his visit attending an evening vigil for a Syrian family that lost seven children in a fast-moving fire earlier in the week before attending a fundraising gathering of donors who have provided his party at least $1,500.

Long-time backroom Liberal organizers were in the group of about 100 people gathered in the ballroom of the Halifax Hotel to hear his 15-minute speech.

He avoided all talk of controversies over the SNC-Lavalin prosecution and didn’t make himself available for reporters’ questions.

Since last week, the government has seen the high-profile resignations of one cabinet member — former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who became the minister of veterans affairs in January — and Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts.

In his speech, the prime minister focused on the positive past, reminding his supporters the party holds all 11 seats in the province, and is looking for a repeat in the 2019 election.

Trudeau repeated his familiar criticisms of the Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who has also been making swings through the region in the hope of weakening the Liberal sweep of Atlantic Canada in the last election.

Trudeau suggested his political opponents are aligning themselves with populist and extremist political forces.

“We were not and are not going to play up personal attacks and personal differences,” he said.

“If you get elected by dividing Canadians against each other, sure you can get elected, but you won’t be able to govern right,” he said.

On Thursday, Trudeau is expected to make an announcement on improving a busy expressway that commuters use to enter Halifax.

In the afternoon, he’s heading to the Black Cultural Centre to tour historical exhibits in the suburb of Cherry Brook, and he will later deliver a speech in recognition of black history month.

The Canadian Press