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Federal leaders scatter across country as campaign ramps up in earnest

Last Updated Sep 15, 2019 at 2:42 pm EDT

Canadians will be asked this fall to choose between moving forward with the Liberals or getting ahead with the Conservatives. A voter walks past a sign directing voters to a polling station for the Canadian federal election in Cremona, Alta., Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Federal party leaders have scattered across the country as the election campaign starts to ramp up in earnest.

Sunday was the legal deadline for Justin Trudeau to ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and call the election, but the Liberal leader got the jump on that by starting the campaign last Wednesday.

The first five days were marked by numerous candidates across the partisan spectrum turfed from their rosters or forced to apologize for past homophobic and racist remarks.

The Liberals were also haunted by the re-emergence of the SNC-Lavalin scandal and questions about the RCMP investigation running up against issues of cabinet confidence, while Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer found himself again needing to address his socially conservative views.

And the NDP found themselves constantly facing questions about whether they were ready to run at all, considering they had yet to nominate dozens of candidates.

Today, all three main parties hope to regain some solid footing.

The Liberals will campaign in and around Toronto, with Trudeau scheduled to appear at a massive rally for tennis superstar Bianca Andreescu who captivated the country with her win over Serena Williams at the U.S. Open last weekend.

Scheer heads to B.C., starting the day in a Liberal-held riding in Surrey, and then in two NDP-held ridings on Vancouver Island.

So far in this campaign, Scheer has fired one candidate and defended four others for comments about abortion, transgender rights and Muslims as well as homophobic slurs, after online posts and videos were unearthed by Liberal researchers.

On the plane Saturday night, Scheer defended the decision to keep those four candidates on the roster, including one whose past was deemed controversial enough to bar her from running for the provincial conservatives in Ontario.

“I think we all have to acknowledge the fact that people can make mistakes and people can own up to that,” Scheer said, though he added that decisions would be made on a case by case basis.

The New Democrats will be in Quebec, where in the 2011 election they made historic gains, winning 58 seats in a province where previously they’d held just one.

The surge was known as the orange wave, and it’s receded quite a bit since. The party is down to 11 seats in the province now, which recently saw one of its stars defect to the Greens and had to fire another candidate over domestic assault allegations.

On Sunday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will lay out his plan to try and reconnect with the province, an effort that has already seen him launch a targeted ad campaign there to address what many see as a potential liability for him in the province: his faith.

Singh, a Sikh, wears a turban and carries a ceremonial sword known as a kirpan, tightly strapped to his body. Yet in Quebec, a majority are in favour of a provincial bill that bars people in the public sector from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Earlier this month, Singh addressed the issue directly in an ad that shows him with his hair down, and a message that he understands the fight Quebecers wage over their identity.

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier marked the first birthday of his party on Saturday, noting it now has 41,000 members across the country. He is set to campaign in his home province of Quebec Sunday.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is in her home riding on Vancouver Island, and she is expected to travel to Toronto late Sunday in preparation for her party’s platform launch on Monday.