World News

Canada's Trudeau tries to link main rival to Alberta COVID-19 surge

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks while hs wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and their son Hadrien Trudeau listen at an election campaign stop in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

CALGARY, Alberta/Richmond, BRITISH COLUMBIA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday sought to link his main election rival to a worsening COVID-19 crisis in the western province of Alberta, where the health system is struggling to cope.

With less than a week to go in a tight election race, Trudeau said Conservative leader Erin O’Toole thought Alberta’s model should be followed elsewhere.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s government loosened public health measures against COVID-19 faster than many other provinces, and Alberta now leads Canada in new cases amid a fourth wave. There are a record number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units and hospitals are cancelling elective surgeries.

“The approach in Alberta hasn’t worked for Albertans,” Trudeau told reporters on the campaign trail in Richmond, British Columbia.

“And people think it would be a good idea to have Erin O’Toole sitting across from Jason Kenney when it comes to finishing this pandemic? That would be bad, not just for Albertans but everyone in the country,” he said.

Kenney has repeatedly said he will not mandate a vaccine passport, infuriating many people who believe the government is pandering to a small but vocal anti-vax movement in the province.

However, on Tuesday the government announced Albertans will soon be able to print a copy of their inoculation record, and last week offered unvaccinated Albertans C$100 cash as an incentive to get jabbed.

Alberta traditionally votes Conservative and shut out the Liberals entirely in the 2019 election. Some voters may choose to vote against the federal party on Sept. 20 because of anger towards Kenney, said Duane Bratt, political science professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.

Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Alistair Bell