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'Anything to win': Trudeau says as Poilievre defends meeting protesters

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is accusing Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre of welcoming "the support of conspiracy theorists and extremists," after the Conservative leader was photographed meeting with protesters, which his office has defended.

"Every politician has to make choices about what kind of leader they want to be," Trudeau said Wednesday while promoting his budget. "Are they the kind of leader that is going to exacerbate divisions, fear, and polarization in our country? Make personal attacks and welcome the support of conspiracy theorists and extremists?"

"Because that's exactly what Pierre Poilievre continues to do," Trudeau said, while suggesting that his main opponent has yet to present a plan to lead that goes beyond exploiting Canadians' fears. 

The prime minister was responding to media questions about remarks Poilievre made at a recent appearance in Atlantic Canada.

On Tuesday night, Poilievre met with protesters at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border, whose vehicles were adorned with "F*ck Trudeau" flags, as part of a self-described "hold the line protest," according to multiple social media posts.

As seen in one post, which CTV News has not verified, the federal Conservative leader posed for photos and told those gathered to "keep it up." In another, Poilievre accused the prime minister of lying about "everything."

The protesters most recently have been demonstrating in opposition to the carbon tax, which Poilievre has been crossing the country vowing to "axe," while pressuring the government to alter its pollution pricing policy, through a range of procedural measures in Parliament. 

But, as reported by the Broadbent Institute's Press Progress, members of the group have previously been affiliated with the "Freedom Convoy," which protested against government-mandated public health restrictions, as well as the far-right group Diagolon.

The prime minister said that Poilievre meeting with these protesters "really shows that he will do anything to win… And it only emphasizes that he has nothing to say to actually solve the problems that he's busy amplifying."

Asked for comment on the Conservative leader's recent roadside stop, Poilievre spokesperson Sebastian Skamski said that on the drive between events in Atlantic Canada, Poilievre "noticed an anti-carbon tax protest."

"As a vocal opponent of Justin Trudeau's punishing carbon tax, which has driven up the cost of groceries, gas, and heating, he made a brief, impromptu stop," Skamski said, adding that if Trudeau is concerned about extremism he should "look at parades on Canadian streets openly celebrating Hamas' slaughter of Jews on October 7th."

Trudeau has said the glorification of antisemitic violence and murder perpetrated by Hamas is "unconscionable" and has no place in Canada. Poilievre has also condemned remarks made at recent protests.

Trudeau on Alex Jones endorsement

Trudeau also took aim Wednesday at Poilievre for not denouncing American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' recent endorsement of the Conservative leader as "saying the same things as me."

"Alex Jones is a proven liar and conspiracy theorist who has to pay hundreds of millions of dollars because he lied about the Sandy Hook killing... This is the kind of man who's saying Pierre Poilievre has the right ideas to bring the country towards the right," Trudeau said.

Responding to the call from the prime minister for Poilievre to condemn Jones, Poilievre's office said that unlike Trudeau, the Official Opposition is "not paying attention to what some American is saying."

"It is the endorsement of hard working, everyday Canadians that Conservatives are working to earn," Skamski said.

'Purposely trying to divide': Singh

Reacting to Poilievre's recorded remarks to the protesters, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused the Conservative leader of "purposely trying to divide Canadians."

"One of the things that I've seen again and again from Pierre Poilievre is something that really disappoints me in terms of leadership. Leaders should be someone that brings Canadians together. Leaders shouldn't be someone that is irresponsible with language, stokes division, that stokes hatred," Singh said.

"He is someone that's been endorsed by the likes of Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson." 

'I trust Canadians': Trudeau

Asked what he'd say to the Canadians who agree with Poilievre and the rise in anger directed towards him, the prime minister said in a democracy people can express themselves and vote "however they choose." 

But, he believes come campaign time, the electorate will "take a careful look" at who is presenting plans to solve the challenges at hand.

"I know Canadians are going to be very, very thoughtful about what kind of country we want to live in. What kind of choice are we making about the future we're building? Are we solving the challenges we're facing? Or, are we just exacerbating and amplifying them?" Trudeau said.

"I trust Canadians to be reasonable."  

For months, the prime minister has been trailing Poilievre in the polls, and a new Leger poll suggests the Liberals have not persuaded voters with their latest budget. 

"There's no question the political ice is cracking beneath the government's feet. Everyone understands that, everyone sees that. It doesn't mean that every single attack that the prime minister launches against Pierre Poilievre is insincere, and it doesn't mean that every question he poses ought not to be explored," said Scott Reid, CTV News political analyst, on Wednesday.

"There's a real strong sense in the Liberal camp that they've got to make a move, that they have to lay a glove... This trajectory will not end in re-election and they know that they have to change it."

He suggested in order for the Liberals to land this message about their main rival, the party is going to have to put serious dollars behind a political advertising campaign. 

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