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JOHN DeMONT: Wait over an hour to shake Trudeau's hand in Nova Scotia

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks at a rally at the Brewery Market in Halifax Tuesday night. With six days to go in the federal election all parties are pushing for more appearances in public spaces.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks at a rally at the Brewery Market in Halifax Tuesday night. With six days to go in the federal election all parties are pushing for more appearances in public spaces. - Eric Wynne

Around 1 p.m. Tuesday, they started trickling into the Masstown Market: the Mounties and off-duty policemen with the squiggly ear-pieces; the true believers sporting the Trudeau buttons, Liberal hats and YesweZann T-shirts; the people perplexed by this most perplexing of elections, just there to see the man. 

Justin Trudeau and his Colchester-Cumberland candidate Lenore Zann were running late. 

He had been slow arriving from New Brunswick, and there had been a scene in Amherst where they were scheduled to make a quick campaign whistle-stop. 

Steven Garvey, leader of the National Citizen’s Alliance -- an alt-right party with a reduced-immigration emphasis -- who is running in Cumberland-Colchester mainly, it seems, out of an animus to Zann, stood on the street during Trudeau’s visit, yelling through a megaphone about “mass immigration,” and how he was suing Zann for “human rights violations.”

Zann, I’m told, made a speech about how diversity makes Amherst stronger. Then she got the crowd singing “All you need is love”, to drown out Garvey’s megaphone.

None of us in Masstown knew about this drama. 

Not Corey McNutt, who works in the dairy business, who had met Trudeau’s dad and now wanted to shake the son’s hand. 

“This (a Liberal government) may not be the best option,” the 49-year-old told me. “But it is the best option for me.” 

Not the 14 kids from Ms. Bagnell’s Grade 9 class from West Colchester Consolidated School, who made the 35-kilometre trip from Bass River to Masstown perhaps because they cared about democracy, or because they got the afternoon off. 

Not the middle-aged man from Truro on a break from work, who, hasn’t decided who he will vote for on Oct. 21. Next Monday, he told me, he will probably just walk into the voting booth in this deeply conservative riding and go “Eenie, meenie, miney mo” before making his mark.

I understand his confusion, I really do. 

Trudeau’s Grits and Andrew Scheer’s Tories are deadlocked in the polls. Jagmeet Singh’s NDP is on the rise. Suddenly the newspapers are filled with all kinds of bewildering talk about coalition governments and who can work with whom.

Singh, the other day, announced that he would form a coalition with other parties if the Tories win the most seats in the election but fail to secure a majority. 

University of Prince Edward Island political scientist Donald Desserud calls that the “master political stroke of the campaign so far” — because it frees progressive voters to vote for the NDP, rather than accept the Liberal contention that only a vote for them would keep Scheer from power. 

But even as seasoned an observer as Desserud isn’t quite sure what to make of the huge lineups at advance polls on the weekend. 

“Basically, the motivation is usually negative, to kick out a government or to stop another party from winning,” he explained Tuesday.

Yet in this race, with Trudeau’s personal approval rating plummeting, and suspicion of Scheer’s policies deep even after the release of the Tory platform last week, the big turnout could be interpreted either way.

Or, as Desserud points out, it's simply easier to vote in advanced polls now than it's ever been, so the notable numbers on the weekend “may just mean people want to get it over with.”

Inside the Masstown market, though, it was all about the moment. As Trudeau’s delay stretched to 30 minutes, then an hour, a few people left. 

The vast majority, though, hung in until 90 minutes later than expected, when his campaign bus pulled into the parking lot and he hit the ground running, high-fiving infants, kneeling to talk to the wheelchair-bound, posing for selfie after selfie with the party faithful.

Garvey showed up and reiterated his Amherst message, but not for long. It was the wrong crowd, even in an election as tight as this one. 

In 20 minutes or so, Trudeau was heading out the back door, saying a few encouraging words to Zann, who is locked in a tough race with Conservative Scott Armstrong, as he headed for the bus that would take him to a rally in Halifax.

A few minutes later, Anne Chiasson of Bible Hill was headed for her car. She is 78 and had never voted for anyone other than a Liberal in a federal election. 

“If I didn’t see him this time,” she said, “I don’t know if I’d ever have a chance to see him again.”

So she had hung in since 1 p.m. For her trouble, she now had a selfie with the current prime minister of Canada who, she dearly hoped, would also be the next one.


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