Opposition leader aims to upstage Canada’s Trudeau in India

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Canadian Prime minister Justin Trudeau (2nd from R) leading the 2018 Montreal Pride parade along with his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Canadien actor Antoni Porowski (R) in Montreal, Quebec on August 19, 2018.
/ AFP PHOTO / Eric THOMAS

Canada’s opposition leader will travel to India to “repair” bilateral ties he said were harmed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was dogged by controversies on his first official trip there earlier this year.

Tory leader Andrew Scheer said he would meet this fall with Indian officials as well as business, civil society and religious leaders, likely in a bid to shore up support among Canada’s large Indian diaspora ahead of next year’s general election.

Indo-Canadians number about 500,000, representing only 1.4 percent of the population — but holding sway in key electoral battlegrounds.

“Standing with a united India is Canada’s gateway to unprecedented human and economic development, and an essential alliance for Canada to strengthen in the face of shared threats,” Scheer said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, Justin Trudeau’s disastrous trip to India damaged this key relationship and we must now work to repair it,” he said.

Trudeau’s eight-day trip to India in February to drum up trade and investment was mired by blunders and controversies — from the Trudeau family’s choice of traditional Indian fashions while touring the country’s landmarks to a controversial dinner guest.

The prime minister had been at pains during the visit to quash long-simmering perceptions in India that his Liberal administration was too cozy with Sikh militants calling for independence.

Tensions over the Khalistan issue flared up hours before Trudeau was to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after revelations that a convicted Sikh extremist had been invited to dine with Trudeau in New Delhi.

The invitation was later rescinded but Trudeau returned home to a barrage of criticism, and relatively little to show in terms of commercial or trade deals.

Recent polling showed the Tories closing a gap with the Liberals.
Trudeau personally, however, remains Canadians’ preferred choice for prime minister.