The Liberal Party said on Saturday it would remove a candidate after allegations of sexual assault surfaced against him, as leader Justin Trudeau said on Monday as part of the final get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of Monday’s vote. Promoted in the Toronto area.
Mr Trudeau has been trying to present his side to the Canadian people on issues such as pandemic response, climate change and child care, in the hope that he will be given a third mandate. In recent days, however, he has faced questions about how Kevin Vuong managed to run for the Liberals in the first place.
In a statement, the Liberal Party said Mr Woong, running in the Spadina-Fort York ride, would not be a member of the caucus if elected on Monday. Their names appear in the ballot because the deadline for removal of candidates has passed.
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The Liberals said on Friday that Mr Vuong’s campaign would be “put a halt” as the party was looking into the matter after the Toronto Star reported he was accused of sexual assault in 2019. The charge was later dropped. And Mr. Wuong has said the allegations are false and he strongly defended them at the time.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Mr Trudeau said his party took immediate action when information about the previous allegation emerged.
“We stopped the campaign, the Liberal campaign in Spadina-Fort York,” he said. “We followed the procedures in place in the party to find out and look into it and we have come to the conclusion that this person can no longer be a Liberal candidate in this election. It’s a tough but important job because it’s the right thing to do.”
Asked why the media needed to bring the information to light and why it was not discovered in the party’s investigative process, Mr Trudeau said he is happy to defend the media’s work as part of democracy.
Party rules state that the candidate’s investigative committee must consider criteria including, at a minimum, criminal reference checks and “any claim, dispute or litigation” involving or involving a potential nominee.
The rules also state that potential libertarian candidates “should not engage in any claim, litigation or dispute of any kind which is liable to bring controversy or defamation upon them or the party”. According to the party’s candidate selection document, the national campaign president can waive that rule.
Mr Vuong also faces a $1.5 million lawsuit from a former business associate in a pandemic mask-making business that was previously sold for . He is also a reservist in the Navy. Daniel Le Boutillier, a spokesman for the Department of National Defense, said late Friday that given the information currently available, Mr Vuong did not inform his chain of command about the matter, although he was expected to do so. He added that the Canadian Armed Forces are “looking into the matter further.”
Mr Woong was acclaimed as the Liberal candidate for Spadina-Fort York on 13 August. The riding was represented in the previous parliament by Liberal Adam Vaughan, who decided not to run again.
At a campaign stop in Saskatoon on Saturday morning, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh addressed the situation directly with Mr. Vuong in his remarks.
“It took them two days to do something that shouldn’t have taken twenty minutes,” he said, referring to the Liberals’ decision not to represent the party. “It’s a disgrace.” He said Mr Trudeau has “a pattern of behaviour” that does not listen to the women who come forward.
Mr Trudeau initially stood alongside Kitchener-Center candidate Raj Saini, who has been accused of sexual misconduct for more than a year. Mr. Saini denies the allegations. In early September, after unspecified “new allegations” surfaced, the Liberals said they would not allow Mr Saini to join the party’s caucus if he won the ride.
During the weekend, Mr Trudeau is making several election hauls. In the final hours of the campaign, he is attempting to distance himself and his party from Conservative and leader Erin O’Toole. The Liberal leader has targeted Mr O’Toole throughout the campaign for what he describes as the conservative leader’s lack of support for the vaccine and for not determining whether candidates need to be vaccinated.
reported that a vast majority of Conservative candidates are not disclosing their vaccination status, even though their leader sees vaccination as vital to getting through the pandemic. Mr O’Toole is the only leader of a major federal party who has not disclosed the vaccination status of his candidates.
Mr Trudeau on Saturday said Mr O’Toole is trying to protect “anti-vaxxers in his own party” and said this is a “fundamental breach of trust for the Canadian people” that is unforgivable during the pandemic.
For their part, other parties have targeted Mr Trudeau on issues including his own credibility. They do not agree with his decision to trigger a $600 million election during a pandemic, when he previously said he would not.
Mr Trudeau has said the election is an opportunity to get a mandate from Canadians who will make decisions not only for months to come, but for decades to come. On Saturday, he asked supporters to support his efforts and encourage those around him to vote for Liberal.
“I just want you to go out, just like I would,” Trudeau said at an event in Aurora, Ont.
With files from MaryKay Walsh, Laura Stone and Maneka Raman-Wilms.
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