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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back on the road doling out hundreds of millions of dollars in climate spending from his Liberal government.

Seeing the prime minister, his shave and haircut still fresh from last week, behind a podium for an announcement unrelated to COVID-19 a marked shift from what millions of Canadians have grown used to over the past year.

Trudeau, like others, has been getting out more as the number of new COVID-19 cases keep falling, vaccination rates are rising and provincial health authorities have loosened some of the most stringent public health measures that have kept people largely at home.

Last week, he visited the Ottawa suburb of Kanata to talk about housing and also toured a vaccination clinic in the city, where he bumped elbows with people receiving their shot and posed for a photo or two with those who wanted a picture.

Trudeau's announcement on Monday from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to give a steel plant up to $420 million to phase out coal-fired steelmaking further fanned expectations that his government is preparing to send Canadians to the polls.

He teased that a similar announcement would be coming about another steel company, this time in Hamilton.

Asked about the campaign-like appearance of Monday's event, he said the announcement had been in the works for a while and the groundwork was laid out in the spring federal budget.

"I think Canadians expect us to keep moving forward on our priorities, which are and have always been to grow the economy, create good jobs for Canadians and … climate change at the same," Trudeau said.

Around $200 million set to flow into Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie will come from an $8 billion pot of cash set up in the federal budget to finance companies' efforts to decarbonize their production processes over the years to come.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hits the road campaign style with a fist full of cash for climate spending. #cdnpoli #decarbonization #steel

The rest of the project's funding will come from the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a federal agency the Liberals set up to attract private capital on projects like clean power. Opposition parties have criticized the program for being ineffective at getting billions of dollars out the door.

During his speech Monday, Trudeau took a dig at the Opposition Conservatives over how serious that party is about fighting climate change while growing the economy.

He also touted his Liberal government's record over the past six years on making climate change a priority, from its introduction of a national carbon price on industrial emitters and fuel consumers, to committing the country to reach net-zero missions by mid-century.

Trudeau holds power in a minority government and in recent weeks has criticized opposition parties for obstructing legislation important to his party, which has fuelled speculation that he will use this argument to justify triggering an election.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2021