OTTAWA — As the Liberals try to reverse their political fortunes with the latest federal budget, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ratcheted up attacks against his Conservative opponent on Wednesday, tying him to a far-right American figure.

Polls suggest the Liberal budget released last week has yet to resonate, but Trudeau suggested it's still more of a plan than what Poilievre has on offer, other than trying to exploit public anxieties.

During a stop to promote the budget in Oakville, Ont., Trudeau was asked about Poilievre's recent appearance alongside anti-carbon price activists in Atlantic Canada who were waving expletive-laden flags bearing the prime minister's name.

Every leader has to decide how they are going to operate, Trudeau said.

"Are they a kind of leader that is going to exacerbate divisions, fears 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's attacks mirror messaging the Liberal party has been pushing online.

In a post on X, Housing Minister Sean Fraser used Poilievre's visit to accuse him of courting the far right, suggesting Canadians volunteer for the Liberals by asking: "Want to help keep the extreme right out of Canadian politics?"

A spokesman for the Conservative leader said Poilievre "made a brief, impromptu stop" when he noticed the protesters during a drive between events in the region Tuesday evening.

Sebastian Skamski said Poilievre greeted them because he saw it was an "anti-carbon tax protest" and because of his vocal opposition to the federal consumer carbon price.

During a stop to promote the budget in Oakville, Ont., Justin Trudeau was asked about Poilievre's recent appearance alongside anti-carbon price activists in Atlantic Canada who were waving expletive-laden flags bearing the prime minister's name.

If Trudeau is concerned about extremism in Canada, Skamski said, he should be paying closer attention to protests against the war in Gaza. Some of them have included demonstrators praising the deadly Oct. 7 attacks against Israel by Hamas. Both Trudeau and Poilievre have condemned such rhetoric.

Videos posted to a Facebook group called "Nationwide Protest Against the Carbon Tax" show Poilievre shaking hands with some of the protesters, introducing himself to one woman as "the guy who's going to axe the tax."

In the video, Poilievre says he was travelling from P.E.I. to Nova Scotia when he spotted the group, which he mentions hearing about on the news. "I will axe the tax," he tells protesters, adding that others support their cause.

He mentions Trudeau by name, saying that "people believed his lies" and that "everything he said was bulls--t." He then tours the site and is shown vehicles that owners say they had slept in for more than three weeks — a scene reminiscent of the 2022 "Freedom Convoy" in downtown Ottawa.

At one point, a man asks Poilievre for a photo, suggesting they pose in front of a row of flags, one of which includes an expletive about Trudeau. Poilievre can be heard suggesting they stand elsewhere.

Poilievre then praises the group, telling them to "keep it up," calling their protest "a good, old-fashioned Canadian tax revolt."

Leaders are supposed to bring people together, but Poilievre "is irresponsible with language" and "stokes division," NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday as he spoke to reporters in Edmonton.

At the event in Oakville, Trudeau took pains to note Poilievre has done nothing to reject the endorsement of notorious right-wing commentator Alex Jones.

Jones was ordered to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to the families of the victims of the deadly 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, which he long portrayed as a hoax.

"This is the kind of man who's saying Pierre Poilievre has the right ideas to bring the country toward the right, towards conspiracy theories, towards extremism, towards polarization," Trudeau said.

"The fact that he continues to encourage the kind of divisive approaches to Canada that I don't think Canadians want to see really shows that he will do anything to win, anything to torque up negativity and fear."

Asked about Jones, Skamski said: "We do not follow" him "or listen to what he has to say."

"It is the endorsement of hard-working, everyday Canadians that Conservatives are working to earn. Unlike Justin Trudeau, we're not paying attention to what some American is saying."

In response to a question about whether the party would continue to push messages that Poilievre is courting the extreme right, Liberal party spokesman Parker Lund said: "Canadians deserve to know where their leaders stand."

Trudeau's Liberals have spent the better part of the past year badly trailing Poilievre's Conservatives, polls suggest.

Ahead of a federal election that must happen no later than October 2025, the Liberals are using their latest budget to address what they see as primary reasons younger Canadians are turning to the Tories.

It is heavily focused on measures intended to ease the rising cost of living and a housing crisis that has left millennial and gen-Z Canadians squeezed out of the market.

Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland are selling the spending plan as one that is about offering fairness to young people by requiring the wealthiest Canadians and businesses to pay more tax on their profits.

The government has also turned to social media and alternative platforms to try to reach a younger audience, with influencers being given early access to the budget and the prime minister recently appearing on an episode of the Vox podcast "Today, Explained."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2024.

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As a middle of road voter, the Liberals have lost the PR battle and the majority of Canadians want them gone. Period! Voters will get a wake up under PP, but maybe we need that to preserve democracy and not fall into authoritarianism like the USA may and many European countries have

It's true that the Liberals have been losing the PR battle, although who knows what could happen by election day. But I think voting for the proto-fascist is rarely what you need to preserve democracy and not fall into authoritarianism.

As to the Liberals' actual performance in government, it's been distinctly mediocre, often reminding me of a line in the old poem about Mackenzie King: "Do nothing by halves/ Which can be done by quarters." But distinctly mediocre is far better than the massive damage a Poilievre majority government would do (a Poilievre minority government would last a very short time, if it could even happen--whose support would he be able to tell the Governor General he could count on?).

Exactly right.