Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau swept into The Big Land on Wednesday, urging supporters to reject in the coming Labrador byelection what he called the Conservative brand of attack politics.
Trudeau beamed at a photo-snapping crowd of about 100 people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay at a rally for Liberal candidate Yvonne Jones. The fledgling leader flew in from Ottawa to campaign alongside Jones after a bruising 10 days of Conservative ads poking fun at his lack of experience and questioning his judgment.
He has also taken barbs from Prime Minister Stephen Harper over his appeal to seek out the "root causes" behind such vicious terror acts as the Boston Marathon bombings.
Trudeau said the campaign to undermine his credibility, which now also includes a bulk mailing of flyers at taxpayers' expense, shows the Conservatives are afraid.
"Stephen Harper isn't afraid of me, they're afraid of you," he told the cheering crowd.
"They're afraid of every single Canadian across this country standing up and saying, 'You know what? We deserve better."'
Trudeau said voters in Labrador have a chance in the May 13 byelection to send a strong message to Harper "where it hurts" by sending a Liberal back to Ottawa. The vote was called after Conservative incumbent Peter Penashue resigned over 28 illegal donations accepted during the 2011 federal campaign.
Penashue said he has taken responsibility and is running again to regain his constituents' trust.
Trudeau said Labradorians have an exciting opportunity to tell Harper "that his approach, that his values focused on division and attack, is not good enough for the challenges we're facing, not good enough for the country we want to build. And you guys get to start it — right here on May 13."
Jones, a 17-year legislature veteran and former provincial Liberal party leader, was also recovering Wednesday from cut-and-thrust tactics.
Penashue accused her during a debate Tuesday night of "robbing" taxpayers of "tens of thousands of dollars" and refusing to pay it back.
In fact, Jones was among dozens of legislature members of all political stripes named in an audit for improper spending and double-billing. She denied any criminal wrongdoing, was never charged and had paid back $12,167 in double billings as of January 2009, according to a followup report by the provincial auditor general.
NDP candidate Harry Borlase said during the debate that it's exactly this kind of blame-game approach that detracts from what he believes voters really want — politicians who will focus on housing, jobs, health care and other issues.
Labrador has traditionally been one of the strongest Liberal bastions in the country. Penashue won over Liberal incumbent Todd Russell by just 79 votes in 2011, the only Conservative victory in the province. Russell chose not to run again.
Tories tout Penashue's record
Penashue has promoted his record over the last two years as an MP and intergovernmental affairs minister, saying it was his influence that won funding and jobs for Labrador — sometimes at Newfoundland's expense.
Harper has called Penashue the best MP that Labrador has ever had. Penashue has said that more funding for the depleted 5 Wing Goose Bay military base will soon be discussed in Ottawa and that his re-election would assure Labradorians a place at Harper's cabinet table.
Jones points out that the Conservatives have been promising a new rapid reaction army battalion and a new long-range unmanned aerial vehicle squadron since 2006.
She has accused Penashue of fear mongering based on "false promises."
In Ottawa, the Conservatives made no apologies for their multi-pronged assault on Trudeau.
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said the latest flyers questioning Trudeau's abilities are within spending rules and are fitting after what he called the Liberal leader's "rocky start."
"So it's entirely appropriate for Canadians to be informed about those contrasting aspects of leadership that they have to deal with," Van Loan told reporters outside the Commons.