Trudeau brings son on Toronto charm offensive amid slumping poll numbers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought his eldest son Xavier to Toronto this weekend on a trip that one expert called an attempt at damage control.

'This is them really starting the campaign,' says University of Windsor professor

Xavier Trudeau prepares to shoot a basketball as he is watched by his father, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, during a basketball clinic with local youth, hosted by the Toronto Raptors in Toronto on Saturday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought his eldest son Xavier to Toronto this weekend on a trip that one expert called an attempt at damage control amid slumping poll numbers. 

Father and son took part in a basketball clinic organized by the Toronto Raptors after the prime minister spoke with black community leaders in a meeting closed to reporters. 

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who helped to host the basketball clinic, said the meeting between Trudeau and black leaders could lead to more opportunities for youth in Toronto. He described the meeting as productive.

"Most people expressed some of their concerns, some of their struggles, I think, and then some of their successes and stories," Ujiri said. 

"It was good to see the prime minister listen and interact with these people. He did a lot of listening."

At the basketball clinic, Xavier, 11, did drills with other young people, passing, dribbling and shooting hoops. The clinic was held at the OVO Athletic Centre, located on the grounds of Exhibition Place.

Xavier Trudeau, the son of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, passes the ball at a basketball clinic with local youth, hosted by president of the Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri in Toronto on Saturday. (Chris Young/Canadian Pres)

'Polls are just abysmal'

Trudeau's visit to Toronto came as the federal Liberals face difficult poll numbers. 

Lydia Miljan, University of Windsor political science professor, said Trudeau has to recover public support before the October election. 

"The polls are just abysmal for them right now," Miljan told CBC Toronto.

"If he wants to be serious about maintaining government coming in October, he has got to turn his fortunes around. And the places where you got to go are places where there are votes and a lot of ridings. Certainly Toronto, the 905, the GTA, are areas where he cannot lose those to the Conservatives."

Loss of electoral support in the Greater Toronto Area could mean a Liberal minority government or a Conservative win, she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a basketball clinic with Toronto youth. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

'They've got to sell the carbon tax'

"It's early days, we still have a lot of time to go, but this is them really starting the campaign," she added.

Miljan said the real task facing the federal Liberals is focusing attention on their policy agenda. That's been difficult given the public's attention on the ongoing SNC-Lavalin affair.

Liberals want to be talking about climate change, specifically the carbon tax on greenhouse gas-emitting fuels, she added. The looming Alberta election on April 16 could complicate the federal election campaign, she said.

The carbon tax has come into effect in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick, the four provinces that failed to formulate emissions pricing plans that met federal standards.

"They've got to sell the carbon tax," Miljan said, adding that the Liberals need to move past the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen, centre left, at the basketball clinic. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

SNC-Lavalin affair began with story in February

The Tories have been hammering Trudeau over the SNC-Lavalin affair since the Globe and Mail first broke the story in early February.

Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper reported that aides in the PMO and others had pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the prosecution of the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant.

The director of public prosecutions decided last fall not to negotiate a deferred-prosecution agreement with the company, which is facing charges of bribery related to business in Libya in 2011.

Wilson-Raybould later resigned from cabinet, claiming she had been removed from her post in a January shuffle because she wouldn't bow to the pressure from Trudeau and others.

Last week, Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus for what he described as breaking the bonds of trust with their fellow MPs over the government's handling of the affair.

With files from The Canadian Press


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