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By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday formally launched a six-week campaign for re-election in which he and his rivals will crisscross the country in planes and on buses to try to win over voters.
“Canadians will head to the polls on Oct. 21,” Trudeau told reporters after Governor General Julie Payette, the acting head of state, agreed to dissolve parliament. “We’ve done a lot this past four years, but the truth is we’re just getting started.”
While the election date has been set for some time, Canada’s official campaign period is a tradition fraught with unexpected turns that can lead to unforeseen outcomes. The ruling Liberals were in third place when the 2015 election was called, but pulled off an outright victory.
Trudeau and his main opponent, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, are in a dead heat according to national polls, but smaller parties on the right and left could also play key roles as spoilers or kingmakers on election day.
After making the announcement, Trudeau left for Vancouver, British Colombia, where he will hold a campaign rally later on Wednesday. Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the left-wing New Democrat Party, started the day with rallies.
Scheer said Trudeau “has lost the moral authority to govern” after the Globe and Mail newspaper reported that his government was stonewalling police who were looking into the SNC-Lavalin scandal, a corporate corruption case that has dogged the prime minister this year.
Scheer, along with a number of embedded journalists, then boarded his signature campaign jet for Quebec, though the flight was diverted to an airport more than an hour from his planned rally due to fog.
For Trudeau, the Globe and Mail report upset what had been a carefully staged morning in which he was filmed walking his three kids to school with his wife, Sophie, before meeting with the governor general. After the meeting, Trudeau faced a barrage of questions from journalists about the story. (Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Paul Simao)