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Alberta man helped fugitive B.C. teens escape

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Two teen fugitives suspected in a killing spree in British Columbia looked like scared kids with “soft baby hands,” according to an Alberta man who helped free their SUV when it got stuck in the mud.

Tommy Ste-Croix, of Cold Lake in northeastern Alberta, said he realized only afterwards he had a potentially dangerous encounter when he unwittingly towed the SUV used by Kam McLeod , 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky , 18, out of the mud.

At the time, the pair was considered missing, not suspects or fugitives.

“Can’t see those kids killing anyone. Can’t even shake a hand properly, lol. Soft baby hands,” Ste-Croix said in Facebook posts to his friends about the incident, which was confirmed by the RCMP.

“My big heart could of (sic) got me killed,” he said.

A Toyota SUV was spotted stranded in mud behind Cold Lake hospital on Sunday, July 21. When told about it, he decided to head over to help the driver out.

He shook the two young men’s hands after pulling the Toyota RAV4 free and they even gave him their real names, he said. Only later were they identified publicly as murder suspects and he realized how differently the encounter could have ended.

“One shot to the back and that would of (sic) been it,” he said.

He drove right up to their SUV without speaking to them first, Ste-Croix said.

“I did a U-turn and backed up to their SUV before even making any kind of interaction. So they knew I was there to help and not hunt them,” he said, theorizing on why they didn’t turn on him.

He spent a good 20 minutes with them, talking, pulling out their SUV with his truck and then saying goodbye.

He said McLeod, with a “shaggy beard” was driving. Schmegelsky, a “tall skinny fella,” wore a white shirt and camouflage army pants. They looked the same as in photos and video he later saw, which were taken by a security camera in a store in Meadow Lake, Sask., about 150 kilometres away.

By then, RCMP had announced they were suspects in three murders and warned the public not to approach them but to call 911 or local police immediately.

“Wish I’d of known,” Ste-Croix said. “Something wasn’t right with these guys.” He described them as “kids” who looked “scared.”

Looking back, he said their status as fugitives explains something about the odd way they were acting.

“It all makes sense now on why they were eyeing me down so f—ing hard.” He said they could have shot him and taken his truck instead of shaking his hand.

“Their vehicle was down and out. I show up with a fairly new truck, wallet with all my credit cards,” he told his friends. “Someone was watching over me for sure.

“Blows my mind,” he said. “So surreal.”

At the urging of friends, he called police and gave the RCMP a video statement.

“It’s a wake up call. It is scary, hasn’t completely sunk in yet on how bad the situation could of (sic) gotten.”

McLeod and Schmegelsky continued their journey another 1,500 kilometres northeast. The SUV that Ste-Croix had pulled out of the mud was found the next day burning in a ditch between Gillam, Man. , and Fox Lake Cree Nation in northern Manitoba.

The pair apparently fled into the heavily forested, remote bush, likely on foot. A massive search has failed to find them.

Two men originally thought to be McLeod and Schmegelsky were seen Sunday near the dump outside York Landing , about 100 kilometres from the burning SUV. Despite a search, the RCMP have not had any confirmed sightings of them.

McLeod and Schmegelsky are from Port Alberni, B.C., and long-time friends.

Teen fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod in undated CCTV images taken in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

On July 15, Chynna Deese, 24, and Lucas Fowler, 23 , a couple on a road trip across Canada, were found dead near Liard Hot Springs in northern B.C. Deese was an American and Fowler an Australian, bringing international attention to the manhunt.

Four days later, the body of Leonard Dyck, 64, a lecturer at the University of British Columbia, was found 475 kilometres from the first crime scene.

McLeod and Schmegelsky face a second-degree murder charged in Dyck’s death and are named as suspects in the deaths of Deese and Fowler.

Messages left to speak directly with Ste-Croix have not been returned.

On Tuesday, the RCMP said despite more than 260 tips in the past seven days, there have been no confirmed information the suspects have left the Gillam area.

Officers completed their door-to-door canvasses in Fox Lake and Gillam, visiting more than 500 homes with no signs of them.

Police are continuing to search in the area but winding it down and asked the public everywhere to be alert.

“It is possible the suspects inadvertently received assistance and are no longer in the area,” the RCMP said in a written statement.

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Trudeau remains under increased security

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High profile security surrounds Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as he arrives at a rally in Mississauga, Ont., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The Rally was delayed for 90 minutes due to a security issue.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau remained under increased security Sunday morning, with tactical security officers and sniffer dogs accompanying the Liberal campaign as it departed downtown Toronto.

The increased presence comes a day after Mr. Trudeau wore a protective vest under his shirt at a rally in Mississauga, Ontario. His campaign has been tight-lipped about the reasons for the increased presence but the Liberal leader is scheduled to speak with reporters Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Trudeau didn’t appear to be wearing a protective vest on Sunday.

At his Saturday night rally Mr. Trudeau arrived at the event 90 minutes late wearing the vest under his shirt and suit jacket and was accompanied by tactical security officers wearing backpacks. More than 2,000 people were in attendance. Cameron Ahmad, a spokesperson for the Liberals, said the campaign had no comment about the delay or increased security for Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, was also supposed to speak at the rally Saturday but didn’t end up attending. Mr. Ahmad declined to comment on the change of plans.

Mr. Trudeau is scheduled to speak to reporters at a food drive in Liberal candidate Ahmed Hussen’s riding of York South-Weston Sunday afternoon.

He will then make whistle stops with Liberal candidates in Newmarket and Richmond Hill, followed by a visit to a Hindu temple in Etobicoke. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is campaigning in B.C. on Sunday and will vote in advance polls in his Burnaby South riding. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is not campaigning today.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh walks along Bloor Street during a campaign stop in Toronto on Saturday, October 12, 2019.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The Liberal campaign is targeting the NDP amid the party’s rise in the polls. Mr. Trudeau held a rally with nearly 500 people in Burnaby Friday night, but didn’t mention the NDP or Mr. Singh, who is riding high on the positive attention he received following his debates appearances.

However, the Liberal leader changed tactic Saturday night at the Mississauga rally, taking aim at Mr. Singh. “Remember this: The NDP couldn’t stop [Stephen] Harper. They couldn’t stop Ford. And they can’t stop Scheer,” Mr. Trudeau told the crowd in Mississauga. “The only way to stop Conservative cuts is to vote Liberal.”

The increased focus on the NDP comes as polling from Nanos Research shows growing support for the New Democrats.

According to Sunday’s daily tracking survey from Nanos Research, the Liberals and Conservatives are deadlocked at 32 per cent support each. The New Democrats are up five points since Friday and now sit at 20 per cent, with the Greens at 9 per cent, the Bloc Québécois at 6 per cent and the People’s Party at 1 per cent.

The poll was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV, with a total of 1,200 Canadians surveyed from Oct. 11 to Oct. 13. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” A report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys can be found at http://tgam.ca/election-polls.

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The week before Election Day

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With advance polls open and just eight days left on the campaign trail, election strategists convened on the West Block to dish out some advice for federal party leaders.

The most recent Ipsos poll conducted for Global News showed the Liberals and Conservatives virtually tied, with support for the Liberals at 35 per cent and for the Tories at 34 per cent.

The same poll showed the NDP in a remote third spot, at 15 per cent. The Liberals and Conservatives were also in a tight race in two battleground provinces: Ontario and B.C.

Last few days of campaign

The challenge for incumbent Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau is that he is not just defending his record as prime minister, but also defending against the progressive platforms touted by both the Green Party and the NDP, according to Liberal strategist Richard Mahoney.

“But he’s going to have to try and convince Canadians over the course of this last week … that his program is the most realistic,” Mahoney said. “That’s the challenge for his last nine days.”

With a little more than a week left in the campaign, Trudeau will have to “contrast himself against Mr. Scheer.”

The last Ipsos poll saw 35 per cent of respondents cite Trudeau as the party leader who would make the best prime minister, with Scheer coming in second and polling at 30 per cent.

The Conservative Party released their fully costed platform on Friday, proposing various tax relief measures as well as tens of billions of dollars worth of federal budget cuts, with the goal of eliminating the deficit within five years.

9:24
Conservative election platform will mean longer waits for municipalities seeking federal funds

Conservative election platform will mean longer waits for municipalities seeking federal funds

This put the Liberal Party on the attack, with Trudeau criticizing the Tories for releasing their platform late in the campaign and saying the proposed cuts were “deeper” than those proposed by Ontario premier Doug Ford.

Conservative strategist Fred DeLorey called it a “prudent platform” that cuts out “wasteful spending.”

But NDP strategist Anne McGrath said the Tories’ fiscal plan — which includes cutting consulting costs and selling federal real estate while maintaining existing public servant levels — left them vulnerable to “parody.”

“It’s a little bit ridiculous to think that you can get that much money out of reducing the size of people’s desks and that sort of thing,” she said. “But the cuts themselves are very serious and quite severe.”

Scheer’s campaign appears to be “more about what’s wrong with Mr. Trudeau,” Mahoney said.

“The release of the platform this week on the eve of Thanksgiving weekend shows he’s really playing to the core of his support rather than reaching out to a broader coalition of people and say ‘Elect me prime minister and I’ll move the country forward,’” he said.





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The lighter side of the campaign trail

The lighter side of the campaign trail

Debate analysis

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s debate performances garnered some praise from the strategists.

Mahoney noted that the English debate’s format — with multiple moderators and six party leaders — was a bit “convoluted.”

“There are just too many topics, too many leaders, maybe too many moderators, and not enough chance for people to get a sense of it,” he said.

But while Trudeau was, as expected, attacked from all sides, Singh came out as a “kind of chill dude.”

“He seemed kind of relaxed and there was a chance in this election that he faced a pretty daunting result, and I guess he may still because we don’t know,” Mahoney said. “But he did have a good night.”

McGrath chalked up Singh’s performance to “his sincerity, his authenticity, his preparation.”

Singh hit the campaign trail and entered the debates “with most Canadians not really having any impression of him” and with most people in media and political circles “basically writing him out of the picture,” she said.

“I think people were more than just pleasantly surprised,” McGrath said.

Now the question is whether Singh’s likeable debate performances “will translate into actual vote intention.”

McGrath said that when votes begin to move late in an election campaign, that momentum “tends to continue.”

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Trudeau says security threat won’t change how he campaigns

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OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he followed advice from the RCMP to don a bulletproof vest at a crowded campaign rally in Mississauga, Ont. on Saturday.

“My first concern was the safety of my family and all the Canadians in the room. This will not change at all how I campaign,” said Trudeau, adding that he wouldn’t speak further on the matter.

The leader – wearing his staple button down shirt with rolled sleeves and no bulletproof vest – was in Toronto Sunday at a Thanksgiving food drive, shuffling canned foods from box to box, alongside Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri.

Trudeau did however speak to the rise of “polarization” during the campaign, pointing the finger at Conservatives for inspiring “falsehoods” and “fear.”

“We are seeing, unfortunately, an extremely high level of misinformation, disinformation online and people who are really trying to further polarize and make fearful Canadians. The reality is, the Conservative Party is continuing to spread falsehoods to Canadians, to scare them into voting for them or against us.”

On Saturday evening, Trudeau was an hour and a half delayed to the Mississauga rally due to the unspecified security threat.

Surrounded by a group of tactical officers wearing large backpacks, Trudeau shuffled his way through a crowd of about 2,000 supporters. His wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, was expected to introduce her husband but was not present on stage.

The Liberal Party didn’t provide any further details after the rally about the information or events that led to increased security on Saturday and in an email to CTVNews.ca on Sunday, a spokesperson said they cannot comment on matters relating to the leader’s safety.

Trudeau’s rivals on the campaign trail have weighed in, offering sympathetic messages on Twitter and condemning any threats of violence against any leader.

The Conservative and Green camps took the day off for Thanksgiving festivities Sunday, while Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made campaign stops.

Singh spoke about Trudeau’s situation and the “divisive politics” at play in Canada.

“I want to let Canadians know you can have all sorts of opinions and it’s ok to disagree but there should never be fear from any leader from any party to feel like there’s any threat to themselves.”

He added that his campaign has not received direct threats and that he feels “safe” under the purview of the RCMP.

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