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OTTAWA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rejected going to the polls during the pandemic, but Canada's capital was abuzz Friday with election chatter as political parties firmed up planks at policy conventions.

It comes after last month's virtual convention by the main opposition Conservatives, when rookie leader Erin O'Toole's pleaded for members to accept the reality of climate change if they were to have any hope of victory at the ballot box. His appeal fell on deaf ears.

That left an opening for the Liberals, who are meeting through Saturday, to drive Trudeau's proposed stepped-up climate agenda that surveys show is already gaining traction with voters.

The New Democrats are also holding a convention this weekend to hammer out strategies to boost the fourth-ranked leftist party's electoral fortunes.

Trudeau, whose party was returned to office with a minority government in October 2019, is scheduled to give a keynote address at the convention on Saturday.

Former central banker Mark Carney, meanwhile, made his hotly anticipated political debut at the convention late Friday.

"I'll do whatever I can to support the Liberal Party in our efforts to build a better future for Canadians," he said.

Although coy about his political aspirations since returning to Canada after serving as governor of the Bank of England, he is considered by some insiders as a potential successor to Trudeau.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told delegates at the opening of the Liberals' convention late Thursday that the pandemic revealed social inequities that urgently need addressing.

Liberals are to debate a universal basic income in order to alleviate poverty, and a proposal to pin Canada's economic recovery on massive clean energy investments. This would require Canada - the world's fourth largest oil producer - to divest from the oil industry, according to the resolution.

Freeland also promised to include in her upcoming federal budget on April 19 a plan for a national childcare program, citing an "incredibly dangerous" decline of women in the workforce over the past year.

Although the latest jobs data pointed to a rebound, a recent RBC bank study found almost half a million Canadian women who lost their jobs during the pandemic hadn't returned to work as of January. And more than 200,000 faced the prospect of long-term unemployment.

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