Trudeau, Scheer Main Targets at English Language Federal Leaders Debate

All Six Main Party Leaders Get Platforms (and Punches) in 14 Days Before Election

  • The English Language Debate took place on Monday night, and was the first time all six main party leaders attended the same debate. Photo Courtesy CBC

With exactly two weeks left before the Canadian election, the English Language Federal Leaders Debate took place on Monday in Gatineau’s Museum of History.

It was the first debate to include all six of the main party leaders, as Justin Trudeau missed out on the Maclean’s debate and the Munk Foreign Policy debate, causing the latter’s cancellation. Elizabeth May was not invited to the TVA debate, while Maxime Bernier was not invited to any of the prior debates.

Each of the five moderators, coming from the CBC, the Toronto Star, CTV News, The Huffington Post, and Global News, were in charge of one section of the debate, broken up into five themes based on questions fielded from over 8000 people.

Themes included national and global leadership, affordability and economic insecurity, Indigenous issues, polarization, human rights and immigration, and environment and energy.

There was criticism of the moderation concerning the lack of Indigenous representation among the moderators, especially for the portion of the debate on Indigenous Issues, which was instead moderated by the Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt.

Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party of Canada

Throughout the evening, the incumbent Prime Minister put emphasis on the financial aid given to middle and lower class people, along with seniors—in part with the help of the carbon tax.

Trudeau added that more needs to be done in terms of the climate crisis, Indigenous reconciliation, and making health care more affordable, while criticizing Sheer’s plans to cut taxes universally.

Trudeau was also the only leader who said he might intervene in the matter of Quebec’s Bill 21.

Singh and May criticized him on his purchase of a pipeline, his environmental record, not closing tax loopholes that eased corporations’ tax bills, and the failures of his government in Indigenous reconciliation.

Scheer, meanwhile, criticized Trudeau’s history with pipelines—but, he was critical of the Liberal government’s cancellation of two projects, and the current failure of the TransMountain project.

Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party of Canada

Scheer’s plan was simple: make Justin Trudeau look bad.

He criticized Trudeau’s tax plan, including the carbon tax, saying that it put the biggest strain on “average Canadians” while offering substantial exemptions to corporations.

Scheer said he’d bring back tax credits, including a “Child Fitness Credit” and a “Green Renovation Credit,” all while cutting taxes across the board and decreasing Canada’s foreign aid by 25 per cent.

He also brought up Trudeau’s brownface scandal during the portion dedicated to Canada’s role as an international leader.

He attacked Trudeau’s involvement in the SNC-Lavalin scandal, saying he wore a “feminist mask” and was pretending to care about Indigenous rights. He particularly criticized the decision to remove Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous Attorney General of Canada, from the Liberal Caucus during the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

While Sheer said he would not interfere with Bill 21, he added that “Canada has been renowned for its freedom for a long time, and that’s why immigrants of all generations have come to Canada.”

He was criticized by Trudeau for his platform’s lack of publicly available information, with the incumbent claiming “over half of your platform is a secret.”

Jagmeet Singh, New Democratic Party

Much like Scheer, Singh was openly critical of many of the plans the other leaders laid forward, while contrasting them with the NDP’s platform.

He was especially critical of Trudeau and Scheer, who he called “Mister Delay and Mister Deny” in regards to their climate plans, adding that “there is another option” than the two frontrunner parties.

He was also critical of both the Liberals and Conservatives giving tax breaks to big corporations and Canada’s wealthiest, while promising to completely cut oil and gas subsidies.

He said an NDP government would fight for people, not corporations, and that they would fight to solve the climate crisis based on the International Panel on Climate Change’s findings. Singh’s biggest talking point, however, was the introduction of single-payer pharmacare.

According to Singh, this, along with access to affordable housing to all, would make sure all Canadians’ needs are met while ensuring illness would not be a financial burden on families.

The NDP leader was also critical of Trudeau’s history regarding Indigenous reconciliation, saying it was “unacceptable that Indigenous people don’t have clean drinking water in 2019.”

He also criticized Trudeau for recent events regarding reconciliation, including telling an Indigenous protester with mercury poisoning from bad water “thank you for your donation!”

Singh was attacked by Trudeau for his unwillingness to interfere in Quebec regarding Bill 21, despite his beliefs. When prompted, Singh said he was “sad” about Bill 21, and the goal should be to protect the rights of minorities; but otherwise did not commit to intervening. But, Singh said he couldn’t interfere with provincial politics.

Elizabeth May, Green Party of Canada

May criticized Trudeau’s climate policy, which plans to lower emissions by 30 per cent or more, as being one that would fail. She said the same of the NDP plan, which plans a 38 per cent decrease, adding that it would take at least double that to have a chance to solve the climate crisis.

She pushed for cooperation between parties as well as all Canadians, because “to solve [the climate crisis], we’ll need all hands on deck.”

In the same vein, May proposed replacing first-past-the-post with a system based on Australia’s electoral system. In her new system, the goal would be to bring the federal, provincial, and municipal levels, along with Indigenous people, closer together.

The Greens are committed to building a national electrical grid “without fossil fuels,” completely cutting oil and gas subsidies, and increasing taxation on the biggest polluters, said May.

She recognized there was a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of Indigenous reconciliation, including completely reworking the process of consultation, criticizing both Scheer and Trudeau for their parties’ past methods of consultation.

May was clear that the Green Party would oppose all attempts to take away women’s rights, rebuking a claim that she would tolerate pro-life movements within her party. However, she said she would not interfere in Quebec in regards to Bill 21.

Yves-François Blanchet, Bloc Québécois

Blanchet focused on Quebec’s interests throughout, while acknowledging he would “probably not” be Prime Minister, but hinted he feels he has a strong chance of representing the official opposition.

He said the federal government had no right to intervene in provincial matters, including the ongoing debate around the now-passed Bill 21 and Quebec’s healthcare system.

He argued that “Indigenous nations” should have jurisdiction over protecting their language and their culture, and that Quebec, “as a nation, should be the same.”

He was the least critical of Trudeau’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, saying that while it was mismanaged, he tried to protect the “innocent workers of SNC-Lavalin.”

He brought forward ideas to combat the climate crisis, most notably to change the provincial equalization system, in which wealthier provinces help out other provinces financially, so the provinces who emit the most greenhouse gases pay the most in equalization.

He also added Quebec would go along with Canada’s policy plans only if they agreed with it, as “Quebecers can do anything Canadians can do.”

Trudeau, in response, rebuked his separatist ideals, and that Quebec would remain in Canada as long as he was in power.

Maxime Bernier, People’s Party of Canada

After successfully appealing the decision from the electoral commision, Maxime Bernier was allowed to participate in the last two debates.

He perpetually talked over the other leaders when he was involved, as he monopolized the first 20 minutes of the first theme.

He accused Scheer of being a “fake conservative,” threw buzzwords around like “globalist” and “socialist,” and said he did not believe there is a climate crisis, adding that fighting climate change would “ruin the economy.”

He also promised to balance the budget in two years, notably by drastically cutting corporate welfare and foreign aid while investing in the private sector, adding that he would not interfere with provincial affairs, including Bill 21.

The first question he was asked concerned his controversial tweets, including calling 16-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg mentally unstable.

Bernier answered by saying “someone needs to tell Canadians the truth,” which drew the ire of most other leaders. Trudeau attacked him and Scheer by saying ‘’You are on this stage to say publicly what Scheer thinks privately.” Singh said that ‘’After a couple of minutes of this debate, I think people can see why you don’t deserve a platform.’’

The federal campaign will continue with the last leaders debate, the French language leadership debate, held again in Gatineau’s Museum of History on Oct. 10.

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