The one and only English-language debate of the 2019 federal election was mostly a hum ho affair but there were a few moments that had the audience perking up.
Here are some highlights of the debate featuring six federal leaders: Justin Trudeau (Liberal), Andrew Scheer (Conservative), Jagmeet Singh (NDP), Elizabeth May (Green), Yves-François Blanchet (Bloc Quebecois) and Maxime Bernier (People’s Party of Canada).
Scheer accused Trudeau of wearing a “reconciliation mask” and a “feminist mask,” only to “fire” his former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is an Indigenous woman and dump “two strong female MPs,” Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, from his caucus.
“Mr. Trudeau, you are a phony and you are a fraud and you do not deserve to govern this country,” Scheer said.
As expected, Elizabeth May went after Trudeau’s climate plan which he repeatedly defended as the only one that is both ambitious and “doable” and warned that a Tory government would mean a return to doing “nothing” about the existential threat of our time. In contrast, he said, Liberals are pledging to meet net-zero emissions by 2050.
Trudeau suggested he has no problem fighting Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford over the “defining issue of our time.”
Trying to steer the attention away from the two front-runners who were going after each other, Jagmeet Singh at one point admonished both Trudeau and Scheer on the issue, telling voters they do not “need to choose between Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny.”
When Bernier said the Liberal leader has basically the same approach as Scheer to fighting climate change — the Liberals by forcing big polluters to pay a carbon price, the Tories by having polluters invest in green technology Trudeau shot back that it was “the most offensive thing you’ve said all night.”
Trudeau was also criticized over his government’s decision to appeal a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling ordering Ottawa to pay billions of dollars in compensation to First Nations children and their families.
Singh said the landmark ruling was “finally some justice” for First Nations children who deserve equal funding. And now, Trudeau is prepared to appeal that decision. Scheer, however, said he agrees with the call made by Liberals to appeal.
Earlier, Trudeau defended his record on advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples by pointing to record investments that have been praised by Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.
When the topic turned to Bill 21, Singh, reminded the public that with this: “every single day of my life is fighting a bill like Bill 21.
“Every single day of my life is challenging people who think that you can’t do things because of the way you look.”
Bernier’s inclusion in the leaders’ debate was highly controversial and sparked a warning from Singh that the People’s Party leader was being given a platform to promote “an ideology of hate.”
Trudeau accused Bernier of trying to “make people more fearful” for political gain — and worked in a dig at Scheer. “Your role on this stage tonight is to say publicly what Mr. Scheer thinks privately,” he said.
Bernier narrowly lost the Conservative leadership race in 2017. Near the end of the Monday’s debate, he accused Scheer of not being a real Conservative because he backtracked on a pledge to balance the budget in two years.
“Andrew, are you a real Conservative? No. I think you are a Liberal,” Bernier said. “Why are you pretending to be something that you are not?”
The Green leader also attempted to pour some cold water on Scheer’s political ambitions.
“With two weeks left in this election campaign,” she said, “Canadians can know one thing. At this point, Mr. Scheer, with all due respect, you’re not going to be prime minister.”
May instead predicted the vote will result in Trudeau’s leading either a minority or majority government. She said voting for Green MPs will ensure Canadians “don’t get the government you least want.”
“Well, I’m going to prove you wrong on that, Ms. May. You just watch on Oct. 21,” Scheer responded with a smile.
While polls suggest the Liberals and Tories remain neck-and-neck, Conservatives may need to win a majority to govern. Singh has already ruled out propping up a Scheer government and May has said she won’t support a minority government without a credible environmental plan. -CINEWS