Scheer under attack in French-language debate

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet appeared on TVA, where they clashed on the environment, the economy and Quebec’s place in Canada.

The station follows a unique debate format, featuring one-on-ones between the leaders that makes for fiery exchanges.

The debate started off with a fiery exchange between Blanchet and Scheer, who were asked to defend their positions on abortion. Blanchet said that he is unequivocally against opening up the abortion debate and that anyone in his party who had a differing position would be removed.

Scheer responded by saying he would always vote to support a woman’s right to choose — but the ambiguity in his answer opened the floor to questions from all three leaders about what he personally believed.

The three-against-one dynamic continued into the second part of the debate, when Trudeau and Singh faced off on legislation regarding medically assisted dying.

Singh said that he felt the current criteria regarding the right to die are too restrictive and Trudeau said his government could be open to adjusting those restrictions.

When the floor was opened to all four, Singh asked the leaders to state their positions on a woman’s right to choose and medically assisted dying. When Scheer wavered in his answer, Trudeau alluded that there were three leaders being clear in their positions and one not being direct.

The leaders also faced tough questions from moderator Pierre Bruneau, who pointedly asked Scheer how he would explain to the 500,000 people who marched in the Montreal climate strike that he plans on being a champion of the oil and gas sector.

Scheer argued that the carbon tax “doesn’t work” and that Canada’s oil and gas industry has very high environmental standards. He struggled to give a clear answer when asked to defend his position on imposing a pipeline on Quebec.

Blanchet retorted that Scheer believes “the free market and divine intervention” would solve the climate crisis.

Trudeau was also forced to talk about the Trans Mountain pipeline which left many Canadians feeling betrayed. He responded that his government has a better record on the environment than any other government in Canadian history.

The leaders also clashed on asylum seekers, drug policy, and Quebec’s place in Canada.

Trudeau needs to appeal to francophone voters outside of Montreal, a demographic whose support he is counting on to offset potential losses in other regions. Trudeau stated he is against Bill 21 but said he wouldn’t intervene. He argued his government is committed to defending minority rights, drawing a comparison to francophones outside of Quebec.

Singh went slightly further, calling the bill “discriminatory” and calling on Quebec to not isolate itself. He largely focused his debate efforts on jabbing Scheer, saying a Conservative might cut taxes for some, but would severely slash services.

When Scheer appealed to Quebecers to vote for Conservatives as the only way to get rid of a Trudeau government, Blanchet asked Scheer if that means he’s accomplished nothing in the past four years, just because he didn’t form a government in 2015.

In his closing statement, he appealed for voters in Quebec to “vote for women and men who resemble you” and will defend Quebec.

Green Leader Elizabeth May and People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier were not invited to this debate. Adding those two leaders to the mix would have added a whole new dimension and zealotry to the debate. -CINEWS

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