OTTAWA – It was a mosh pit debate, and no federal political leader left without bruises.
From the moment the clock began ticking on the campaign’s first and only English-language debate, the five participating political leaders took each other’s throats. And while no clear winner emerged from the two-hour debate, all participants scored points against their opponents and received damage in return during a debate that was more of a fight than their previous French encounters.
For the first time in federal politics, all major parties commit to fighting climate change. A major flash point in the melee on Thursday centered on which party has the best plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lead Canada’s transition to renewables.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau accused Erin O’Toole’s conservatives of pushing Canada back by reverting to “Harper’s” softer emissions targets, a reference to the 2030 target set by the former prime minister and upheld by liberals in Canada. Trudeau until the beginning of this year.
O’Toole introduced the Conservatives’ first carbon pricing scheme in April because, he admitted, “we had to restore confidence in this issue to cut emissions and get the economy going again.” However, O’Toole stood firm and defended his support for the oil and gas sector, stating that tens of thousands of people in the industry “deserve an economic recovery” like everyone else.
Trudeau accused O’Toole that he “cannot even convince his party that climate change is real,” prompting O’Toole to accuse the liberal leader of failing to meet Canada’s climate goals, despite that Trudeau’s stated goal under the Paris agreement does not. expires until 2030.
Singh chimed in with a joke. “We just heard Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Trudeau argue about who is worse and honestly, it is a difficult decision,” he said.
Moments later, Singh and Trudeau clashed over the NDP’s climate plan, which according to the liberal leader is “criticized” by experts for lack of details. Singh responded that Trudeau failed to cut emissions after more than six years in power.
The stakes in the debate could not have been higher, with poll after poll showing a tight national race between Liberals and Conservatives, and a competitive New Democratic Party advancing in third place.
For two hours, the five leaders disputed questions from voters and journalists on affordability, climate change, COVID-19 recovery, leadership and accountability, and reconciliation.
Moderator Shachi Kurl set the tone early on and leaders followed suit from there.
Trudeau was challenged in his early election call and feminist credentials, prompting Green Leader Annamie Paul to name the women ousted from her cabinet.
Trudeau’s four rivals launched into criticizing his handling of Afghanistan, China, Huawei, the pandemic and reconciliation.
Moving from defense to offense, Trudeau tried several times to question O’Toole’s sincerity on issues such as foreign policy and reconciliation, stating that the Conservative leader is only “very capable of saying the right things.” But Trudeau didn’t deliver a debilitating blow, and O’Toole repeatedly emphasized his party’s plan if he wins power after the Sept. 20 election.
Paul, the first black Jewish woman to head a national party, was called in to explain how she can be trusted when she faces deep internal divisions in her Green party.
Paul admitted that it had been a “very difficult period” and “incredibly difficult”, but defiantly said that he had to “crawl on a lot of broken glass” and “because I am the first in my class, I know I will not be the last.” . “
She also quickly shot Trudeau, proclaiming that she “does not believe that Mr. Trudeau is a feminist” and thanked the women who have publicly challenged Trudeau’s leadership as prime minister: former liberals Jane Philpott, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Celina Caesar. -Chavannes.
Trudeau responded, “I will not take lessons on caucus management.” Perhaps it was a nod to how a Green MP defected to the Liberals amid party turmoil in June.
Meanwhile, O’Toole was questioned about how much control he really has over his caucus when he cannot get his candidates vaccinated, has retained a candidate who supports the climate conspiracies and has allowed much of his caucus to vote against the conversion therapy.
“I’m driving the bus to get this country back on track,” O’Toole said.
Québec bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet declined when asked to explain his support for “discriminatory” laws in Québec.
“Quebec is a nation,” Blanchet replied, noting that all the leaders on stage agreed. Blanchet later became angry when asked how he would fight “systemic racism” against indigenous peoples in Quebec, given the treatment Joyce Echaquan received while dying in a hospital bed.
Blanchet said he recognized the existence of systemic racism, but the words “became a political tool against Quebec.” Paul said it was amazing. Blanchet accused her of insulting him, and Paul replied: “That was not an insult, it was an invitation to educate yourself.”
Spaced in a dazzling setting housed in a totem pole gallery at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., The party’s top five leaders clashed for the third and final debate, and only one in English, of this 36-day journey. . federal election campaign.
The debate excluded the leader of the Popular Party, Maxime Bernier, but about 200 of his supporters gathered outside when the leaders arrived.
Hours before it began, Quebec Prime Minister François Legault dropped a bomb in the federal campaign, the only provincial prime minister to launch such a devastating attack on incumbent Trudeau.
Legault rallied the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens, saying it is “worrying” that all three parties threaten Quebec’s ability to run its own affairs, and said Trudeau’s “meddling” approach “scares me.”
It wasn’t an outright endorsement of O’Toole, but Legault praised it. “It is up to Quebecers to choose,” Legault said, saying that “the three parties, the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party, want to give us less autonomy. That seems dangerous to me. “
The televised clashes have the potential to shift public opinion, just as party strategists believe Canadians are tuning in to the election campaign, with only 10 days to go before Election Day.
In 2019, the federal debating commission said that more than 14 million people had watched the English debate and about 5 million the French one.
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