Federal party leaders jumped on climate change, health care, foreign policy, the economy, and indigenous reconciliation during Thursday’s English-language debate, their last and best chance to influence voters ahead of the US elections. September 20.
But the format of the debate may have left many viewers dissatisfied.
The five leaders spoke frequently to each other. Leaders who received accusations or loaded questions from rivals often did not have the opportunity to respond.
Québec bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet repeatedly complained that he was being given less time than others to speak.
From the beginning, the role of the moderator, Shachi Kurl, was criticized, and Blanchet was offended by what he called his suggestion that Quebec is racist.
Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, asked Blanchet to explain why he supports “discriminatory laws” in Quebec, such as the secularism law that prohibits some public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious clothing or symbols.
“Those laws are not about discrimination. They are about Quebec values,” Blanchet responded.
After the debate, Blanchet told reporters that it was “extraordinary” that the debate opened with “a lot of insults against Quebecers” by the moderator.
He suggested that Kurl’s question reflects a bias against Quebec that is shared in the rest of the country and that shows that Quebec’s interests must be protected. He noted that no other leaders came to the defense of Quebec.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who had mocked Blanchet during Wednesday’s French debate for questioning his devotion to Quebec, said the format did not give him a chance to respond. He reiterated his opposition to the secularism law, but added: “I want to say, as a proud Quebecer, that Quebecers are not racists.”
The debate was the last of three to take place during the campaign and took place 11 days before Election Day and just as the four-day advance polls are scheduled to open on Friday.
Leaders argue about the weather, foreign policy in the debate, but the format leaves some disgruntled. #ItsOurVote #CdnPoli # Elxn44
Polls suggest that Liberals and Conservatives are caught in a virtual stalemate, with the NDP and the Bloc poised to determine which of the two main parties will form the government.
Trudeau was bombarded by attacks from all the other leaders, who accused him of putting his own interest before the interests of the country by calling elections amid a fourth wave of COVID-19, wildfires in British Columbia and the Taliban. Afghanistan takeover.
On the latter, conservative leader Erin O’Toole said Trudeau should have focused on evacuating Canadians and Afghans who supported Canada’s military mission rather than calling elections.
“You called elections, sir. You put your own political interests ahead of the welfare of thousands of people,” O’Toole said.
When Trudeau tried to reply, he was told that this was not the time for open debate.
O’Toole also went after Trudeau for failing to stand up to China and winning the release of two arbitrarily detained Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. He noted that Trudeau did not stand for a vote in the House of Commons on a motion condemning China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims as genocide.
“If you want to bring the Michaels home, don’t just throw tomatoes across the Pacific,” Trudeau responded.
On climate change, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said the Trudeau government did not meet all of its targets to reduce carbon emissions.
But Trudeau asked: “How is it that the experts who have rated our climate plan as an A have rated their plan as an F?”
“I rate your record as an F,” Singh replied. “You were six years old.”
During a segment on sexual misconduct in the military, Green Party leader Annamie Paul said she doesn’t think Trudeau “is a real feminist.” If it were, he claimed, he would not have expelled former ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the liberal caucus.
“I think, Ms. Paul, maybe you’ll understand that I won’t take caucus management lessons from you,” Trudeau replied, alluding to the confusion about Paul’s leadership that erupted last spring after Green MP Jenica Atwin crossed the street. room for liberals.
The leaders also argued over indigenous reconciliation, and Singh accused Trudeau of “kneeling”, as he did at an anti-racism demonstration on Parliament Hill last year, even as his government was taking indigenous children to court.
Singh was referring to Ottawa’s controversial legal challenge to a pair of First Nations child welfare rulings.
Trudeau responded by saying that cynicism is hurting reconciliation efforts and that his government has made progress by getting more indigenous children into quality schools and by raising more than 100 boil water warnings.
O’Toole said he would like to see the Canadian flag raised again on September 30, National Truth and Reconciliation Day, with a commitment to “advance” the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. .
The Canadian flag has hung at half mast on the Peace Tower and other federal buildings since late spring to mark the discovery of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools. O’Toole has previously said that Canadians “should be proud to raise our flag again.”
The two-hour debate began with tough questions for each of Moderator Kurl’s leaders.
For Trudeau, that was the reason he called elections just as a fourth wave of COVID-19 was sweeping the country.
He argued that the debate would show that voters have to choose between radically different views on how to end the fight against COVID-19 and rebuild better.
For O’Toole, the question was how can voters trust him to be in the driver’s seat if he were elected prime minister, and not his group, many of whom have decidedly more conservative views on issues like abortion, climate change and vaccines.
“I’m driving the bus,” O’Toole insisted, emphasizing that he is personally “pro-choice” and an ally of the LBGTQ community.
Singh was asked to explain why he has not yet released the cost of his voting platform. He did not respond directly, saying that the NDP is the only party that would make the ultra-rich pay their fair share.
Perhaps the most devastating question was for Paul, who was asked how he could hope to lead the country when he has failed to lead members of his own party, some of whom spent weeks before the campaign trying to leave Paul as leader.
Paul admitted that she has been through a difficult period, but said she had to “crawl on a pile of broken glass” to get onto the leaders’ platform of debate and is proud to be the first black woman to do so.
The leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, did not meet the criteria of the Independent Leaders Debate Commission to participate in the debate in English or the debate in French on Wednesday.
But dozens of his supporters showed up Thursday outside the debate venue, the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., Across the river from Parliament Hill, to protest his absence.
This Canadian Press report was first published on September 9, 2021.