Leaders fasten their seat belts as election week set to take off
The six federal party leaders returned to the stage on Thursday as we saw the final debate of the campaign take off. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer have been sparring for front-runner status since last month- launch of the campaign. However, with the last English debate, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has seen an improved showing in national polls. The unofficial winner of the last English debate, he still has a long way to go where Quebec is concerned.
Trudeau launched a verbal attack on Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet as he said he counts on Quebecers to return more Liberal MPs to Parliament so his government can continue the fight against climate change. The PM said only his party is well-positioned to take on Conservative premiers like Jason Kenney and Doug Ford.
He said a vote for Blanchet would be akin to a vote for Scheer because opposition Bloc MPs will never be part of a pan-Canadian government with a mission to tackle the pressing environmental issues of our time. He said, “We need to keep going. We can’t stop. It’s important Quebecers, francophones and all Canadians be part of a government that wants to fight climate change.”
“A strong Bloc Québécois in Ottawa could not prevent Mr. Harper from doing nothing on the environment … from cutting on culture. We need a strong federal government with great Quebecers part of it,” Trudeau added.
Meanwhile, Conservative’s Scheer said Blanchet likes to present himself as a “best friend” of Quebec Premier Francois Legault, the popular nationalist leader who has opposed efforts to re-open the separatism debate and yet Blanchet is a former member of a party that is determined to break up the country. He said electing Blanchet, a former member of a Parti Québécois government, would bring back old sovereignty debates at the expense of national unity.
“What is clear is that Mr Blanchet’s priority is to try and stir up sovereignty once again. He will work with the PQ to lead to a referendum, that’s his priority and that’s clear. October 21 is not the day of a referendum, it’s a federal election,” Scheer said.
A debate without the leader name calling Trudeau is wishing the impossible. Continuing his direct attacks on his competition, Scheer called Trudeau a “liar” on matters like the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and on how he characterized the Conservative tax cut plan. In return, Trudeau accused Scheer of wanting to hand tax cuts to “millionaires” by reversing some of the Liberal changes to the small business tax regime that closed some “loopholes” that allowed for income sprinkling among family members.
Scheer meanwhile, brought up Trudeau’s “disastrous” trip to India, calling him an embarrassment on world stage and that leaders simply don’t respect him any more.
Singh launches attack on Trudeau
Not one to hold back, Singh went all out on Trudeau during the debate, blaming him for not showing the sensitivity required to help the people of Grassy Narrows, a northwestern Ontario First Nations reserve that is grappling with the effects of mercury poisoning.
The statement comes in reference to a fundraising event held in spring, which was interrupted by protesters from the reserve. Singh said, “You made fun of someone who’s an advocate. It’s incomprehensible how some could do that. If you had visited that community and saw the intoxication, the poisoning, it’s incredible.”
Appealing to the public, Singh said he understands he looks different from many Quebecers, but assured voters in the province that he shares their values on things like abortion, same-sex marriage and the equality of sexes. “I’m not a francophone but I’m a francophile. I fell in love with the French language. It has been a source of wealth in my life. Yes, I wear a turban but we share the same values.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May showed frustration at the end of the two-hour debate. She said too much time in the campaign has been spent debating Bill 21 and whether or not a party led by a particular leader would intervene in a court case. She wished the party leaders would stop “squabbling” on this and focus their energies on dealing with climate change.
People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier undoubtedly comes of way better in French than he does in English. He aimed at Scheer’s plan for the environment, which includes funding technological innovations that can be exported to countries around the world looking to reduce emissions.