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“Mr Trudeau you are a phoney”, Liberal leader takes barbs in intense English debate 

The six main federal party leaders attacked each other in biting exchanges in the English language debate held in Gatineau, yesterday. The only English debate with all six party leaders saw the discussion range across affordability, economic security, climate, Indigenous issues, leadership in the country and the world, and immigration.

Battered last time, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer started off swinging as he ignored the theme and chose to launch a hot attack on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. “Mr Trudeau, you are a phoney and you are a fraud and you do not deserve to govern this country. You know he’s very good at pretending things. He can’t even remember how many times he put blackface on because the fact of the matter is he’s always wearing a mask,” he said.

Not stopping short, he added, “He puts on a reconciliation mask and then fires the attorney general, the first one of Indigenous background, he puts on a feminist mask and then fires two strong female employees for not going along with his corruption.”

Maxime Bernier and Immigration

People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier was asked whether he had the temperament for leadership, considering his untasteful comments he has been making on Twitter. Defending his statements, he said, “You must tell the truth to Canadians if you want to be the leader of this country and what I’m saying about extreme multiculturalism is not the way to build this country. Yes, this country is a diverse country and we must be proud of that. But we don’t need legislation like the multiculturalism act to tell us who we are.”

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said the temperament for leadership requires a leader to look for things that unite Canadians, rather than divide them. Bernier interrupted Singh and then went on to interrupt and talk over every other leader, including Scheer, who called out Bernier for his anti-immigrant positions.

Bill 21 and multiculturalism

Second segment of the debate focused on polarization, human rights and immigration. Moderated by Huffington Post Canada’s Althia Raj, Singh was asked if he was letting down Canadians by putting his party’s electoral chances ahead of taking a stand on Bill 21 in Quebec. Vocal about the controversial law, Singh said Bill 21 was something that hurt him and made him feel bad. He said he would put his efforts into services that build up people.

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said 70 per cent of people in the province support the bill and that the rest of Canada should recognize that they can decide how they want to govern their own province. Trudeau attacked Singh and said that while he recognized he had spoken eloquently on his experience with discrimination, he was disappointed Singh did not follow his lead and say he would leave the door open to a federal court challenge of the law.

Singh said living every day of his life as a visual religious minority was how he took a stand, to which Trudeau asked him why he did not have the courage to stand up for his convictions. Blanchet, after the debate, said that while he did not agree with Trudeau’s position on Bill 21, at least he knew where he stood, but the same could not be said for Scheer and Singh.

Abortion and women’s right

The debate then took a turn to the topic of abortion and a woman’s right to choose, which saw Scheer face attacks from all ends. Trudeau accused the Conservative leader of backing candidates for his party who are determined to take away women’s right to choose if they want an abortion or not. “The laws of access on this issue have not changed for 30 years under Liberal prime ministers, under Conservative prime ministers, they will not change when I am prime minister,” Scheer said.

Singh jumped into the heated exchange to say that “a man has no position on a discussion on a woman’s right to choose, let’s be very clear on that.”

Green Party leader Elizabeth May meanwhile, turned the question on the five male candidates, saying they all missed the opportunity to call to her inclusion in the TVA French-language debate and show young girls that a woman can lead a party and can run for prime minister.

SNC-Lavalin Scam

On SNC-Lavalin affair, Scheer went all out on Trudeau and said that in light of the leader’s violation of ethics laws. “When did you decide that the rules did not apply to you?” he asked. Trudeau said, “Mr Scheer, the role of a prime minister is to stand up for Canadians’ jobs, to stand up for the public interest and that’s what I’ve done and that’s what I will continue to do every single day.”

Scheer attacked back, accusing Trudeau of lying to Canadians. In response, Trudeau asked Scheer if he would not have stood up for the jobs at risk at SNC-Lavalin. Blanchet took the moment to accuse Scheer of using the scam to further his politics.

Scheer said that regardless of the economic situation there was no excuse for a politician to interfere in a federal court case. “It is essential that we preserve the independence of our judicial system,” he said.

Indigenous issues

Bernier accused other leaders of being happy with the status quo and how they just want to tweak Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people. He said he would look into implementing property rights on reserves as a start to a better relationship. May said Indigenous leaders are saying the number 1 issue facing their people is climate change and that is where the government has to act.

She attacked Trudeau with the line that he “bought a pipeline” and so was not really fighting climate change, to which Trudeau replied that “a slogan is not a plan.” Singh attacked Trudeau for ordering a judicial review of a recent Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that awarded compensation to Indigenous children harmed by the on-reserve child welfare system and under-funded child and family services.

Trudeau said his government had moved forward on Indigenous issues in a way that other governments never did before, but there is still a great deal to do. He added that children would be compensated when his government could ensure that it is done in the right way.

Climate change

Moderated by the CBC’s Rosemary Barton, the final topic of the evening was environment and energy. A public member said he wanted to know what the leaders would do in the climate fight. Scheer immediately took the opportunity to attack Trudeau for using two campaign planes and excusing that choice by purchasing carbon offsets. Trudeau said Scheer did not even buy carbon offsets because he does not believe in climate change.

Trudeau said his government had taken action by putting a price on pollution across the country and implementing a plan that gets Canada three-quarters of the way to the emissions reduction targets agreed to in Paris. “The choice tonight is very clear between two parties that have very different views on climate change. Mr. Scheer wants to rip up the only serious plan on climate change Canada has ever had,” said Trudeau.

May attacked Trudeau for buying the Trans Mountain pipeline, arguing that the government’s emissions targets are guaranteed to miss the Paris targets. May added that she hoped Trudeau did not get a majority because he would not make the necessary moves required to battle climate change.



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