Canada's federal party leaders go head-to-head in election debate

All six federal party leaders will face off at the English-language debate in Gatineau, Que., at the Canadian Museum of History.

Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May, Maxime Bernier and Yves-François Blanchet will all be in attendance for the two-hour event, with the hopes of gaining support from Canadians before election day on Oct. 21.

So far, the Liberal and Conservatives parties have been battling for the top spot in the polls, with the NDP and Green Party distantly behind.

The first question asked the leaders to answer how each of them would effectively defend the interests and values of Canadians on the world stage.

Trudeau said that over the past four years his party has invested in Canadians, highlighting the environment, while Scheer battled Trudeau at his first opportunity. The Conservative leader brought up his brownface scandal, saying he is a “phoney and a fraud” and should not be prime minister.

Scheer, Singh mixup

Early on the debate, there may have been some nerve that led to a few flubs by participants.

Both the federal party leaders and debate moderators seemingly had some trouble telling the Conservative and NDP leader apart. Multiple times, their names were mixed up - even with Singh wearing a bright yellow turban.

“What does it take?” Singh said jokingly.

“I’m slightly taller than you,” Scheer said in response.

Immigration and Bernier’s temperament

The People’s Party leader was then asked to answer for his controversial views on immigration and “extreme multiculturalism,” and if he has the right temperament to be the country’s leader.

“I’m saying that we must have fewer immigrants in this country...it’s time to have a discussion about the immigration,” Bernier said.

The other party leaders then responded by saying Bernier should not be the next prime minister.

The NDP leader was first to speak, condemning Bernier’s messaging about immigration.

“What you’re going to do is not going to help anybody,” Singh said.

The Conservative leader also criticized Bernier’s views.

“You can be proud of our identity...while still welcoming people from all around the world,” Scheer said. “That is something that has made Canada strong...You can do that without insulting people.”

Bernier also got in an argument with May about the party’s policies, saying the Greens “won’t be able to create any wealth.”

Blanchet went on to criticize Bernier’s view on climate change saying, “somebody invoking the truth should not be someone denying climate change.”

While Trudeau believes the People’s Party leader is making people more fearful but that he is saying publicly “what Mr. Scheer thinks privately.”

Quebec’s religious symbols ban


Singh was asked why he said he will not intervene in Bill 21, Quebec’s religious symbols ban. The NDP leader said he is, quite obviously, against it, as it is a reality he faces every day.

“Quebec does not need to be told what to do or what not to do,” Blanchet said.

Trudeau said that the Liberal Party would leave the door open to intervene and questioned why Singh won’t do the same.

“Every single day of my life is fighting...Bill 21,” Singh said.

Bernier questioned Singh for saying he didn’t want the People’s Party leader in the debate, questioning if he is really supportive of “diversity” and “free speech.”

“When you incite hatred...it shows a lack of judgement, you don’t deserve a platform. Your ideas are hurtful to Canada,” Singh replied.

Trudeau vs. Scheer

The Conservative leader directed a question to Trudeau, bringing up the SNC-Lavalin scandal and his questionable actions in the company’s prosecution.

Trudeau responded by saying that Scheer is the one who will give tax beaks for people making $400,000 a year and Canadians can’t even see the full Conservative platform.

“Half of your platform isn’t even costed,” Scheer said.

“You’re the one who is hiding your platform for Canadians,” Trudeau responded.

The NDP leader jumped in saying the two party leaders are “arguing about who’s worse for Canada.”

Back to SNC-Lavalin, Blanchet said that the SNC-Lavalin employees “did nothing wrong” and that Scheer is saying Quebec is “corrupt.”

Climate target

The Green Party leader directed a question at Trudeau, saying that the science requires Canada to get to a 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“We have a real plan that has delivered over the past four years,” Trudeau said. “We will continue to do the things that need to be done and bring Canadians along with it.”

May responded by saying that Trudeau cannot be a “climate leader” after buying a pipeline.

“Nobody believes your numbers Justin,” Scheer said, continuing to argue with Trudeau on the Liberal plan.

“You do not need to choose between Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny,” Singh jumped in and said. “There is another option.”

The People’s Party leader said both Trudeau and Scheer “are the same on climate change,” and neither of them will be able to achieve their targets.

Affordability and balancing the budget

The Green Party leader was the first to get the opportunity to respond to a question about balancing the budget and making life more affordable for Canadians.

May said her strategy is to go after places where there is revenue, not cutting services, saying that the party anticipates having a balanced budget in five years.

“What about the idea of cutting all subsidies to oil, as we propose to do,” Blanchet said, in addition to taxes on the e-commerce companies.

“We agree with you,” May responded.

Trudeau said that his Liberal party has been able to create “more than a million new jobs created” at the same time as reducing poverty, “in a way that is responsible.”

May shifted the conversation to health care, saying Canadians need universal, single-payer coverage.

“You will spend $60 billion, spending won’t create any wealth,” Bernier said. “We need to have more private sector investment.”

“You’re famous private sector..they have no invested in the economy,” May responded. “We need to get that money and get public sector investments,” May said.

Scheer said that he would cut foreign aid by 25 per cent, if elected prime minister, which was described by May as the worst item in the party’s “non-platform.”

“Short term, misguided and greedy policies,” the Green Party leader said to Scheer.

‘A Quebecer is a Canadian’

The Bloc Quebecois leader was asked about Quebec’s equalization payments, which the party leader said is based on “flawed reasoning.”

“What can a Canadian do that a Quebecer cannot do,” Blanchet said to Trudeau.

“A Quebecer is a Canadian and will remain a Canadian under my watch,” the Liberal Party leader responded.

NDP leader Singh said he was thinking about ways to make life more affordable, recommending that Canadians should work together. Health care, for example, the universal Pharmacare program puts all Canadians together.

“Your ideas always interfere and infringe into [provincial jurisdictions,]” Blanchet said in response.

Women’s rights

Trudeau called out the Conservative party leader for being a leader who will strip women of their reproductive right.

“I am personally pro-life,” Scheer said in response, adding that it is alright for people to have differing opinions on the topic in Canada.

May, the only female party leader, jumped in by saying no leader should retreat “a single inch” on the “hard-earned rights” of women in Canada.

Keep an eye on Yahoo Canada for live updates from the debate: