On Thursday evening, all six federal party leaders participated in a French debate to continue to discuss core issues facing Canadians ahead of the Oct. 21 election.
As the final debate of the election campaign, this was the last opportunity for Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May, Maxime Bernier and Yves-Francois Blanchet to question their competitors on their future policies and past actions.
Trudeau blasts Ford
Trudeau spent much of the night defending himself, the Liberal Party and its actions over the past four years in power. But he did make a point to call out Ontario premier Doug Ford.
When asked about what his government would do to tackle climate change, Trudeau took the opportunity to say that part of the role would be to manage Conservative provincial leaders.
“We have to stand up to Conservatives like Jason Kenney...Doug Ford,” the Liberal Party leader. A sentiment that he re-stated only minutes later.
To reporters after the debate, Trudeau said Kenney in Alberta and Ford are in the pockets of big oil companies and don’t plan on making any actions on climate change.
Trudeau was also given the opportunity to explain to Canadians how his government would support francophones outside of Quebec. Trudeau once again mentioned the Ford government, saying the Liberals have “defended francophones in Ontario” by confronting the premier on his actions that limit French services in Ontario.
When asked about Quebec’s religious symbols ban, Trudeau reinforced his previous statement that he is keeping the door open to intervene if necessary, but it is not guaranteed. He gave the example that if Ford attacked francophone communities, Canadians would expect the federal government to be there for them - when fundamental rights and freedoms are in question.
Conservative leader Scheer called out Trudeau’s references to provincial governments, saying that he is obsessed with provincial politics and Ontario, a statement Scheer also made in Monday’s English debate.
One section of the event was focused on immigration, with questions specific to individuals who come into Canada through unofficial points of entry, like Roxham Road.
NDP leader Singh said Canada needs to eliminate the Safe Third Country agreement with the U.S., but Trudeau “doesn’t have the courage” to stand up to Trump to do so.
Bernier, the People’s Party of Canada leader, maintained his view that Canada needs to significantly limit the number of immigrants coming to the country and the government needs to help “real refugees.” He also said that there is a correlation between the rising housing prices in Toronto and Vancouver with the increasing number of immigrants in those cities.
Green Party leader May got particularly passionate when asked about tangible actions that need to be done to fight climate change.
“We are too close to a point of no return,” May said. “We must work together because we have to get off fossil fuels...and we have to change our economy into a green economy.”
She added that the Liberal plan, and all other plans for that matter, don’t actually go far enough to battle the “climate crisis.” May particularly called out Trudeau and his recent decision to purchase a pipeline.
“It’s a climate emergency, we have to stop all pipelines,” she said.
The Liberal Party leader maintained that his pipeline decisions of the past and possible future pipeline expansions will enable the government to invest in renewable energy, through the pipeline profits.
Scheer said Trudeau has been giving “huge exemptions to the big polluters,” while the Conservatives have a more “balanced” approach to fight climate change.
To intervene or to not intervene in Bill 21?
All six party leaders had the opportunity to reinforce to Canadians whether or not they intend to intervene in Quebec’s religious symbols ban.
Blanchet, the Bloc-Quebecois leader, said that secularism is “a progressive value” for the people of Quebec and it is not something that is “restrictive in the hearts and minds of Quebecers.”
Singh said that he will not intervene in the province’s religious symbols law but he will always “fight against division.” While Trudeau believes there could be a time when he, as prime minister, would intervene.
Bernier said it is Quebec’s jurisdiction and federal leaders need to honour that. He added that there is consensus in the province and Trudeau should not “meddle.”