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The Latest: Six leaders square off in English-language debate in capital region

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/10/2019 (278 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Canadian political party leaders participate in the Federal leaders debate in Gatineau, Que. on Monday October 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canadian political party leaders participate in the Federal leaders debate in Gatineau, Que. on Monday October 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA - The Latest on the English-language leaders' debate with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Green party Leader Elizabeth May, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier. All times are Eastern.

10:45 p.m.

In the final post-debate scrum, Maxime Bernier says he deserves to be on the debate stage and represents the views of many Canadians who want fewer immigrants to Canada.

He argues he is more conservative than Andrew Scheer, and the Conservative leader is putting forward many of the same policies as Trudeau.

Bernier reiterates his position that human activity is not the primary cause of climate change.

The People's Party of Canada leader says he does not believe his is a fringe party and he was glad to have the platform to make his views known to Canadians tonight.

He expresses surprise that the NDP's Jagmeet Singh criticized his presence in the debate, saying a leader should welcome other perspectives.

Bernier argues at least half of immigrants to Canada should be economic migrants, and there should be a face-to-face interview to screen for Canadian values — which he defines as including respect for free markets, rule of law, and separation of church and state.

10:30 p.m.

Andrew Scheer says he is frustrated with what he calls the lies of Justin Trudeau and it was important to make that point clear throughout the debate.

On Quebec's Bill 21, Scheer says he would never intervene in the court challenge.

Scheer says it's important the concerns of Indigenous communities are taken into account in such a way that major projects such as pipelines can still be built, citing the economic importance of oil, gas and mining in many of those communities.

He goes on to say that part of respecting Indigenous rights is acknowledging "a right to say yes" and says the idea of "free, prior and informed consent" must be further discussed.

Scheer adds that judicial review is appropriate in the case of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision ordering compensation to Indigenous children separated from their families by the child welfare system.

Scheer says he believes robust competition in the telecom industry is the way to increase affordability, while criticizing the plan put forward by Trudeau.

10:15 p.m.

Trudeau attempts to clarify his position on Bill 21, saying he would not immediately intervene in the current challenge to Bill 21, but that it may be an option at a later date.

He says it would be irresponsible for a government to close the door on such an important issue that deals with the rights of citizens.

Trudeau says there is a new process for major projects, and any potential project - such as a pipeline through Quebec - would need to have social license.

He declines to comment substantively on the current situation in northern Syria, saying Canada is monitoring the situation and would work to maintain stability in the issue.

Trudeau drew a contrast between his party and that of Singh, saying he preferred the Liberals' plan on pharmacare and the environment.

He adds the federal government does not get to determine the final form of a pharmacare system, but he was committed to moving forward with the Liberal plan.

9:55 p.m.

May says she feels she made the points she needed to during tonight's debate, and it should be clear Canadians do not need to choose between Liberals and Conservatives.

She pushes back against questions of her party's position on abortion, instead criticizing the NDP for their policy of whipping votes to ensure party unity on votes.

She says Greens do not expect their MPs to "check their brains at the door" and they do not support whipped votes.

May admits the party was shocked when they saw the projected cost of their pharmacare program, but otherwise are proud of their plan and were able to find new revenues to cover the estimated cost.

She says a Green government would tax large e-commerce technology companies so that they pay their fair share.

May adds the large tech companies compete with businesses all across Canada and their influence affects a variety of sectors, including housing affordability.

9:45 p.m.

Blanchet says he does not understand any of the other leaders' positions on Bill 21, adding Quebecers do not want to be simply tolerated but accepted as a nation.

Blanchet says he was puzzled by Trudeau's response to a question on a potential energy corridor and new pipelines, saying Quebecers might do well to be wary of the Liberal leader as well as Scheer.

The Bloc leader accuses the other leaders of election posturing when it comes to Bill 21, nothing only he will protect that law.

He says there are "obvious contradictions" between what the other leaders are saying in French and in English on the issue.

He says Trudeau is the only other leader who has been clear on Bill 21 — that the door is open to a challenge — while Scheer and Singh are less transparent.

Concluding his time for the evening, Blanchet said it was undeniable the Bloc was rising in support and he believed the other leaders would attack him during the French-language debate Thursday.

9:30 p.m.

In a post-debate talk with reporters, Singh says if the challenge to Bill 21 reaches the Supreme Court, it is incumbent on the prime minister to look into the issue - but maintained he would not immediately intervene should the NDP form government.

Singh repeats that answer several times in response to questions, saying it was a matter of normal legal process but not committing firmly.

He says he is committed to opposing divisive laws but the issue with Bill 21 is a matter of jurisdiction.

On recent developments in the Middle East, Singh says Trump's decisions are regrettable and troubling.

Singh says he is running for prime minister, not answering a question on whether he would serve in a potential Trudeau cabinet, but notes he has ruled out working with the Conservatives.

The NDP leader concludes his appearance for the evening with yet another defence of his position on Bill 21.

9:00 p.m.

Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau lock horns once again on the question of which leader is really fighting for everyday Canadians.

Scheer quips that Trudeau might consider entering Ontario politics because of his frequent mentions of conservative premiers.

The debaters leap from economic issue to economic issue before May makes a direct appeal to voters to cast their ballots for the Greens so they might hold power in a minority situation.

Bernier kicks off the final round of free debate with a question that frames Scheer as no different from Trudeau.

Scheer turns the question around by remarking on Bernier's own political evolution — from Stephen Harper cabinet minister to populist-libertarian — before switching his attention back to Trudeau and re-iterating his plans on tax cuts and financial aid.

Each leader takes the opportunity of their last speaking time to make a direct pitch to voters.

8:50 p.m.

Each other leader lauds his or her own climate plans while criticizing Justin Trudeau for either his lack of action or allegedly ineffective policies.

Elizabeth May says the only way to measure the success of a policy is whether it holds global warming to safe levels.

Trudeau says we must move faster, calling his plan "reasonable" and "doable," while criticizing the opposition of some right-leaning premiers to climate change policies, specifically the federal carbon tax.

Maxime Bernier simultaneously criticizes May for a "radical" plan that would break the Canadian economy and Trudeau for a plan that would not meet Canada's Paris Accord commitments.

Jagmeet Singh also takes aim at Trudeau, asking why Canadians should trust the Liberals to follow through on their commitments, and denies a counterattack from Trudeau who says the NDP support the construction of an oil refinery in Alberta.

May and Trudeau confront one another, with the Green leader saying she hopes Trudeau does not win a majority because he cannot be trusted to deliver on his climate promises.

8:40 p.m.

May says Blanchet's equalization scheme would put too much of a burden on provinces like Alberta, which she says must invest the most to transition to a green economy.

Blanchet wields a question in the open debate segment, and aims it at Scheer, asking Scheer once more about his position on Bill 21.

Scheer says his stance has been consistent: The issue will not be pursued at the federal level, though his government stands for human rights and individual liberty.

Trudeau, who has been silent for several minutes, breaks in to accuse Scheer of being weak on the rights of women, sparking a second chaotic argument between the two of them.

May says there must not be a "single inch of retreat" on the rights of women.

As the debate stretches into its final half-hour with a segment on the environment, Blanchet praises the cap-and-trade system Quebec and California have implemented.

8:30 p.m.

Debating income inequality, Justin Trudeau once more goes to his record but says he is moving forward with an increase of the Canada Child Benefit and easier repayment of student debt.

Bernier promises to balance the budget within two years without cutting services, saying Canada's national credit card is full.

Singh argues the question of inequality is not academic for Canadians, accusing Trudeau of not following up on his "nice words," while saying an NDP government would ask wealthy Canadians to pay more to help working families.

Scheer argues Trudeau is out of touch and says the Liberal leader has attacked small businesses, whereas Scheer would encourage entrepreneurs.

A question on equalization payments goes to Blanchet, who proposes a new scheme in which payments would be allocated to provinces based on their contribution to the fight against climate change.

Trudeau says the existing system is imperfect, but it safeguards equality of opportunity and binds the country together — before he accuses Blanchet of trying to pull the country apart through his sovereigntist beliefs.

8:20 p.m.

Elizabeth May says Justin Trudeau's target on climate change is a "commitment to failure," saying his purchase of a pipeline undermines his commitment to fighting climate change.

The two speak over one another, with Trudeau saying his plan will deliver on both the environment and the economy.

That sparks a chaotic back-and-forth between Trudeau and Scheer, who criticize one another's plans.

Moving on to the issue of affordability, May is asked how she will pay for some of her ambitious policies and she points to a strategy of increasing revenue through policing of offshore accounts and taxes on large technology companies.

Trudeau resets the conservation by going over his government's record on affordability, with special attention given to the Liberals' economic record and policy measures like the Canada Child Benefit.

Scheer contrasts that record with his own plan of specialized tax credits and a reduction of foreign aid by 25 per cent, a policy May calls "short-term, greedy and selfish."

8:05 p.m.

In a reprise of an early-campaign clash over the rights of Indigenous people, Elizabeth May and Andrew Scheer argue about how consultation on major projects must be conducted.

May says "free, prior and informed consent" must be respected, while Scheer questions the practicality of such a system.

Justin Trudeau says Scheer would bring a continuation of the attitudes of Stephen Harper, while Scheer says he has "nothing to learn" from Trudeau on working with Indigenous Peoples.

The discussion morphs quickly away from Indigenous rights and toward provincial jurisdiction, before Singh attempts to bring it back, discussing a recent decision from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on compensation for First Nations children harmed by on-reserve child welfare services.

Singh says Trudeau is appealing that decision, saying Trudeau did everything he could to keep SNC-Lavalin out of a courtroom but everything to challenge Indigenous children in one.

A question on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People receives broad support from most leaders, perhaps most notably from Blanchet, who expresses a strong support for a nation-to-nation relationship.

7:55 p.m.

In arguing on the diversity of opinion in Canada, Andrew Scheer continues to concentrate his attacks against Justin Trudeau, saying the Liberal leader is exacerbating divisions throughout the country.

Trudeau takes the opportunity to appeal to issues that bind Canadians together — specifically pocketbook issues — while denouncing a politics of fear and division.

Scheer also gets a chance for a direct shot at Trudeau, accusing him of flouting ethical rules and lying to the Canadian public in the SNC-Lavalin affair. When did Trudeau decide the rules didn't apply to him, Scheer wants to know.

Trudeau turns the question back to policy, arguing the Conservatives are trying to hide their costed platform — it's not yet released — and attempting to link Scheer to Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

As the conversation becomes free-flowing, Singh says the leaders of the country's two largest parties are arguing about which is worse for the country, before he launches into his own view of the country including universal pharmacare and dental care.

Blanchet, who says he is speaking for SNC-Lavalin employees, clashes with Scheer, with the Conservative leader arguing it is never right to interfere in the independence of the judicial process.

7:40 p.m.

Moving from controversial issue to controversial issue, the second segment of the debate begins with a discussion of Quebec's secularism law, Bill 21, which bans the wearing of religious symbols by many public servants.

The question goes to Singh, who says he is obviously against Bill 21 because of his own heritage and beliefs.

Each federal leader has had a similar position on the issue, noting to various degrees their opposition to the bill but most refusing explicitly to commit the federal government to joining a court challenge against it.

Scheer and May both commend Singh for his handling of issues of race and discrimination throughout the campaign, a reference to his reaction to the revelations that Trudeau appeared in blackface multiple times in the past.

Trudeau notes he is the only leader who has left the door ajar to intervening in the court challenge, criticizing Singh for not acting on the NDP leader's professed convictions.

Singh counters that the fight against Bill 21 is a continuation of his life's experience, before turning to a denunciation of Bernier's presence on the stage.

7:25 p.m.

The first major back-and-forth between the leaders in tonight's debate is on Maxime Bernier's position on reducing immigration.

Bernier is attacked from all sides, though he maintains he supports reasonable immigration and protection of Canadian values.

Scheer — whose party is at the greatest electoral risk from a successful Bernier — advocates for a "fair, orderly and compassionate" immigration system while accusing Bernier of searching for support from unsavoury corners of Canadian society.

The discussion is heated on all sides, with Bernier frequently breaking in to interrupt the other leaders — something Blanchet jokes about, earning a chuckle from the audience.

Trudeau, speaking last on the issue, uses the opportunity to take a dig at Scheer, saying Bernier's role on the stage tonight is to say publicly what Scheer believes privately.

Moving rapidly, the debate turns to leadership at home and how the federal government will co-operate with provinces, an important issue particularly as it relates to climate change.

7:10 p.m.

The debate kicks off with questions on foreign policy and international division, and how best to defend Canadian interests in a chaotic world.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has the first word, saying his government has invested in Canadians in order to bolster their confidence in their place in the world.

People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier says his party puts "Canada first," accusing the other leaders of holding a "globalist" ideology that inappropriately spends Canadian taxes abroad.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer briefly commits to defending Canadian interests abroad and supporting free trade before rapidly turning to a more personal critique of Trudeau, calling him a "phoney" and a "fraud" who is constantly putting on different masks.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May answers global leadership is needed on climate, while Blanchet argues for a more modest approach, citing the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou as a mistake for a country with "tiny biceps."

Bernier also responds to a follow up question on his controversial tweets by saying he supports a diverse Canada but advocating for reduced immigration.

6:30 p.m.

All six major federal party leaders are now on site in Gatineau, Que. as time ticks down to the start of tonight's debate.

The contest will be structured to address five topics: affordability and economic insecurity; environment and energy; Indigenous issues; national and international leadership; and polarization, human rights and immigration.

Questions during the segments will come from regular Canadians, the moderators and the leaders themselves, and finally leaders will have a chance to debate head-to-head.

The debate is being attended by a live audience whose members are filtering in to the Canadian Museum of History theatre.

Conversation will be guided by five journalists, each with responsibility for one of the themed segments.

The rhetorical fireworks kick off at 7 p.m.

5:45 p.m.

The heads of Canada's major political parties are gathering at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. for the first full leaders' debate of the federal election campaign.

Six leaders will square off in the hopes of convincing Canadians to cast ballots for their parties come Oct. 21.

For several of the leaders, tonight's event is the second round of a fight that started in Montreal at a French-language debate last week.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will look to fend off attacks on his record and character, in search of "four more years" — a chant that greeted him as he arrived at the debate site this evening.

Trudeau's main rival, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, looks to bounce back from a rough week that culminated in criticism he was not sufficiently transparent about his dual citizenship, something the crowd outside the venue reminded him of today as chants of "U.S.A." mixed with supportive cheers on his arrival.

People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier will take the national debate stage for the first time tonight, as he and Green party Leader Elizabeth May were excluded from the French-language debate held by network TVA.


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