Canada leaders’ debate: tarnished Trudeau puts climate crisis at heart of election
The Guardian: On a crowded stage where debate often devolved into a cacophony of crosstalk, Canada’s federal leaders – including a fringe far-right candidate – have sought to sway voters before the country’s election.
Over two hours, federal political leaders lobbed the majority of their attacks at the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, in the only official English language debate before 21 October.
Held in Gatineau, Quebec, the event marked the first time leaders from all six parties – Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic, Green, Bloc Québécois and People’s party – have appeared on stage together.
“The choice tonight is between two parties that have very different views on climate change,” said Trudeau, making his pitch for a second majority government, and positioning his re-election campaign around the looming climate crisis.
“Please God you don’t get a majority this time around,” Green party leader Elizabeth May told Trudeau, arguing the Liberal plan was not ambitious enough.
The wildcard coming into the evening was Maxime Bernier, leader of the far-right populist party the People’s party of Canada. Formed amid a feud between Bernier and the Conservative party, its platform is defined by restrictive immigration politics and climate change denial. Activist groups had protested against his presence on stage, arguing it was wrong to give his policies a highly visible platform. But the Leaders’ Debates Commission found Bernier – once a foreign minister under the Conservatives – had a “legitimate chance” of electing more than one candidate in the election.
Throughout the evening he played the spoiler, frequently interrupting each candidate as they spoke.“I think, within a few minutes tonight, Canadians can see why I didn’t think you had a place on this stage,” Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic party, told Bernier.
Despite the number of candidates on stage, only two have emerged as clear frontrunners: Trudeau and the Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer.
Polling suggests that while Trudeau’s Liberal party has an edge in seat projections, after weeks of campaigning the prime minister and Scheer are tied in popular opinion.