The leaders of five political parties met Thursday night for their only English-language debate, a two-hour event that they used to both attack their rivals and make a case for support ahead of the Sept. 20 election.
The debate was held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.
Erin O’Toole looks for knockout Trudeau moment
In the high-stakes debate, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole pushed for a knockout moment against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who tried to parry the attacks. Mr. O’Toole was critical of the Liberal Leader over issues such as calling the election during a pandemic, Indigenous reconciliation and the fate of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who remain in custody in China. At one point, Mr. O’Toole accused Mr. Trudeau of letting the two Michaels down. In response, Mr. Trudeau said “you do not simply lob tomatoes across the Pacific,” as part of a foreign-policy approach to China. Later, Mr. O’Toole noted that a prime minister has to deliver. Mr. Trudeau responded: “I won’t take lessons from you on making promises and not following up.”
Jagmeet Singh faces off with Trudeau over pharmacare
On the TV feed before the debate began, it appeared that Mr. Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet SIngh, at podiums beside each other, were chatting amicably. But there was a harsh edge to a number of the exchanges between the pair on issues including pharmacare and Indigenous reconciliation. Key to Mr. Singh’s campaign has been the argument that Mr. Trudeau talks a good game, but does not get anything done. At one point, Mr. Trudeau mentioned “experts” that he said graded NDP environment policy poorly, but did not name them. “He cannot explain why his plan is being panned by the experts.” Still, Mr. Singh had a memorable moment in which he targeted both the Liberal and Conservative leaders in an exchange over the environment. “You’re not stuck with these two,” he said, appealing to voters to choose the NDP option.
Annamie Paul challenges Trudeau’s feminist credentials
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, the only female leader participating in the debate, challenged Mr. Trudeau’s feminist credentials, naming former cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott and former Liberal caucus member Celina Caesar-Chavannes as women driven out of politics by his leadership style. “A feminist doesn’t continue to push strong women out of his party when they are just trying to serve,” she said. But Mr. Trudeau pushed back in response. “I won’t take lessons in caucus management from you,” he said, referring to Green Party infighting.
Embattled Greens get a spotlight
Thursday’s debate, and the French-language debate the night before, gave the embattled Green Leader a spotlight she has lacked. Ms. Paul said there were shortcomings in Canada’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan. “It seems like we got better information on our smartphones than Mr. Trudeau got from our entire intelligence service.” And she took on Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet on issues of racism, saying that she wasn’t insulting him but giving him “an invitation to educate yourself.” The debates have given her a much-needed platform and perhaps a boost in her bid to win the riding of Toronto Centre and help other Green candidates.
Globe columnists Gary Mason, Andrew Coyne, Kelly Cryderman, Robyn Urback, Adam Radwanski and Patrick Brethour live-tweeted their analysis. Follow the Globe’s election Twitter list to keep on top of the election campaign.
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