Justin Trudeau pitched his plan to run three straight deficits as the clearest alternative to the platforms put forward by the NDP and the Conservative Party, using the last debate of the campaign to appeal to Quebeckers seeking a new government on Oct. 19.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper shot back that going in the red in a time of economic growth will lead Canada into an era of permanent deficits and "future budget cuts." NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair attacked the Liberal plan to borrow billions for a new infrastructure plan, saying the country needs to be run "on a strong fiscal footing."
The Liberal Leader went on the offensive on the matter, arguing that "Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Harper are making the wrong choices" by sticking to balanced budgets.
"Canada needs investment, the middle-class needs help," said Mr. Trudeau, who argued for a more activist government than his rivals.
The leaders of the four major parties in Quebec crossed swords in the fifth and last debate of the campaign on Friday night, in a format featuring a series of short, one-on-one battles on the French-language TVA network.
The event came as the NDP has been losing support to its three main rivals in Quebec, according to most recent polls, with Mr. Mulcair striving to win back support to maintain his base in the province. The stakes are high for the party leaders as a majority of the province's 78 seats, out of 338, are still up for grabs in this election.
Mr. Mulcair fended off a series of attacks from Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and Mr. Harper, both of whom have won points in recent weeks in Quebec by promising to ban niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.
"You are totally disconnected from the reality of Canadians," Mr. Harper told Mr. Mulcair as he argued that the Conservative policy is widely popular in Canada. "Our citizenship ceremonies should reflect our values."
"You are using the issue of the niqab as a weapon of mass obfuscation," Mr. Mulcair replied. He said no one is "pro niqab," but said that the courts must be respected. "Your actions are unworthy of a prime minister," he told Mr. Harper.
The Liberal Leader argued that when they see a woman wearing a niqab, Canadians should try to help her integrate into Canadian society, saying that the ban is indefensible in terms of human rights. Still, he argued that the niqab debate is not the central issue of the campaign.
"The issue at this point in time is replacing this man," Mr. Trudeau said, pointing to Mr. Harper. "You have more men in your caucus who oppose abortion than women who wear the niqab in Quebec."
Mr. Harper replied that he has "no intention of reopening the abortion debate."
Some of the most heated moments of the event came as the debate veered into issues of foreign affairs and national security.
Mr. Mulcair said the NDP was the only party that refused to participate in military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, arguing his party was a "reasonable voice for peace."
"Bombs will note make the world a safer place," Mr. Mulcair said.
The Conservative Leader insisted that Canada needs to continue with its military and humanitarian missions in Iraq and Syria.
Mr. Duceppe, whose party supports the current military mission, accused Mr. Trudeau of simply planning to "bring flowers and bags of food" to refugees fleeing the area.
Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau faced off on the issue of marijuana, with the Liberal Leader arguing that legalizing the drug will allow for a greater control of its sale to minors across the country. Mr. Harper – in a reference to Mr. Trudeau's admission that he has smoked marijuana in the recent past – said "it is up to party leaders to lead by example on this matter."
Both Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Mulcair attacked Mr. Harper on the issue of supply management, accusing the Conservatives of being unwilling to protect the system "in its entirety." The Conservative Leader said the continuing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal will protect supply management, while benefiting other sectors of the economy as well.
Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair started off by debating their fiscal plans for the federal government. The pair were battling for the votes of Quebeckers who want to get rid of Mr. Harper, with both of them trying to explain their respective platforms to the audience.
"Now is the time to invest in the country's future," Mr. Trudeau said about his plans to run three deficits of up to $10-billion a year. He emphasized that the Liberal Party would raise personal taxes on the "richest 1 per cent of the population," while lowering the rate for middle-class Canadians.
Mr. Mulcair shot back that the Liberals don't offer a new plan on the economy, having voted in the past for a number of Conservative budgets. Still, the NDP Leader said the country needs to avoid going back into deficit and has to stick with the current personal income tax rates.
"We have to eliminate some of the gifts that Conservative and Liberal governments have provided to big corporations," he said of his plan to raise the corporate tax rate from to 17 per cent from 15 per cent.