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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

The first televised leaders debate of the federal election will be held in Quebec tonight, and is likely to have an impact beyond the province in the continuing campaign.

TVA, a key Quebec network, is hosting the two-hour debate, which begins at 8 p.m. ET. The Cable Public Affairs Channel, better known as CPAC, will air a translated edition of the debate at 10 p.m. ET after it has aired on TVA.

Only leaders with at least one seat in Quebec are allowed to participate, which means the debaters will be the Bloc Quebecois’ Yves-Francois Blanchet, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh.

“It’s really a Quebec-centric debate,” Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said Thursday,

However, Mr. Béland said, in an interview, that the debate results will resonate across Canada.

“Most anglophones won’t be watching this debate, but they will hear about it, if they follow the news, if they watch television, if they read newspapers even if they are on social media like Twitter,” he aid.

Mr. Béland said the 2019 TVA debate was a “turning point” in the election.

He noted that Mr. Blanchet’s strong performance bolstered the fortunes of his party, and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s performance created challenges for his party because of his answers on abortion and medical assistance in dying.

Mr. Béland said he thinks Mr. O’Toole will probably be under the most pressure. “It’s his first [leaders] debate ever and it’s not his mother tongue,” he said.

But he added it could be “game over” for Mr. Trudeau if he does not deliver a performance that allows the Liberals to hold their own in Quebec seats. “They could make gains in Quebec which could offset some of the losses they are likely now to encounter in other parts of the country,” he said.

There are 78 seats in Quebec. At dissolution, the Liberals had 35 seats, the Bloc had 32 seats, the Conservatives had 10 and the NDP had one seat.

The Cable Public Affairs Channel, better known as CPAC, will air a translated edition of the debate at 10 p.m. ET after it has aired on TVA.

Other televised debates are looming. The Leaders’ Debates Commission has scheduled debates next week with a French debate on Sept. 8 and a Sept. 9 English debate.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

AFGHANISTAN AMBASSADOR TOOK TIME OFF DURING CRISIS - The Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan took time off in mid-July as Taliban militants were sweeping across the country and former Afghan employees of the embassy in Kabul were begging for help to get them and their families to safety in Canada.

AFGHAN EMBASSY EMPLOYEES CALL FOR ACTIONS - Afghan employees of Canada’s embassy in Kabul had urged Ottawa in 2012 to set up a special immigration program because of the risks they faced working for the Canadian government. But it took almost a decade for such a program to be implemented in July of this year, as the Taliban were already on an offensive sweeping through Afghanistan to power.

CHINESE STATE-RUN PAPER LEVELS ALLEGATIONS AGAINST SPAVOR - Michael Spavor, the Canadian citizen sentenced last month to 11 years in prison in China for espionage, is alleged to have taken photos and videos of military equipment and may have provided them to fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig, a Chinese state-run newspaper reported on Wednesday.

LIBERALS RELEASE COSTED PLATFORM - The Liberal Party released a costed campaign platform on Wednesday detailing how a re-elected government would spend an additional $78-billion over five years – primarily in areas such as health care, housing and seniors – while targeting corporations and the wealthy for $25-billion in tax hikes.

SUZUKI ON GREEN PARTY WOES - David Suzuki broadens his election endorsements beyond the Green Party, telling the Tyee in British Columbia that one reason he is casting his net more broadly is that although “this is a moment when the Greens are desperately needed,” the party, in his view, has been “fatally weakened” by internal controversies made highly public. Story here.

HOW DOES MAIL-IN VOTING WORK - There’s a Globe and Mail primer here.

LEADERS

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, in Montreal, participates in the “Face-à-Face” TVA debate.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, in Montreal, participates in the “Face-à-Face” TVA debate.

Campaign-Trail Commitment: In a media release, Mr. O’Toole promised a `Free Trade with Free Trade’ strategy that includes pursuing a Canada-Australia-New Zealand-United Kingdom agreement, and reviving free-trade talks with India.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul holds a press conference on Afghanistan and Canada’s place in the world.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau participates in the “Face-à-Face” TVA debate.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Montreal, holds a media availability, and serves poutine in Préfontaine Park, and participates in the “Face-à-Face” TVA debate.

ELECTION SPOTLIGHT - YUKON

1 seat. At dissolution of Parliament: 1 Liberal

Rhiannon Klein, Chair and Instructor, Indigenous Governance Degree Program, Yukon University

“With only one federal electoral district covering the entire Yukon territory, this current election campaign is turning into quite a contentious and interesting race to observe. Yukon is home to approximately 43,000 people with an estimated 29,100 eligible voters. Since 2000, Liberal MP Larry Bagnell has served six out seven terms (Bagnell lost his seat to Conservative candidate Ryan Leef in 2011, winning it back again in 2015). Prior to Bagnell winning his seat in 2000, the Yukon was a federal NDP stronghold from 1987-2000.

“The 2021 federal election campaign has started out much differently. In July 2021, Jonas Smith was named the Conservative Party candidate. Smith lost to Bagnell in 2019 by only 153 votes with a 72 per cent voter turnout. On Aug. 5, Bagnell caught everyone by surprise when he announced he would not be seeking re-election. Further to everyone’s surprise, the Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced he had been named the Liberal candidate. This announcement has come with several strong criticisms and questions around the politicization of the CMOH role and whether it was appropriate for him to run. Only two days after the federal election was called, another big surprise came when the Conservative Party announced they were dropping Jonas Smith as their candidate because of his public opposition to supporting public health guidelines, predominantly vaccine mandates and passports. Smith decided he would stay in the race, running as an independent candidate.

“Shortly after Smith was dropped, Barbara Dunlop, long-time Yukoner and retired public servant, was named the Conservative candidate. The NDP announced their candidate, Lisa Vollans-Leduc, a Yukon Government policy analysist. The Green Party announced Lenore Morris, a lawyer and business owner, would be running again, though she would be absent for the first two weeks of the campaign. Morris ran previously in the 2019 election. With six candidates running for one seat in an electoral district that has previously been won by less than a percentage point, it could really be anyone’s seat to win at this point! Some of the key issues being highlighted so far on the campaign trail include climate change, reconciliation, housing, and economic recovery. It is difficult to know how people are going to vote this time around- will it be partisan-based, issue-based, or strategical - one thing is for sure: Yukon will have a new Member of Parliament this Fall who will have to represent many different political viewpoints.”

PUBLIC OPINION

Together with CTV and Nanos Research, The Globe and Mail is doing daily surveys to track which party and leader Canadians prefer. Check here for the latest results.

OPINION

The Editorial Board of the Globe and Mail on the better-late-than-never U-turn Premier Doug Ford just did on vaccine passports: “Mr. Ford’s reversal is belated, and it will rely on easily faked printouts of vaccine receipts until Oct. 22, when the province says the secure passport it’s working on will be available. But it is nonetheless welcome. Ontario is the fourth province, after Manitoba, British Columbia and Quebec, to bring in a vaccine passport – a tool this page has long argued is critical to raising Canada’s vaccination rate, thereby minimizing the impact of the fourth wave.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how the Liberals are intent on vaccine-wedge politics:The Liberal platform had thousands of words and hundreds of promises to spend $78-billion, but at the press conference to unveil it, Justin Trudeau kept talking about a single paragraph tucked away on Page 51. That’s the passage that outlines the Liberals’ promise of protection from lawsuits for companies that require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s the next step in Mr. Trudeau’s increasingly strident support for vaccination requirements: promising federal protection to companies that demand their employees get the jab. “Making sure workplaces can keep themselves and their employees safe,” in the Liberal Leader’s words.”

Dan Lett (The Winnipeg Free Press) on Manitoba’s new “reluctant” Premier, Kevin Goertzen: “Goertzen made no bones Wednesday about the fact that he was going to be different — much different — than the last guy. For nearly an hour, Goertzen took questions from reporters and provided elegant, confident and — most importantly — credible answers. He did not attack anyone, did not blame anybody else for his government’s mistakes and never once used political hyperbole to claim some sort of hollow victory. In other words, in his very first public appearance as Premier, he was everything that Pallister was not over five years. You could tell that Goertzen was leaning into the contrast that was materializing between him and Pallister. He talked about the importance of projecting calm and respect while avoiding “conflict and animosity.”

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