Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau faced attacks from all sides in the first hour of the official English-language debate.
From the left, on climate: “If you have a fire in a four storey building, getting a one storey ladder doesn’t do it,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said, slammed Trudeau for failing to commit more aggressively to cutting emissions.
“I want to say this directly to Canadians,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, joining in the attack. “You do not need to choose between Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny. There is another option.”
From the right, on the SNC-Lavalin scandal: “I have nothing to learn from Mr. Trudeau, who fired the first Indigenous attorney general for doing to her job,” Conservative Leader Scheer said.
And from the far-right, after People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier claimed the Liberals and Conservatives have the same plan for the climate.
“That is the most offensive thing you’ve said tonight,” Trudeau responded.
The first half of the debate was punctuated by several pointed, if off-topic, exchanges.
The debate opened with a question on Canada’s role on the world stage.
Minutes later, Trudeau and Scheer were engaging in a pointed, if off-topic, exchange:
“Mr. Trudeau can’t even remember how many times he’s worn blackface,” Scheer said in his response Monday night. “Mr. Trudeau: you are always wearing a mask,” he said.
Trudeau’s turn came soon after, directed at Scheer via an exchange with Bernier, who holds extreme views on immigration and climate change: “Mr. Bernier, your role on this stage is to say publicly what Mr. Scheer thinks privately,” Trudeau said.
Bernier played a surprisingly central role in the first portion of the debate, defending against attacks from Trudeau, Scheer and Singh, who has said Bernier should not have been invited.
“I have a right to have another opinion about immigration,” Bernier said, challenging Singh.
“After a couple of minutes of the debate tonight,” Singh responded, “I think people can clearly see why I think you shouldn’t deserve a platform.
Another pointed exchange came following a question on Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans religious symbols in the public service.
“This is a bill that says to people that because of the way they look, they can’t do a job,” Singh said, speaking passionately to his personal experience with racial prejudice.
“So why won’t you fight it if you form government?” Trudeau asked, pointing out that the NDP has not pledged to challenge the province on the bill.
On climate, May slammed Trudeau for failing to commit more agressively to cutting emissions: “If you have a fire in a four storey building, getting a one storey ladder doesn’t do it,” she said.
“I want to say this directly to Canadians,” Singh said, joining the attack on Trudeau and Scheer on climate. “You do not need to choose between Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny. There is another option.”
“We’ve done our best to create a format and an experience that will give Canadians access to the politicians facing off against each other but also responding to questions in the moment and moving off prepared scripts,” Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor in chief of CBC News said at a September news conference.
Recent polling suggests Trudeau’s Liberals are within the margin of error of Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives in national voter support.
The 2019 official debates are produced by the Canadian Debate Production Partnership.
The debates will also be simultaneously translated and available in various language. Follow these links to watch the debate in:
ASL (American sign language)
LSQ (Quebec sign language)
Sections of tonight’s two-hour event will be guided by moderators Susan Delacourt, Ottawa bureau chief, Toronto Star; Dawna Friesen, national anchor, Global News; Althia Raj, Ottawa bureau chief, HuffPost Canada; Lisa LaFlamme, chief news anchor, CTV News; and Rosemary Barton, chief correspondent of political coverage and live specials, CBC News.
A French-language debate on Thursday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. will be moderated by Patrice Roy from Radio-Canada with the participation of Alec Castonguay, head of politics bureau, L’actualité; Patricia Cloutier, National Assembly reporter, Le Soleil; Hélène Buzzetti, parliamentary correspondent, Le Devoir; and François Cardinal, editor-in-chief, La Presse.