Canada’s six major parties faced off in the federal leaders’ debate Monday night, discussing topics ranging from ethics to environment to Indigenous issues, and much more in between.
The majority of the debate saw Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau battling one another, with notable attacks on Trudeau’s ethical choices regarding SNC Lavalin and Scheer’s views on combatting climate change.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May appealed to voters interested in aggressively addressing climate change, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh highlighted his plans to increase taxes for the wealthiest Canadians — both parties also addressed plans they had to make social services like childcare, university, and pharma care more affordable.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet highlighted Quebec’s needs and commended the province’s cap-and-trade system when it came to climate discussions. People's Party Leader Maxime Bernier’s most notable moments involved his confirmation of being a climate change denier, and a promise to stop mass immigration.
There were a number of key issues that were discussed during the debate that Global Citizens in Canada might want to keep in mind.
1. There Was a Heated Conversation on Women’s Rights
Trudeau and Scheer argued on the issue of family planning. Scheer defended his opinion but has said that his party will not reopen this issue, if elected. Trudeau argued that Scheer has yet to confirm he would defend a woman’s right to choose.
“The laws of access on this issue have not changed for 30 years under Liberal prime ministers, under Conservative prime ministers, they will not change when I am prime minister,” Scheer said.
Singh jumped in, with some difficulty as the conversation heated up, to put an end to the argument.
“A man has no position in a discussion on a woman’s right to choose,” Singh said. “Let’s be very clear on that.”
As the only female party leader, May called out the others for their lack of concern over her exclusion at the French TVA debate last week. She pointed out that her not being there was a disservice to little girls in Canada who did not get to see themselves represented as a leader during that debate.
“We must be clear as all leaders — and you are not clear, Andrew — that we will never allow a single inch of retreat from the hard-earned rights of women in this country,” she said. “Not one inch.”
2. The SDGs Were Brought Up — But Only for a Moment
Green Party May wore an SDGs pin to the debate last night and called out Scheer for the announcement he made last week that his party would cut foreign aid spending by 25% should he gain power following the coming election.
“Ending poverty within the next decade, within Canada and globally, is actually possible,” she said. “But not if we ever had the misfortune of having your short-term, misguided, greedy, and selfish policies.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he will pay for some of his promises by cutting foreign aid by 25% - which Green Leader Elizabeth May says is "short-term, misguided, greedy and selfish."#leadersdebate2019#elxn43 debate https://t.co/jJKPPhKxbspic.twitter.com/yTsjlggQqz— CBC Politics (@CBCPolitics) October 8, 2019
The United Nations’ has set a target for developed countries like Canada to spend 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) on foreign aid every year. The current Liberal government has not met that target, but they have promised to increase aid spending annually in the lead up to 2030. The NDP and Green parties have committed to reaching the 0.7% target, and the Green party refers to the SDGs heavily throughout most of their platform.
3. The Climate Change Discussion Was Fierce
Trudeau’s decision to move forward with the Trans Mountain pipeline has drawn criticism from Indigenous communities and environmentalists across Canada, so it’s no surprise that it was a point of attack last night, along with the Liberals’ carbon tax.
Scheer attacked Trudeau’s carbon tax, which sets a price to be paid on each tonne of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Scheer says the Conservatives would eliminate the tax.
May told Trudeau that she was disappointed that he had not done more for the environment during his time in office, and Singh highlighted that the NDP would keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Trudeau told Scheer that he had no plan to tackle climate change and that Conservatives did not believe in climate change.
“From the Rockies to the Bay of Fundy, Conservative premiers have gotten elected on promises to do nothing on climate change,” Trudeau said. “And we need a strong federal government to fight them, to make sure that we are moving forward on protecting the future generations from the impacts.”
The Green party is committed to a 60% cut in carbon emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, and she called on Trudeau to do more than reach “Harper’s target of 30%.”
“You better double that target or you will never get to carbon neutrality by 2050,” May said.