The Latest: Six leaders square off in French-language debate in capital region

The Latest: Six leaders square off in French-language debate in capital region


GATINEAU, Que. — The Latest on the French-language leaders’ debate with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Green party Leader Elizabeth May, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier. All times are Eastern.

11:39 p.m.

Elizabeth May says after the election she wants to work with all elected leaders to try to end partisan bickering and fight climate change.

She is comparing the world’s refusal to strongly respond to the need for drastic climate change action with the world’s similar refusal to respond to fascism ahead of the Second World War.

May says she does intend to end fossil-fuel development in Canada by 2030 but will be there to help workers in the industry transition.

Maxime Bernier, the sixth and final leader to answer post-debate questions, says it is not the role of the Canadian government to give foreign aid funding to help build roads in Africa or help address climate change in other countries.

Bernier says he intends to slice $5 billion from Canada’s $6-billion foreign aid budget and only be there to help in the event of a humanitarian crisis.

11:10 p.m.

Jagmeet Singh evades questions about whether the NDP would support a Liberal minority government that moves forward with expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Singh, who issued six conditions for NDP support earlier today that did not include any mention of the pipeline, says he is opposed to the pipeline but that Canada now owns it and decisions about it have to be made reasonably and prudently.

Singh is the fourth of the six leaders to answer questions from the media following the debate.

He refused to answer a question from a representative of Rebel News Network, saying he would happily answer the same question if it were posed by someone else.

On Bill 21, Singh says he has been clear that he will be focused on changing people’s hearts and minds.

10:57 p.m.

Speaking to reporters after the debate, Andrew Scheer says he absolutely believes that Yves-Francois Blanchet, the day after the election, will begin working with the Parti Quebecois in Quebec to revive Quebec separatism.

Scheer, who pushed the Bloc Quebecois leader on the topic during the debate, said it’s not an opinion, it’s a fact.

He also denied that his party is participating in the spread of innuendo and unsubstantiated internet rumours by issuing a press release this week about those rumours and Justin Trudeau.

He says asking Trudeau to come clean about things is totally appropriate.

Like Trudeau, Scheer says he is working for a majority government, and that Quebec residents want to be at the decision-making table.

10:45 p.m.

Yves-Francois Blanchet tells reporters after the debate that Quebec sovereignty is not an issue right now and that the sovereigntist movement is going through a moment where it is redefining itself.

He says the other leaders are becoming more aggressive against the Bloc, which he says might mean the party is getting more respect.

Blanchet defends his decision to keep candidates who made Islamophobic and racist statements, saying they were “severely reprimanded,” they apologized, and he believes all leaders are on the same wavelength about candidates who said bad things in the past.

Blanchet says he would absolutely not prop up a Conservative or a Liberal government in a minority situation because he would not be in Parliament to do anything but speak up for Quebec.

Blanchet says he will vote for things that are good for Quebec, and against things that are bad for Quebec.

“Quebec at several times has had a lot of Bloc MPs and it didn’t hurt us,” he says.

Blanchet says he feels the debate had a free flow of ideas, was rather elegant without too many “low blows.”

10:32 p.m.

Justin Trudeau is the first leader to take questions after the debate, with many of them asking him what he will do about the values test Quebec Premier Francois Legault intends to impose on people who want to immigrate to Quebec.

Trudeau says it is entirely up to Quebec to decide what questions to ask people but that there will be no values test for obtaining Canadian citizenship.

He says he won’t discuss hypotheticals when asked what he would do if those questions are about religion.

He also says, answering a different question, that there is no pipeline in the works that would cross Quebec, but there is no social license for a pipeline in Quebec and he will not impose one on Quebec, unlike Andrew Scheer.

Trudeau is stonyfaced but calm as he faced questions about unsubstantiated internet rumours and answered them directly, telling questioners the allegations they were raising were completely false.

Trudeau won’t say which party he would prefer to work with if he wins a minority government, saying instead he is focused on winning a majority government to have a strong mandate to implement the climate-change policies in the face of Conservative and provincial opposition.

10:15 p.m.

The moderator, Patrice Roy, asks a question about Bill 21, the Quebec bill which bars some public servants from wearing religious symbols at work. Roy says he thinks the leaders are being cautious to not upset Quebec voters.

All the leaders generally reiterate their previous statements, with Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer saying Quebec jurisdiction should be honoured, Jagmeet Singh saying he will fight discrimination but not the bill, and Justin Trudeau saying he would intervene only after the conclusion of an ongoing Quebec court challenge.

Somehow discussions on Bill 21 pivot to abortion when Singh accuses Trudeau of not protecting a woman’s right to choose in New Brunswick because the only standalone clinic in New Brunswick that provides abortions is closing.

Trudeau says he is very concerned about the decision in New Brunswick made by the Conservative government there, which he says is the danger with Scheer, who he says will not defend the rights of women.

Scheer says he absolutely will not change anything about abortion rights in Canada, just as the last Conservative government did not.

Then he pivots to separatism to accuse Blanchet of planning to work with the Parti Quebecois to stir up separatism chatter after the election and Blanchet tells Scheer he is moving on the right to help Quebec achieve sovereignty.

Elizabeth May says this is not an issue for the federal election, and says Bill 21 has had more discussion than climate change. Then after Blanchet and Scheer go at it again, May throws up her arms.

“Please stop squabbling! I would like to speak a bit,” she says.

As the debate begins to near the end, Roy asks a question about the SNC-Lavalin issue and whether the leaders think the company should get an agreement to avoid its criminal charges for foreign fraud and bribery.

After Bernier says no company is above the law, Singh says he is sad to say, but “this is the only time I will agree with Mr. Bernier in my life.”

Trudeau says almost all Canadian allies in Europe have a deferred prosecution agreement system to allow companies to change their behaviour without punishing workers but then insists the decision to give such an agreement is entirely up to the attorney general.”

Blanchet says Trudeau is right that most other countries have similar laws and accuses Bernier and Singh play the “Quebec is corrupt” card, and says the current SNC-Lavalin employees and executives “are not crooks.”

Scheer says the “jewel of our country” is the independence of the judiciary and says Trudeau tried to butt in. When he didn’t get the decision he wanted he fired his attorney general.

As Scheer is talking at Trudeau, Trudeau faces forward and looks down towards the floor.

The final question of the night is about candidates who say things that are racist or sexist, with Roy noting that all the parties have had to deal with this. Singh and Trudeau both say apologies are fine as long as they are accompanied with a sincere willingness to learn and change.

Blanchet says he understands why this question is being asked tonight and says if any of the candidates hadn’t apologized they wouldn’t be candidates anymore. There were five Bloc candidates accused today of saying racist and Islamophobic things.

Scheer answers the question by saying the only candidate he knows that wouldn’t meet Conservative approval is Trudeau.

Bernier says “I’m not perfect. We’re not perfect. All the candidates have made mistakes.” It’s just important that they own their mistakes,” he says.

May says the election has spent an awful lot of time on small politics and not any time on working together to fight the climate emergency.

Roy thanks the leaders for their time and the debate ends.

9:44 p.m.

The fifth section of the debate is on identity and ethics in government.

A woman with multiple sclerosis says she has severe health issues and pain, bed sores and has to wear adult diapers. She asks about the Quebec court decision on assisted dying and whether the leaders support the judgment, which said the existing law is too restrictive.

Elizabeth May begins by expressing her sympathies and says yes, she does agree with the court.

Jagmeet Singh says he wants to give more power to people to die with dignity.

Yves-Francois Blanchet says yes, absolutely he agrees with the decision.

Justin Trudeau says he understands it’s a personal question and says he is going to amend the law in the next six months. He says the new law had to find a balance between respecting rights and choices and that the law has to evolve as society evolves.

Andrew Scheer says he will always respect court decisions but at the same time the court decision has to be evaluated.

Maxime Bernier says the legislation needs to be overhauled and that he voted for the original bill.

The moderator Patrice Roy tells the woman she is very courageous for sharing her story and asking her question, and all the leaders applaud her.

9:34 p.m.

Jagmeet Singh, Justin Trudeau, and Elizabeth May get the second three-way debate in the foreign policy section.

Singh takes on Blanchet’s saying earlier that voting for the Bloc is voting for Quebec, telling him: “You have no monopoly over Quebec.”

Trudeau says he was going to say the same thing because he is a proud Quebecer and a federalist. He says when he won in 2015 it brought an end to 10 years of Stephen Harper. He says Quebecers need to ask themselves if they want to be part of a government that wants to continue to fight against climate change, and for other priorities, or not.

May says Trudeau tried to hide changes to the immigration system in an omnibus bill.

Trudeau says she is “absolutely” wrong and that Canada needs a fair immigration system that protects human rights.

Singh says suspending the Safe Third Country Agreement would solve the problem and accuses Trudeau of not having the courage to do so because he won’t stand up to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trudeau says he would like to talk about the relationship with the United States because it is the most important relationship Canada has and says his government was able to save NAFTA against a difficult U.S. government.

Singh interjects that the new NAFTA is bad.

Trudeau is also asked whether he thinks irregular migration into Canada is a problem.

“Yes, it’s a problem,” he says, but Canada has a responsibility because there are more migrants around the world.

“There is no free pass to get through the border no matter how they arrive,” he says. He accuses some on the stage, without naming them, of spreading fear and hate.

Singh is asked if he believes in free trade and he says in his opinion it depends on the kind of trade. “If it’s good for workers then it’s good trade,” he says.

9:28 p.m.

The fourth section of the debate is about immigration. The first question comes from Philip Marcil in Moncton, who asks about Canada’s relationship with China and the protests in Hong Kong.

Maxime Bernier says getting the two Canadians detained in China freed is a priority, and threatens to impose tariffs on China if they’re needed to help Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Jagmeet Singh says he wants to know why Canada is still selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

Elizabeth May says the elephant in the room is an agreement with China that former prime minister Stephen Harper signed that gave Chinese investors the right to sue Canada over its environment legislation.

Justin Trudeau says Canada’s values should always be defended around the world.

Andrew Scheer says he is not surprised Trudeau is not respected by China because after his “disastrous trip to India,” most G20 leaders have no respect for Trudeau.

Bernier, Scheer and Yves-Francois Blanchet are now going head-to-head in a three-way debate.

Maxime Bernier says he is the only one on the stage to say no to Quebec’s demand to have control over Quebec immigration.

Blanchet says people say voting for the Bloc is voting for the Liberals or voting for the Bloc is voting for the Conservatives. “Voting for the Bloc is voting for Quebec,” he says.

Scheer and Blanchet then start yelling at each other, with Bernier yelling in the background and Roy struggles to get control.

“We have 48 seconds left, too bad for you,” said Roy.

Bernier accuses Roy of not being fair with the speaking time.

9:15 p.m.

Clocks on the stage say how much speaking time each of the leaders has had.

After the first hour of the debate, Justin Trudeau has had the most at 8 minutes, 29 seconds, following by Andrew Scheer with eight minutes. Yves-Francois Blanchet and Jagmeet Singh at about 7 1/2 minutes each. Maxime Bernier is just under seven minutes and Elizabeth May is last with just 6 minutes, 25 seconds.

The questions in the third section are about protecting private data from being breached, and whether the leaders support building a high-speed rail link between Quebec and Toronto.

All the leaders say they care very deeply about protecting privacy and will do something about it.

On the rail link there are four yes pledges from Singh, May, Trudeau and Scheer.

Blanchet calls the idea a sasquatch because we always talk about it but never see it. He says he doesn’t think that train is not going to “depart any time soon.”

Bernier says there is no money to pay for the project and he won’t buy people’s votes when the budget needs to be balanced.

9:05 p.m.

During the start of the three-way debates in the third section, the moderator accidentally calls Singh “Scheer” again — it happened many times in the English debate on Monday — and he laughs.

“Here we go again — and I wore my orange turban again,” Singh says, laughing.

The leaders seem better at not talking over each other in this section.

Singh mentions the Grassy Narrows community, which wants a treatment centre to help with mercury poisoning that has harmed people for decades.

Trudeau says there will be funding for a treatment centre in Grassy Narrows.

Blanchet says it is astonishing that Canada can find money to buy a pipeline but not to make sure Indigenous communities have clean water.

Roy asks Trudeau about the appeal of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order to compensate Indigenous children who were taken from their parents and put in foster care.

Trudeau says he is the champion of reconciliation and agrees with the tribunal those children need to be compensated but does not explain why the government is appealing the order.

May calls Trudeau on that, saying the lawyers for his government are contesting the results, so it just can’t be true that he is comfortable with the decision.

Trudeau says the timeline given to do it by December doesn’t work with the election, but insists his government would provide the compensation.

Trudeau says the Indian Act has to become a thing of the past but it has to be dismantled at the speed individual communities want and can move to do so.

8:56 p.m.

Helene Buzzetti from Le Devoir is the reporter to ask questions of each leader in the second section.

Buzzetti asks Andrew Scheer what he intends to cut to pay for his platform promises, including whether Scheer will keep the national long-form census that the former Conservative government cancelled and the Liberals restored.

Scheer says the census will stay.

Buzzetti asks Elizabeth May about the high costs of her platform — $70 billion — and May says her platform was given approval by former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page.

Buzzetti asks Yves-Francois Blanchet if he is only against fossil fuels when Alberta makes money because he has not spoken against oil transfers if they are Quebec projects. Blanchet says if Quebec wants a fossil-fuel project it is up to Quebec.

The third section of the debate is about services to citizens.

Citizen questioner Marc Gravel, in Mississauga, Ont., asks about trying to get services in French, such as French-speaking flight attendants or passport officers. He wants to know what tools the official languages commissioner will be given to ensure all francophones have adequate and equal services.

Scheer gives the first answer, and says French is not his first language and only learned it in an immersion school program because of his parents. He says he is always trying to improve his French. He also says he is supporting the development of a French-language university in Ontario.

Justin Trudeau says he is committed to modernizing the official languages act and he understands the fight people like Mr. Gravel face every day, and attacks the Ontario government’s cuts to French-language services.

8:45 p.m.

The second three-way debate in the economy section is among Andrew Scheer, Justin Trudeau and Maxime Bernier.

There is more tension and talking over each other in this section, with the moderator reminding them to speak one at a time because people at home can’t understand them otherwise.

Scheer goes hard at Trudeau, turning to face him and repeatedly waving his hand in his face.

Trudeau tends to speak facing forward, only occasionally turning to look at Scheer beside him.

The two accuse each other of hiding the true costs of their platforms.

Trudeau tells Scheer his accusations are “ridiculous,” causing Scheer to throw back his head in disgust. Scheer says the Conservative promises were all costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Bernier accuses them both of spending too much and running too many deficits.

8:40 p.m.

The second section is about the economy and finance, and the question from the audience is posed by a senior, Marie St. Jean, who wants to know what the parties are doing for seniors.

Elizabeth May starts her answer by apologizing for forgetting to mention they are on unceded Algonquin territory. She also says she is a senior herself — and is the only one on the stage — but that she isn’t going to retire soon.

All the leaders profess to be there to help seniors. Moderator Patrice Roy asks St. Jean after the answers if she knows better who she wants to vote for and she says all the platforms are interesting but “in four years we will see.”

The first three-way debate this time is among Jagmeet Singh, May and Yves-Francois Blanchet. Roy points out none of them are offering tax cuts. “Do you not think the middle class needs a break?”

All three of them defend their decision not to offer tax breaks, with Singh saying the goal is to raise more money by a tax on the “ultra-rich.”

Blanchet proposes a single-tax return for Quebec, but notes the Bloc will only “bring that question to Ottawa” which points to the criticism many leaders throw his way: that he can’t actually do anything he promises to do because his party has no opportunity to form the government.

They are also asked about deficits. Singh continually goes after Trudeau for being all talk and no action, and giving money to the rich and powerful.

Blanchet says the deficit should be cut in half but says that requires new revenue streams and not from taxpayers but from web giants and things the government can sell like the Trans Mountain pipeline.

8:30 p.m.

May, Trudeau and Blanchet debate amongst themselves. Roy asks them about the carbon tax and where they intend to raise the price.

Trudeau says the plan is to increase the tax to $50 a tonne. He says the Liberals are doing other things including planting two billion trees, banning single-use plastics. He says they have already done more than any other government in Canadian history.

May says there have to be targets in line with advice from scientists. She says Trudeau’s target is the same as Stephen Harper’s target and it’s not enough. May says her plan is possible, trying to push back against some analyses of her platform which say her plan is not realistic.

Blanchet says we should only use oil that is not burned, and that a date should be put on getting there. He says he wants a green equalization, the provinces that pollute the most have to pay into the fund and the provinces that perform better get money.

Trudeau says that highlights his challenge, that as the Bloc he cannot propose a pan-Canadian plan and can’t stand up against premiers who don’t want to act.

May says there is a climate emergency, and that there is no other leader on stage that has a workable plan to avoid the worst. “Our house is on fire,” she says.

8:15 p.m.

Everyone takes their positions at the podiums. Left to right, with their backs to the audience, are Blanchet, Scheer, Trudeau, Bernier, May and Singh.

The debate is hosted by Patrice Roy with assistance from a handful of other journalists. The first section is on the environment and energy. There are five sections total.

The first question of the evening comes from Elizabeth Darveau in Trois-Rivieres, Que., who asks what each leader’s concrete plan is to fight climate change.

Justin Trudeau says the fight against climate change is essential and reiterates the need to stand up to Conservatives like Jason Kenney who don’t want to do anything on climate change.

Maxime Bernier is the second to answer. He says no other parties will be able to reach the emissions targets of the Paris accord because it would take a carbon tax of $300 and Canada’s total emissions are only two per cent of global emissions. He says the other leaders on the stage are hypocritical.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh goes third. He says what the NDP are proposing are to not buy a pipeline like Trudeau did but end subsidies to the oil patch and reinvest that into renewable energy, massively in public transit.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer goes fourth. He says as a father of five children he wants to make sure the next generation has a cleaner environment. He says Trudeau’s plan is a failure and mentions the first thing he did was to authorize the release of eight billion litres of sewage.

Yves-Francois Blanchet is fifth. He says the subsidies to big oil need to stop, $10 billion a year.

Elizabeth May says we are too close to a point of no return and says the Green Party is the only party that has a platform that is in line with the advice of IPCC scientists. She mentions the war cabinet for climate change she has promised.

7:57 p.m.

All six leaders are coming onto the stage for a photo op and to shake hands. There are some cheers from the live audience in the theatre as the leaders are introduced.

6:12 p.m.

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier is the sixth and final leader to arrive at the debate.

He speaks with a very small number of supporters of his who are standing outside, before entering the building.

Some of the people gathered outside for other parties are booing as he walks in.

Bernier is being asked if he will win his own seat and says, “Just watch me.”

He is running in Beauce, a riding he has represented since 2006 but as a Conservative until last year.

He is running for the first time as the leader of the party he started.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May tells people she is disappointed by comments from several Bloc Quebecois candidates considered to be racist and Islamophobic.

Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet apologized for the comments today and says the candidates have apologized as well and will be allowed to continue.

May says she expects such comments from Bernier’s candidates but not the Bloc.

5:55 p.m.

Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May arrives at the museum, pulling up in an electric car.

May greets her supporters across the driveway from the museum entrance, hugging people along the fence, waving and smiling.

When NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh arrived, his supporters cheered and welcomed him, and he went over for greetings and hugs.

Detractors chanted “Tom Mulcair!” at him.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer are all now at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. for the final leaders’ debate of the campaign.

The official national French-language debate is to begin at 8 p.m. and run for two hours.

Outside the museum supporters from all parties line the driveway waving signs and various placards.

Green supporters hold a giant ball that looks like the planet Earth.

Scheer arrived at the museum with his wife, Jill, while Liberal supporters outside waved American flags, chanted “U.S.A.” and, as Scheer passed, broke into a round of the Star Spangled Banner.

Some chanted “We want Peter!” in reference to a Globe and Mail report that some Conservatives are looking to former minister Peter MacKay as a successor if Scheer falls short Oct. 21.

Some kids standing with the NDP crowd responded, “We want pizza!”


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