Party lead­ers fight for po­lit­i­cal lives in French de­bate

Edmonton Sun - - FRONT PAGE -

OT­TAWA — The dom­i­nance of cli­mate change as a key is­sue in the fed­eral election cam­paign con­tin­ued Thurs­day night, oc­cu­py­ing the first seg­ment of the fi­nal sched­uled de­bate among the six lead­ers.

Lib­eral Leader Justin Trudeau sought im­me­di­ately to po­si­tion him­self in con­trast with his main op­po­nent, Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer, though with­out even men­tion­ing Scheer’s name. He sim­ply al­luded to other con­ser­va­tive lead­ers in Canada, say­ing the Lib­er­als are ready to stand up to Al­berta Premier Ja­son Ken­ney, On­tario Premier Doug Ford and the oil in­dus­try.

Scheer’s con­ser­vatism was also at­tacked from the other di­rec­tion by Peo­ple’s Party of Canada Maxime Bernier, who sought to paint his for­mer Con­ser­va­tive party col­league as sim­ply an­other ver­sion of the Lib­er­als. Po­si­tion­ing his own party as far more con­ser­va­tive than the one he left has been a key strat­egy for Bernier.

“Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Scheer have the same stance on cli­mate change,” he al­leged, be­fore fur­ther at­tack­ing one pil­lar of Scheer’s ap­proach to ad­dress emis­sions abroad.

Bloc Que­be­cois Leader Yves-fran­cois Blanchet, mean­while, at­tacked Scheer’s pro­posal for a coast-to-coast en­ergy cor­ri­dor as just one of many im­po­si­tions on Que­bec’s au­thor­ity.

Thurs­day night’s French de­bate got off to a much less fran­tic start than the of­fi­cially sanc­tioned English de­bate on Mon­day, also at the Cana­dian Mu­seum of History in Gatineau, Que.

But in seg­ments where the group of six were di­vided into smaller groups of three, tem­pers flared quickly and of­ten, es­pe­cially when Trudeau and Scheer were pitted against each other in a seg­ment on the econ­omy, each ac­cus­ing the other of un­truths and ex­ag­ger­a­tions.

Scheer also took heat Thurs­day night for the fact his plat­form has yet to be fully pub­lished; it is ex­pected to be re­leased, along with a full cost­ing, on Fri­day.

Mon­day’s two-hour con­test had faced lengthy bouts of crosstalk and mud­sling­ing and sev­eral lead­ers had com­plained the for­mat didn’t al­low enough time to get their points across.

Still, voter sur­veys had sug­gested the two pre­vi­ous tele­vised de­bates gave a boost to the NDP and Bloc Que­be­cois, but didn’t move the nee­dle for the front-run­ning Lib­er­als and Con­ser­va­tives.

With 78 seats in Que­bec, the prov­ince holds ma­jor sway over whether the election ends with a ma­jor­ity or mi­nor­ity Par­lia­ment and all six lead­ers were in some sense fight­ing for their po­lit­i­cal lives on Thurs­day.

The NDP’S con­tin­ued loss of sup­port in a prov­ince that once handed them Of­fi­cial Op­po­si­tion sta­tus is a con­tin­ued sore point for leader Jag­meet Singh. Ear­lier Thurs­day, he had dis­missed the fact the Bloc Que­be­cois is pick­ing up some of those vot­ers but went af­ter their en­vi­ron­ment stance Thurs­day night.

Mean­while, Scheer was widely con­sid­ered to have taken the hard­est hit in Que­bec af­ter the pre­vi­ous French-lan­guage de­bate put on by tele­vi­sion net­work TVA, and though his aides had been bullish on Tory chances in the prov­ince, they’ve now di­alled back that en­thu­si­asm.

Thurs­day night was also the first time Green Party Leader El­iz­a­beth May was able to de­bate in French, she’d been left off the stage dur­ing the TVA con­test ear­lier in the cam­paign, though com­mented along on so­cial media.

Thurs­day’s de­bate fea­tured five themes: econ­omy and fi­nances, en­vi­ron­ment and en­ergy, for­eign pol­icy and im­mi­gra­tion, iden­tity ethics and gover­nance and ser­vices to cit­i­zens.

Ahead of the de­bates, the Con­ser­va­tives and Lib­er­als had sought to en­er­gize their re­spec­tive supporters by tak­ing jabs at each other.

The Lib­er­als re­leased new ads on Thurs­day that took aim at Scheer, hop­ing to de­flect from scru­tiny of Trudeau him­self with the Lib­eral leader say­ing in one ad that Scheer “wants you to think this election is about me — I think it’s about you.”

The Con­ser­va­tives fired back on Face­book with a video urg­ing Trudeau to fire for­mer cabi­net min­is­ter and Toronto can­di­date Judy Sgro, who told a ra­dio sta­tion that her black con­stituents in Toronto told her they loved Trudeau even more af­ter learn­ing he wore black­face. Sgro has apol­o­gized.

Trudeau has like­wise apol­o­gized for wear­ing brown­face and black­face, which he says he now un­der­stands to be racist, af­ter a se­ries of images of him from 2001 and the 1990s rocked his cam­paign last month.

SEAN Kilpatrick/getty IMAGES

Jag­meet Singh, left, El­iz­a­beth May, Maxime Bernier, Pa­trice Roy, Justin Trudeau, An­drew Scheer, and Yves-fran­cois Blanchet ap­pear at the Cana­dian Mu­seum of History in Gatineau, Que., yes­ter­day.

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