Second leaders debate: ‘I’m sorry Mr. Trudeau, but it’s an undesired election’

Second leaders debate: 'I’m sorry Mr. Trudeau, but it’s an undesired election'
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LIVE NOW: Watch an English translation of the debate of the two-hour French-language debate and follow our live coverage

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The Liberals’ Justin Trudeau, the Conservatives’ Erin O’Toole, the Bloc Quebecois’ Yves-Francois Blanchet and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh and Green Party of Canada Leader Annamie Paul are facing off tonight in the second of three federal election debates. The Peoples’ party’s Maxime Bernier did not meet the independent commission’s criteria for participation.

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The two-hour French-language debate starts at 8 p.m. ET tonight and is taking place at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. You can watch an English translation of the debate and follow our live coverage at the bottom of this post.

Debate highlights:

• Trudeau was put on the spot right from the start of the debate.

“I’m sorry Mr. Trudeau, but it’s an undesired election,” moderator Patrice Roy began during a question to Justin Trudeau on if he’d respect a four-year mandate regardless of the outcome (minority or majority) of the Sept. 20 election.

After some sparring about vaccine mandidates, O’Toole got to heart of matter by again asking Trudeau: Why call an election in the middle of a pandemic?

Trudeau responded: “It’s precisely because Canadians need a say on how we get out of this, and should have a say.”

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Green Leader Annamie Paul said, “The fact that we are in an election is a consequence of the fact that we are not looking to work together, that things have become hyper partisan.”

• Back to mandates, O’Toole says vaccines are essential, but we don’t need a “divisive” approach on vaccines, and suggests rapid testing is also part of the solution.

“Viewers can see how deep the differences are in our positions as to how the pandemic should be handled,” Trudeau retorted at one point.

• On the subject of labour shortages, the only leader to suggest suspending the Canada Recovery Benefit was Bloc leader Blanchet. The others all mentioned a combination of immigration and training.

Trudeau said that labour shortages have been a problem long before the CRB started.

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• Trudeau was asked about inflation and the impact it has on people’s groceries and other bills.

He says the government will manage inflation, but is not specific about how.

• Blanchet said his condition for supporting a minority government  is a significant increase in health transfers, $28 billion, plus annual six per cent increases.

• On daycare, Annamie Paul asked the other leaders to listen to the only woman on the panel, and said it is unfortunate that the promise of universal daycare that has been made for decades didn’t happen in the last parliamentary session.

•  Asked by an 11-year-old what they will do to reduce greenhouse gasses. Trudeau points to the government’s net-zero legislation, O’Toole touts the Conservative plan to reduce gasses, and Paul says on the climate the Greens are the only choice.

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• Trudeau, asked about the Liberal government missing its greenhouse gas targets, says the Conservatives would return to Stephen Harper’s policies. O’Toole says Canadians deserve a government that meets its targets.

The debate will be divided into five segments based on five themes: climate, cost of living and public finances, Indigenous peoples, cultural industries and cultural identity, justice and foreign policy, and pandemic and healthcare. Each segment will include a question from a voter, leader-to-leader debate
leader-to-leader-to-leader debate, a question from a journalist to each leader and open debate (all five leaders). The moderator is Patrice Roy of Radio-Canada.

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O’Toole’s momentum seems to have stalled as Conservative and Liberal support is at a deadlock just hours before the second French debate, according to a new Postmedia-Leger poll.

“We have a neck-and-neck race,” Leger executive vice-president Andrew Enns said in an interview.

The Conservatives and Liberals are both scoring 33 per cent among decided voters, according to the poll, which surveyed 3,000 Canadians via an online panel between Sept. 3 and 6.

Will the two last debates in this election move the needle?

It will be difficult, Enns says, as the latest poll shows that a whopping 68 per cent of Canadians say they are not likely to change their current ballot choice before the end of the election, and only 54 per cent say they are likely to watch any of the two clashes between party leaders.

If anything, the French TVA debate last Thursday did little to affect voting intentions either in Canada or in Quebec, where Liberal (34 per cent) and Conservative (21 per cent) support bumped up one point, whereas the Bloc Québécois (27 per cent) and the NDP (12 per cent) dropped by one.

The final — and only English — debate will be held on Sept. 9 (English) in Gatineau, Que.

Follow our live coverage and analysis of the two-hour debate, below. Can’t see our liveblog? View it on nationalpost.com.

National Post, with files from The Canadian Press

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