'You're a phony, you're a fraud': Canada's leaders trade blows in heated election debate

(From L) Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh pose for a photograph before the Federal Leaders Debate in Gatineau, Quebec on October 7, 2019. (Photo by Sean Kilpatrick / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SEAN KILPATRICK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

On Monday night, all six on Canada’s federal party leaders participated in an English-language debate at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. The event was filled with some messy discussions and a few particularly pointed responses as the Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green Party, Bloc Quebecois and People’s Party of Canada leaders tried to gain support from Canadians two weeks before election day.

If you didn’t get the chance to sit through two-hour debate, here are five of the top moments that you missed.

Trudeau, Scheer tussle on national stage

Throughout the election campaign, the Liberal and Conservative parties have been neck-and-neck in the polls, with one party or the other pushing slightly ahead on any given week.

The two party leaders took the opportunity in the debate to go head-to-head, with some fiery discussions between them.

The first question of the night asked the leaders to answer how each of them would effectively defend the interests and values of Canadians on the world stage.

Scheer took the early opportunity to bring up Trudeau’s brownface scandal, saying the Liberal leader is a “phoney and a fraud” and should not be prime minister.

Later in the evening, the Conservative leader directed a question to Trudeau that brought up the SNC-Lavalin incidents and the Liberal leader’s questionable actions in the company’s prosecution.

Trudeau responded by saying that Scheer is the one who will give tax-breaks for people making $400,000 a year and Canadians can’t even see the full Conservative platform.

“Half of your platform isn’t even costed,” Scheer said.

“You’re the one who is hiding your platform for Canadians,” Trudeau responded.

Further on tax cuts, Scheer continued to criticize the Liberal Party’s proposals.

“Our universal tax cut is much better for middle income Canadians than his proposal,” Scheer said, adding that Trudeau thinks Canadians making $40,000 a year are “too rich” for tax cuts.

The Conservative leader even urged Trudeau think about provincial politics instead of being Canada’s prime minister.

“You seem to be oddly obsessed with provincial politics,” Scheer said, recommending that Trudeau run for the position of the Ontario Liberal Party leader instead.

May steals final word on women’s rights

The Trudeau vs. Scheer saga of the evening continued when the Liberal leader accused leader of the Conservative Party of stripping women of their reproductive rights, if elected prime minister.

“Mr. Scheer, you won’t defend a woman’s right to choose,” Trudeau said. “You’ve dismissed LGBT protections. You haven’t apologized for your words against LGBT Canadians years ago, will you recognize and apologize for that?”

“I am personally pro-life,” Scheer said in response, adding that it is alright for people to have differing opinions on the topic in Canada.

After some time passed, with the party leaders talking over each other, Elizabeth May (the only female party leader) spoke up about the question of women’s rights.

“It’s been really interesting for most of this campaign to hear a lot of men arguing about what a woman’s rights should be,” the Green Party leader said.

She added that no party leader should retreat “a single inch” on the “hard-earned rights” of women in Canada.

May also criticized the decision by TVA to keep her off of the televised French debate on Oct. 2, which was attended by Trudeau, Scheer, Singh and Blanchet.

“You participated in a debate, which did not let our little girls see that there’s a chance for a woman in this country to be prime minister, to run as the leader of a party,” she said.

Jagmeet’s jabs

But it wasn’t just May who put an end to Trudeau and Scheer’s bickering. The NDP leader came prepared to tell Canadians that they don’t have to choose between those two parties.

While Trudeau and Scheer were debating which party’s climate targets are more realistic and effective, Singh interjected by saying Canadian “do not need to choose between Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny.”

“There is another option,” the NDP leader added.

When the Liberal and Conservative leaders were debating who’s platform is more transparent, leading into a discussion about the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Singh went back in with another one-liner to put an end to the back-and-forth.

“What we have here is Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Scheer arguing about who’s worse for Canada,” the NDP leader said, followed by a laugh from the crowd.

In another moment, Trudeau mixed up the NDP Leader’s name with the Conservative leader’s, also resulting in a quick and response from Singh.

“I’m very, very different from Mr. Scheer,” the NDP leader said. “Nothing in common here, man.”

Bernier was the odd man out

Maxime Bernier was the last addition to the debate, as the federal Leaders' Debates Commission initially did not see the People’s Party of Canada having a "legitimate chance" of electing multiple MPs.

But he was in fact invited to the debate, with one of the early discussions of the night focused on whether he has the right “temperament” to be the next prime minister, particularly with regards to his controversial views on immigration and climate change.

“I’m saying that we must have fewer immigrants in this country...it’s time to have a discussion about the immigration,” Bernier said.

The other party leaders seemed to be in agreement that the People’s Party of Canada leader should not be Canada’s next prime minister.

“What you’re going to do is not going to help anybody,” Singh said.

“You can be proud of our identity...while still welcoming people from all around the world,” Scheer said. “That is something that has made Canada strong...You can do that without insulting people.”

“Somebody invoking the truth should not be someone denying climate change,” Blanchet added.

Trudeau said that Bernier is trying to make Canadians fearful of immigrants, but that he is “saying publicly what Mr. Scheer thinks privately.”

Following the debate, Bernier was pleased that he had the opportunity to share his platform with Canadians in the debate and maintained his position on both immigration and climate change.

“I’m a voice for the big majority of Canadians who want fewer immigrants,” he said to reporters. “The climate is always changing. I don’t believe that the main reason for that is the human activity on this planet.”

Singh was a strong critic on Bernier being invited to participate in the debate with his party’s controversial proposed policies, a position the NDP leader still maintained once it concluded on Monday night.

“I made my position really clear on that and nothing’s changed,” Singh said. “It’s divisive and I don’t think that has a place.”

Bill 21, Quebec’s religious symbols ban

A topic of discussion on multiple occasions throughout the debate was Bill 21, Quebec’s religious symbols ban.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was asked if he becomes prime minister, would he would “stand back” and allow Quebec to “discriminate against its citizens.” He responded by saying that, as many would expect, he does not support Bill 21 but will not intervene in the court proceedings.

“It is something that hurts me, makes me feel said,” Singh said in his response. “I think about all the times I grew up being told that I couldn’t do things because of the way I looked.”

Trudeau followed by saying he finds it “surprising” that the NDP leader won’t consider intervening in the question of Bill 21 if he is elected prime minister. The Liberal Party leader maintains that he “leaves the door open” to intervene.

“Every single day of my life is fighting a bill like Bill 21,” Singh said.

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet jumped into the conversation by saying that “Quebec does not need to be told what to do or what not to do about its own values, not its language, nor itself as a nation.”

“With 70 per cent of the population of Quebec supporting the Bill 21...it’s not really a polarization issues in Quebec, that’s the problem,” Blanchet said.

To reporters following the debate, Singh specified that if Bill 21 made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, “of course, the prime minister will look into it,” but he does not intend to interfere in that court challenge before that point.

Quebec also became a topic of discussion when Blanchet was asked about equalization payments, which the party leader says are based on “flawed reasonings.”

Trudeau stated that they exist to maintain a level of fairness across the country and criticized Blanchet’s values.

“Unfortunately, you, Mr. Blanchet, as a sovereigntist, are always looking for opportunities to create fights between Quebec and the rest of Canada to advance your sovereigntist agenda,” he said.

“What can a Canadian do that a Quebecer cannot do,” Blanchet directed at the Liberal Party leader.

“A Quebecer is a Canadian and will remain a Canadian under my watch,” Trudeau said in response.

Who do you think will be Canada’s next prime minister? Follow our Federal Election Candidate Tracker for the latest on all the leaders and their policies.