Canada’s federal party leaders officially kicked off the election campaign this week, making speeches across the country and laying out reasons why they are the best option to run the country following the Oct. 21 election.
Leaders from the Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green Party and Bloc Quebecois all made statements on their goals for Canada’s future, highlighted key election issues for their party and responded to some heavily debated issues, including the SNC-Lavalin affair and Quebec’s controversial secularism law.
Justin Trudeau: ‘We’re just getting started’
Justin Trudeau began his speech to Canadians by recognizing the lives of people who were impacted by the Sept. 11 attacks in New York 18 years ago.
He quickly transitioned to speaking about his party’s success to date, including the reduction in the country’s poverty rate, job creation and renegotiating NAFTA.
“I am focused on making the right choices for Canadians,” Trudeau said. “We are all in for building a better future for Canadians.”
He also criticized previous Conservative policies, implemented by former prime minister Stephen Harper, referring to his time in the office as “a decade of failed Conservative policy.”
“Cuts and austerity were the answers to everything,” Trudeau said. “Our team rejected the cuts and the austerity of the Harper years.”
Trudeau said his party “is just getting started” and maintains a commitment to the middle class, stating that the Conservative government will “cut taxes for the wealthy and cut services for everyone else.”
When asked about the SNC-Lavalin affair, Trudeau said he respects the decisions made but once again, stressed that he will always stand up for Canadian jobs.
“To stand up for and defend Canadians jobs…that’s what I will continue to do,” he said.
This follows a story published by The Globe and Mail that states that the federal government has blocked the RCMP’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice in the handing of the SNC-Lavalin prosecution due to it’s “refusal to lift cabinet confidentiality for all witnesses.”
Quebec’s secularism law, Bill 21, was also a topic of discussion and Trudeau said that he is “concerned” but said it is “counterproductive for the federal government to intervene.
“I do not believe that in a free society one should legitimize or allow discrimination against anyone,” Trudeau said.
Andrew Scheer: ‘Liar’
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer reiterated that Trudeau is a “liar” and needs to be held accountable for his actions, particularly with regards to the SNC-Lavalin affair.
“I stopped believing him when it was proven that he lied to Canadians,” Scheer said. “This is about showing to Canadians that Justin Trudeau has lost the authority to govern.”
After hearing Trudeau’s speech, Scheer said that he lied today as he had lied in the past, and has “refused to allow his ministers to speak” through cabinet confidentiality.
Aside from SNC-Lavalin, the Conservative leader referred to Trudeau as a “Millionaire Liberal” who is out of touch with Canadians because he “never had to work a job he didn’t like” and never experienced the struggles that most Canadians face, like personally funding their post-secondary education.
Scheer made is formal comments in Trois-Rivere, Que., stating that Canadians should expect his party to have an increased presence in the province after the election.
“We are going to win seats all over Quebec, we are going to surprise people,” Scheer said.
The Conservative leader spoke to Quebec’s secularism law as well, saying that his party will stand up for Canadians, the rights of freedom of religion and expression, but they do not intend to intervene in the provincial issue.
“Not something our party would consider at the federal level,” Scheer said.
Jagmeet Singh: ‘Pretty words and empty promises’
Despite slumping in the pre-election polls, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said Canadians need to elect a government that has the “courage” to take of lobbyists, large corporations and big polluters in an effort to “take care of one another.”
“We live in a country where the rich are getting richer…where the majority of the population does not have access to the same benefits,” Singh said in London, Ont.
He went on to say that Trudeau has said “pretty words and empty promises” and “does whatever the wealthy and powerful corporations want him to do.”
Singh added that Scheer will just “cut taxes for the wealthy” while they “cut services your family counts on.”
Despite initially shying away from speaking about his personal struggles as the federal NDP leader, Singh went on to address how physical appearance has impacted his personal journey, saying that there are many Canadians who face hurdles do to their religion, gender, physical appearance, sexual orientation, among other factors.
“It’s not different than many people in Canada,” Singh said. “I hope people can see in me someone who understands those realities.”
“I never imagined that someone who looked like me would be running to prime minister.”
Elizabeth May: ‘Greens don’t split votes, Greens grow votes’
Elizabeth May gave a particularly passionate speech on Wednesday, saying that this is “the most important election in Canadian history.”
As expected, May stressed the importance of tackling the global “climate emergency” and allowing Canada to be leaders in the movement across the world.
“Our pledge as adults is that we will never abandon our children…protect the future for our children and grandchildren and it’s not something that can be negotiated,” May said.
“It’s been petty, short term political considerations…its time for every so-called leader…to join us and accept the targets that have been driven by science.”
May went on to say that Canadians should “vote for what we believe in and vote for what we want,” while saying that her party will “stand firm” in their beliefs, including a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion.
With regards to Pierre Nantel, a former NDP candidate who is now running under the Green Party, May said she believes he is not a separatist, but a “strong Quebecer in the context of Canada.”
Yves-Francois Blanchet: ‘Who will preserve and protect the interests of Quebec?’
As expected, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet focused his speech on his intention to make decisions based the needs of the people in Quebec.
The party leader said that Quebec has “flirted” with the Liberal, Conservative and NDP.
“We’ve known the Harper years and we have firmly decided of not to go back there,” Blanchet said. “We had a few years relationship with an important number of NDP MP and it has...not given anything back to Quebecers.”
“We are coming out of four years in the Trudeau regime who have gone against the interest of Quebec”
The party leader stated that they must create a model that ensure that the interests of Quebec families and companies are put forward.
So what issue is most important to you leading up to the election on Oct. 21? Vote in the poll above and leave your thoughts in the comments below.