On Thursday evening, federal NDP, Conservative and Green Party leaders participated in the first debate of the 2019 election campaign, hosted by Maclean’s and Citytv.
The event started with the acknowledgement that Justin Trudeau was noticeably absent from the debate, with an empty podium setup in his place - and reference throughout the discussion. Every party took the opportunity to mark the absence on social media:
Getting ready for tonight’s @macleans @City_tv debate. There are four podiums but only three leaders will show up. Trudeau keeps running away from his record instead of running on it.— Andrew Scheer (@AndrewScheer) September 12, 2019
Looking forward to talking about my plan to help all Canadians get ahead! Tune in at 8PM EST. pic.twitter.com/ujoExW522x
“We left the invitation and his podium open right up until airtime,” the debate’s moderator Paul Wells said.
If you missed out on the live two hour event, here are five moments you must see:
Andrew Scheer called out for ‘wrong language’
The Conservative leader was called out by Elizabeth May and Jagmeet Singh for using “inappropriate” language during discussion around Indigenous issues in Canada.
“We cannot create a system in this country where one group of individuals, one Indigenous community, can hold hostage large projects that employ so many Indigenous Canadians,” Andrew Scheer said in a response to a question about Bill 262.
The bill died in the Senate after Conservative opposition but would require Canada to align its laws with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
“You use the language like ‘hold hostage,’ that’s incredibly disrespectful,” Singh said.
“The language you are using is so inappropriate when talking about Indigenous Canadians,” May said in her response. “Consulting is not, I will consult with you until you agree with what we’ve already decided to do.”
Scheer went on to communicate that if this bill was seen through, it would result in the blockage of projects that employ Indigenous Canadians.
Elizabeth May ‘putting Mr. Scheer in the prime minister’s seat’
Although much of the debate was focused on the NDP and Green Party leaders refuting claims by Scheer, Singh made a statement near the end of the night that certainly did not sit well with May.
“When it comes down to it we have a solid position, unlike the Greens, on a woman’s right to choose,” Singh said. “We have a solid position when it comes down to national unity, we have a belief that we can’t leave workers behind.”
“We strongly believe that we should not be putting Mr. Scheer in the prime minister’s seat, unlike Ms. May and the Green Party who believe that’s the right choice.”
The comment happened during a discussion about May’s plan to retrofit every building in Canada to make them all carbon neutral in 10 years, and how the party plans to work with provincial leaders Jason Kenney in Alberta and Doug Ford in Ontario on this “ambitious” plan.
“Those are absurd statements,” the Green Party leader responded. “I am not going to go down the little rabbit hole that Mr. Singh just created, people can check, none of what he said is true.”
Andrew Scheer compared to Donald Trump
In a debate on Canada’s foreign affairs policy, which tackled the relationship with China, the new NAFTA agreement and the country’s NATO commitment, the Green Party leader compared Scheer to U.S. President Donald Trump, specifically with regards to his desire to move the Canadian Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“I looked at your policies on foreign policy today Andrew and I realized, if anyone wants to know where you stand just figure out what Trump wants,” May said.
“You will do what Trump wants. He might as well be the ventriloquist and you’re Charlie McCarthy.”
Scheer went on to say that Canada “has an obligation to support the democratic state of Israel” and will be an “unapologetic defender.”
Singh said that Scheer’s support of Trump’s policies and the fact that he is “not willing to condemn Mr. Trump for his horrible treatment of others human beings” shows that he lacks the strength to be a leader, as does Trudeau, according to the NDP leader.
Andrew Scheer is ‘instilling fear in people’
A question posed by Wells got particularly derailed, when the NDP leader transitioned a question about Scheer’s previous pro-brexit comments to a conversation about asylum seekers.
“What I’m concerned about, but not surprised about Paul is that...when Mr. Scheer talked about being pro-Brexit and he’s had some association with yellow vesters, it seems to be this idea of instilling fear people,” Singh said.
Scheer responded by saying that Singh’s claims are not true and added that the NDP leader was “making things up” and he should “try to stick to the facts.”
A personal anecdote on Quebec’s secularism law
Quebec’s secularism law continues to be a topic of discussion throughout the start of the election campaign.
Singh answered the question about the law on Thursday night with a personal statement about him feeling like his physical appearance impacted his ability to do things.
“I think about what this bill says to a lot of kids who feel like they don’t belong because of the way they look,” Singh said. “I remember when I was made to feel like I couldn’t do things because of the way I looked.”
“It’s legislated discrimination and it’s sad, and it’s hurtful,” the NDP leader added.
The law prohibits public sector workers, including teachers, from wearing any religious symbols at work.
The Green Party leader presented a solution where we “leave Quebec alone” but the government finds jobs for anyone in the province that has since been removed from their government job.
Scheer is maintaining his position that the Conservative party would not intervene in the case and the courts will “ultimately decide” on the outcome of the issue.
So who do you think did the best job in Thursday’s debate? Vote in the poll above and leave your thoughts in the comments below.