Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who is the only party leader pitching a large, new energy project as part of his platform, doubled down on his opposition to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during the federal election debate Monday evening.
Scheer said he would focus on consulting Indigenous communities before building his proposed national energy corridor, but he would not be guided by UNDRIP — an international document that sets minimum standards for nation states’ interaction with Indigenous peoples.
Scheer and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier were the only party leaders who didn’t express support for UNDRIP. Bernier didn’t mention it at all.
The federal leaders’ debate Monday evening had five sections, including one focused on Indigenous issues.
Natasha Beedie, from Beausoleil First Nation, asked the leaders how their parties would work with the provinces and territories to affirm Indigenous rights under UNDRIP, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and the recent Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry report’s calls to justice.
Scheer zeroed in on the UNDRIP clause around free, prior and informed consent — the same clause Conservative senators used to torpedo an NDP private member’s bill to harmonize federal laws with the UN declaration.
“When you talk about free, prior and informed consent that leaves a great deal of uncertainty about what that means and there are large numbers of Indigenous communities who want these energy projects to succeed,” said Scheer, in an apparent reference to First Nations that support the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Court allowed appeals
The Federal Court of Appeal recently allowed appeals from six First Nations over consultation around the Trans Mountain expansion.
Scheer is proposing to build an energy corridor to run pipelines, transmission lines and telecommunications infrastructure across the country.
Such a project would cross the territories of potentially dozens of First Nations. The failed Alberta-to-New Brunswick Energy East pipeline crossed the territories of over 50 First Nations.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau accused Scheer of employing the same approach as former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, who faced an Indigenous rights movement called Idle No More that flared across the country during his last term in office.
“We all remember 10 years of Stephen Harper who did not respect Indigenous rights, who did not respect Indigenous peoples,” said Trudeau.
“Mr. Scheer you are putting forward exactly the same plan.”
Green Party leader Elizabeth May also took aim at Scheer’s proposed approach to consultation, saying it was already required under Section 35 of the Constitution, which recognizes Indigenous rights.
“It does not boil down to, ‘We will consult with Indigneous people until they agree with us’,” said May.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and May both raised the recent Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling ordering Ottawa to compensate First Nation children harmed by the on-reserve child welfare system.
Scheer, Trudeau agree
It’s the one issue on which Trudeau and Scheer agree — the Liberal government recently filed a challenge in Federal Court against the ruling and Scheer has said he would have done the same.
Singh, referring to the SNC-Lavalin affair, said that while Trudeau wanted to “keep SNC-Lavalin out of the courts” he is willing to “drag Indigenous kids” into the courtroom.
“That is wrong. How can someone do that?”
Trudeau said that a re-elected Liberal government would compensate children impacted by the ruling, but he didn’t say how.
“We’ve also moved forward to end the tragedies by moving forward on legislation that keeps kids in care in their communities, with their language, with their culture,” said Trudeau, in reference to Bill C-92, the Indigenous child welfare bill which passed before Parliament dissolved.
Scheer, who was on the defensive through the majority of the debate segment on Indigenous issues, suggested he was prepared to deal with the relationship between Canada and Indigneous people because of his experience with 12 First Nations in his own riding.
Balance treaty rights
“I understand the importance of balancing treaty rights and also the ability for Indigenous Canadians to participate in the economy. That is really the key,” he said.
However, First Nation leaders in his riding have said Scheer did little to build a relationship with them.
Scheer also opened the debate by accusing Trudeau of wearing a “reconciliation mask” and then firing Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first Indigenous attorney general, during the SNC-Lavalin affair.
“I have nothing to learn from Mr. Trudeau, who fired the first Indigenous attorney general for doing her job,” he said later during the Indigenous issues portion of the debate. “She said she would do politics differently and you fired her when she did.”
Trudeau responded by referring to Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, whose home community of Little Black Bear First Nation sits in Scheer’s riding.
“Perry Bellegarde…has said that no government has done more for Indigenous peoples than this government and he is one of your constituents,” said Trurdeau.
“That’s right, he comes from Little Black Bear,” said Scheer. “He has my phone number.”
Numbers show 25% increase in advance voting over 2015
New numbers provided by Elections Canada say voter turnout during the first two days of advanced polling is up 25 per cent over numbers recorded during the same period in 2015.
According to Elections Canada, preliminary figures show approximately two million people cast their ballots across Canada on Friday and Saturday.
During the 2015 election 1.6 million Canadians cast their ballots during the first two days.
Over the four-day early voting period during the previous election, a total of 3.65 million Canadians voted, representing 20.8 per cent of all votes cast.
In a statement emailed to Global News, Elections Canada spokeswoman Diane Benson said this year’s increase shows that “more Canadians are taking advantage of early voting opportunities to cast their ballots.”
While the increase is large, Elections Canada says the figure does not include those who voted in local offices, on campus, in additional service points or by special ballot.
It also does not include the number of voters who cast their ballot on Sunday. The agency says that number, as well as national totals and riding-by-riding-totals will be available later this week.
Advance voting began on Friday, and those still interested in casting their ballot early have until Monday at 9 p.m. to do so.
Voters can find out the location of advance polling stations by looking at their voter identification cards, the Elections Canada website or by calling 1-800-463-6868.
In order to vote, individuals must prove their identity and address.
For more information on when, where and how to vote, Global News has created this handy voters guide.
Canada’s federal election will take place on Oct. 21.
Singh downplays prospect of a coalition
TORONTO — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appeared to be walking back his comments on Monday, a day after he said he would “absolutely” work with the other parties to form a coalition government in the event of the Conservatives winning a minority next week.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday in Surrey, B.C., Singh said he would do “whatever it takes” to avoid a Conservative government, including working with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau if the Conservatives win.
“We’re not going to support a Conservative government,” Singh said on Sunday. “We’re going to fight a Conservative government, we’re going to fight it all the way.”
On Monday, Singh backed off those comments and urged Canadians to vote NDP in order to receive the best services.
“It’s not a question of coalition, it’s a question of our priorities,” Singh told reporters in French. “What I say for all Canadians is if you want to have someone who is working for you for climate change, it’s the New Democrats, if you vote for us, we’re going to fight for you.”
A spokesperson for the NDP clarified Singh’s stance later Monday, noting that he is running to be prime minister and a coalition government is just one of the options he would accept to ensure the Conservatives are not in power.
“Jagmeet will work with people who are willing to take the same priorities as his. As PM, as opposition, in coalition, in a minority agreement, in vote to vote,” said spokesperson Melanie Richer in an email.
While Trudeau has been pushing the idea that a vote for the Liberals is the only way to avoid Conservatives, Singh made it clear he hopes Canadians know there are more options.
“I reject that analysis,” he said. “Vote for a New Democrat, wherever you are, vote for a New Democrat. They’re going to make sure that your priorities are put front and centre. We can win and we can make sure that your life is better.”
Singh would not respond to whether he’d require any NDP MPs to sit in cabinet under a coalition, but has previously said he would require climate change action, national pharmacare, interest-free student loans, cuts to cell phone plans, affordable housing investments and additional taxes of the wealthiest Canadians to support any party’s minority government.
When asked about the prospect of forming a coalition with the NDP, Trudeau dodged the question and suggested the NDP would rip up the new NAFTA deal under this proposal.
Singh called that claim a “lie” and added his party would only require some of the trade protections in the agreement to be enforceable as a way of protecting Canadian workers.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters on Monday that a coalition with the Liberals and NDP would “lead to higher taxes, less jobs, more deficits and bigger household bills.”
“It’s the coalition Canadians can’t afford,” he said. “Only a Conservative majority government can prevent a government with Justin Trudeau as a spokesman, but the NDP calling the shots.”
Singh said the Conservatives will not fight for every day Canadians and are instead focused on offering tax breaks for the richest people in the country.
“With Conservatives what you get are folks that are going to offer you a couple dollars in your pocket, but what they’re really going to do is cost you more in the long run,” Singh said.
“That’s not what Canadians need right now. They need investments in housing, they need someone who’s going to take on the big cell phone companies and make sure that cell phone and internet prices are more affordable. That’s what you get when you vote New Democrat.”
According to the latest polling from Nanos research, the Liberals and Conservatives are deadlocked with around 32 per cent support with just a week to go before the election. The NDP sit comfortably in third with 19.2 per cent support.
Conservatives defend ads that accuse Liberals of planning to legalize hard drugs
The Globe obtained a copy of a flier sent out in the Scarborough area of Toronto that says “Justin Trudeau has a plan to legalize hard drugs.” The flier has English and Chinese languages on both sides with the same message.
A picture of someone shooting up is accompanied by the question: “Do you want Justin Trudeau to legalize hard drugs in your community?”
At a campaign event in Toronto on Sunday, Mr. Trudeau called the ads “reprehensible” and a “lie.”
The flier goes on to say: “Only Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives will stop Trudeau’s hard drug legalization plan and keep our kids safe.”
Mr. Trudeau said during the French language TVA debate on Oct. 2 that a re-elected Liberal government would not legalize or decriminalize hard drugs “right now,” but clarified with reporters immediately afterwards that he has no plans to do so if he wins a second mandate.
“We will not be further decriminalizing any drugs other than cannabis,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters after the debate.
The Conservatives are defending their ads, accusing the Liberal Leader of being unclear.
“If Justin Trudeau tells us precisely when he is going to legalize dangerous drugs, we will amend our [ads] to reflect this new information,” Conservative spokesperson Simon Jefferies said on Sunday when asked about the fliers.
On Friday, The Globe reported that the party was also pushing similar ads on its Chinese-language Facebook page.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was not campaigning on Sunday, but defended the online ads when asked about them on Saturday.
“We’ve called attention to the Liberals’ inability to come clear on this,” he said. “This is something that Canadians have a right to know about: whether or not they’re going to give Justin Trudeau a second mandate where he will continue to go down this road of making drugs more accessible.”
Mr. Trudeau said the ads are a distraction from the Conservative platform, which outlines $53-billion in cuts over five years to balance the budget while also introducing an across-the-board income tax cut.
“The Conservative Party is continuing to mislead and even lie to Canadians,” Mr. Trudeau said.
“I think it is reprehensible. We have been very clear, we will not be legalizing hard drugs. We will continue with the approach that we have that has been working on fighting this terrible opioid epidemic.”
Parts of the country have been dealing in recent years with a surge in deaths from overdoses linked to illicit opioids.
Mr. Trudeau has said his approach to combating the opioid crisis will be “grounded in science, in harm reduction, in safe consumption, in giving more tools to our medical professionals.”
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