The five main party leaders met for the first and only English debate of this election campaign Thursday night and clashed over the country’s most pressing problems, from climate change and the pandemic crisis to fractious foreign relations.
From the opening bell, Trudeau faced an onslaught of attacks from his opponents over the fall of Kabul, the imprisonment of two Canadians in China and his decision to call a snap election during a pandemic. Trudeau sometimes struggled to respond to the attacks during an often chaotic campaign event with a rigid format that featured few opportunities for one-on-one exchanges.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul tried to brand Trudeau as a failed prime minister who has long promised transformative progressive change but has failed to deliver. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who faced comparatively few jabs throughout the matchup, positioned himself as a more moderate choice than his predecessors in a pitch to disaffected Liberal voters.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet struggled to compete in his second language and bristled at questions from the moderator, Shachi Kurl, that suggested some of Quebec’s policies — like Bill 21, which restricts religious garb at work — are discriminatory and xenophobic.
Trudeau, meanwhile, asked voters to return his party to government to finish the fight against COVID-19, saying his party has released a viable plan for a post-pandemic Canada.
With the polls suggesting the race for first place is a virtual dead heat less than two weeks out from election day, Trudeau and O’Toole set their sights on each other early in the debate.
Climate and emissions targets
Trudeau tried to paint O’Toole as a climate laggard. Pointing to a positive review from a prominent climate analyst, Trudeau said the Liberal climate plan is the least costly and the most effective strategy on offer to drive Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. He dismissed O’Toole’s promised green policies as “weak.”
O’Toole has said that, if he’s elected, he will push the reset button on Canada’s climate plan, returning to the previous national target of reducing emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Trudeau said O’Toole threatens to drag Canada back to “the Harper years,” when former prime minister Stephen Harper committed to less ambitious environmental action.
“We have to win back trust on this issue — we haven’t met the expectations of Canadians on climate change,” O’Toole said. He defended his lower target, saying his plan is actually doable and would not tank Canada’s resource-rich economy.
“Mr. O’Toole can’t even convince his party that climate change is real because they voted against that,” Trudeau said, referring to a failed Conservative party convention motion to declare that “climate change is real.”
O’Toole hit back, saying the Liberal leader talks a big game on climate but has failed to put a dent in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Watch: Blanchet, Singh, O’Toole spar over pipelines:
“Mr. Trudeau always forgets one thing — he has never made a target for climate change. He has great ambition, that’s part of the reason we’re in an election in a pandemic is his ambition, but he doesn’t have achievement,” O’Toole said.
Singh also piled on. “Justin Trudeau has failed all of us,” he said. “You had six years and you’ve got the worst track record in the G7 after six years.
“Let’s talk about the cost — the cost of inaction is the entire town of Lytton being wiped out by a climate forest fire.”
Trudeau said he wouldn’t take lessons from Singh on climate, pointing to poor grades independent experts have given the NDP’s climate plan. “How is it that the experts rated our plan an A and rated your plan to be an F?” Trudeau said.
According to the latest report from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the country’s emissions have ticked up on Trudeau’s watch.
In 2019 — the first year of the federal carbon pricing system, commonly called the “carbon tax” — Canada produced 730 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, an increase of one megatonne — or 0.2 per cent — over 2018.
However, the economy grew faster than emissions did in 2019 — which means the country’s “emissions intensity” is lower than it has been in the past.
The 730 megatonnes of emissions recorded in 2019 is slightly higher than the 723 megatonnes Canada churned out in 2015, the year Trudeau first took office.
Watch: Trudeau, O’Toole debate climate change
Paul said Canada could become a renewable energy superpower, and the leaders need to form an “all-party cabinet” to combat the shared threat of climate change. “This is a global issue, this is a national issue, this is a non-partisan issue. And we have got to be able to come together across party lines,” she said.
The cost of living and housing
The leaders also debated the issue of affordability. O’Toole blasted Trudeau over the spike in inflation in recent months — with the value of the dollar dropping and the price of some everyday goods rising thanks in part to government largesse and a strengthening economy.
O’Toole touted some of the more populist measures tucked into his 160-page election platform, like a GST holiday in December and a month-long discount at restaurants — measures meant to simulate the bricks-and-mortar economy, which has been hard hit by public health measures like lockdowns.
Canada’s housing stock is among the priciest in the world, with the average price of a single family home costing well over $1 million in the Toronto and Vancouver urban areas. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association’s MLS system, the average price of a home in Canada is $716,000, an eye-popping figure that means property ownership is a distant dream for many.
“There’s a housing crisis and Mr. Trudeau is making it worse,” O’Toole said. To address this, the Conservative housing plan commits to building one million new homes over three years while easing mortgage requirements and making more federal land available for development.
WATCH: The party leaders debate housing affordability
Trudeau said the Conservatives’ housing plan would give tax breaks to the wealthy — a reference to O’Toole’s platform commitment to create incentives for Canadians who invest in rental housing by making tweaks to the capital gains tax regime.
The Conservatives maintain the housing “crisis” is driven by a shortage of supply and say programs that encourage people and companies to build more rental units will help to alleviate the problem.
Trudeau, who is in the fight of his political life after six years in office, presented himself as a vaccine champion — a leader determined to boost vaccination rates to avoid the worst effects of the delta variant.
At a time when experts say vaccine coverage needs to be even higher than it is now, Trudeau said he would create a billion-dollar fund to help provinces pay for vaccine passports.
He criticized O’Toole’s resistance to the idea of a vaccine mandate for federal public servants and the travelling public, saying O’Toole’s preference for rapid tests over mandatory shots punishes the 85 per cent of Canadians who’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’ve shown unequivocal leadership on getting everyone vaccinated. Unfortunately, Mr. O’Toole can’t even convince his own candidates to get vaccinated,” Trudeau said.
O’Toole said if Trudeau was so concerned about ending this pandemic — and boosting vaccination rates — he wouldn’t have plunged the country into an election campaign during a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Paul, who has grappled with internal party issues for much of the summer, is also opposed to mandatory vaccines.
“This is another case where policy gets put aside for partisan advantage. We need to encourage people to get vaccinated — vaccines save lives — but there are people who can’t get vaccinated and we need to reasonably accommodate them,” she said.
O’Toole’s signature platform item — and by far the most costly item he has proposed — is a $60 billion cash injection into the Canada Health Transfer, a financial commitment that would help provinces and territories spend more on a system that is battered and bruised after a 19-month long health crisis.
The promised financial boost, which would come with no strings attached, has been welcomed by premiers like Quebec’s François Legault who are reluctant to see Ottawa impose conditions in an area of provincial jurisdiction.
But Trudeau panned the Conservative promise, saying too much of the money is backloaded to the last five years of the 10-year plan. The Liberal plan, by comparison, promises $25 billion on a faster timeline.
Singh, who is contesting his second federal election, has promised to make the “ultra rich” pay more in taxes to fund a host of new social programs like universal pharmacare.
Indigenous reconciliation was another topic of the debate. Since the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation reported this summer that as many as 215 children could be buried at a former residential school site, the issue of Crown-Indigenous relations has been at the forefront of the national conversation.
Singh clashed with Trudeau on the issue, saying the Liberal leader has allowed longstanding issues to fester.
“The calls to justice are out there and you haven’t acted,” Singh said of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry (MMIWG)’s findings.
“You can’t take a knee one day when you’re going to take Indigenous kids to court the next,” Singh added, citing ongoing litigation over funding for First Nations social services — a claim Trudeau batted away as an oversimplification of a complex legal matter.
Watch: Singh says Trudeau has not acted on Indigenous calls to justice.
“The cynicism that Mr. Singh is showing by saying that we did nothing is harming reconciliation and the path that we’re moving forward on,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said there’s no doubt “Canada has failed” Indigenous peoples after centuries of abusive colonial policies but he said there has been meaningful progress in recent years. Trudeau said he has made Indigenous issues a priority while in government, flowing billions in new funding to end drinking water advisories, repair First Nations schools, set up a new Indigenous-led child welfare system and revive Indigenous languages, among other commitments.
The election campaign is entering its final stretch. Advance polls open tomorrow and election day is Sept. 20.
People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier was not invited to participate because the commission determined that his party did not have the required level of voter support — four per cent — five days after the date of the election call. Recent polling figures suggest the PPC has since overtaken the Greens in national support.
Watch: Trudeau, Paul have heated exchange over feminism and leadership:
Green Party chief Annamie Paul resigns, calling it ‘worst period’ of her life
Annamie Paul announced her resignation as head of Canada‘s Green Party on Monday after losing in her own district in last week’s parliamentary election, stepping aside just under a year after becoming the nation’s first Black leader of a mainstream national party.
Paul, 48, said she felt she was never truly allowed to lead the fractious environmentally focused party and was not interested in going through a fight to remain its chief. She called her time as party leader “the worst period in my life.”
“When I was elected and put in this role, I was breaking a glass ceiling,” Paul told reporters in Toronto. “What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was breaking a glass ceiling that was going to fall on my head.”
Paul came in fourth in her own Toronto constituency – won by the Liberals – and the Greens dropped 4 percentage points nationally in the Sept. 20 election compared with 2019. They won only two seats in the 338-seat House of Commons compared with three two years ago.
Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a third term, albeit with a minority of seats in parliament.
Paul, a Toronto lawyer, beat out seven other contenders to win the leadership of the party last October. But she has for months been in a battle with the party’s federal council, which tried to oust her before the election. The party did not provide funding for Paul to hire a campaign staff or a national campaign manager.
“I just don’t have the heart for it,” Paul said, referring to going through a leadership review invoked by the party immediately after the election.
Of the discord within the party, Paul said she had never been given the opportunity to lead and “I will not be given that opportunity.”
Jenica Atwin, one of the three Green parliamentarians, left the party in June and joined the Liberals. Atwin was elected as a Liberal last week.
Atwin has said her exit was in large part due to a dispute over the party’s stance on Israel. Paul is Jewish. Atwin on Twitter criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. A senior adviser to Paul, Noah Zatzman, posted on Facebook that some unspecified Green members of parliament were anti-Semitic.
The Greens had appeared to be well-positioned going into this year’s election, as most Canadians indicated that fighting climate change was one of their priority issues. But Liberals and the left-leaning New Democrats promoted their own climate plans and capitalized on the sense of chaos within the party.
Paul said during the campaign that she had thought several times about quitting, but wanted to stay and fight for important causes. Paul was the second person of color to head a federal party in Canada after Jagmeet Singh took over the left-leaning New Democrats in 2017.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Will Dunham)
Caesar-Chavannes offers a 'breathtakingly candid' look at life in politics – The Hill Times
In her memoir Can You Hear Me Now?: How I Found My Voice and Learned to Live with Passion and Purpose, which was one of this year’s finalists for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for the best political book of the year, former Liberal-turned-Independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes details, among other aspects of rawly examined life, her time in Parliament and her less-than-rewarding experience as the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary. Ms. Caesar-Chavannes left the Liberal caucus in 2019 to sit as an Independent after a falling-out with the prime minister and disillusionment with the Ottawa status quo. The book, described as “breathtakingly candid” by the Writers’ Trust jury, was published by Random House Canada.
Debt Limit Fight as Much About 2022 Politics as Fiscal Policy – BNN
(Bloomberg) — The U.S. is heading to the precipice of a debt default as much for the sake of campaign ads and political branding as fiscal philosophy.
While agreeing that the statutory limit on U.S. borrowing must be raised before it’s breached sometime next month, Republicans and Democrats are completely at odds over who should act.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell argues that Democrats alone are responsible since they are pursuing a partisan multi-trillion dollar tax and spending plan. The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, accuses Republicans of trying to “dine and dash” on the cost of their 2017 tax cuts and wants their fingerprints on the vote to raise the debt ceiling.
The debt limit fight has become part of an ongoing struggle between the parties to shape public perceptions of President Joe Biden’s agenda heading into next years congressional election.
For Republicans, it puts the focus on the overall cost of Biden’s economic plan, rather than popular components like paid family leave and an expanded child tax credit. And it ties Biden to the rising national debt, never mind the ballooning deficits under former President Donald Trump.
That prepares ground for the kind of traditional Republican campaign against tax-and-spend liberalism that McConnell is trying to steer his party toward instead of centering the midterm election on cultural issues and Trump’s false charges about election fraud.
At its most basic level, McConnell’s bid to force a Democrats-only vote to raise the limit gives the GOP ready ammunition for campaigning.
“It’s another line in the attack ad,” said Michael Steel, who was then-Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s press secretary during the 2011 fight over raising the debt limit. “Increasing the debt limit is a terribly unpopular vote.”
Many lawmakers make little effort to cloak their political motives. Republican Senator Rick Scott, who heads the Senate GOP’s campaign committee, said he expects Democrats’ votes in favor of raising the debt ceiling will feature prominently in the 2022 election.
“Oh yeah, you’re going to hear about it a lot,” Scott said.
Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, said the party-line debt limit vote will “absolutely” help crystalize the case that Democrats’ spending is out of control. “It will be very effective in Iowa.”
Democrats are already heading into a challenging midterm campaign, particularly in the House, where the party has a slim majority, Democratic-leaning states are losing seats to Republican ones in the Census reapportionment, and the president’s party typically loses members during midterm elections. Control of the 50-50 Senate also is in play.
“It’s total political rhetoric, drama,” Michigan Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell said. “We shouldn’t be playing political games the way we are.”
Democratic leaders have primarily responded by casting the GOP as reckless with the economy in their readiness to risk a debt default as well as their actions when they controlled the White House and Congress.
The total U.S. debt rose from $19.8 trillion, or 104% of gross domestic product, when Trump took office in 2017 to $28.1 trillion, or 128% of GDP when he left in 2021. The $8.3 trillion increase during Trump’s single term is almost as much as the $10.6 trillion rise during Barack Obama’s two terms.
Democrats claim their $3.5 trillion economic program won’t add to deficits because it will be paid for with tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, though they haven’t finished negotiating a final version and the independent Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet made a projection. A separate bipartisan infrastructure package backed by Biden would add $256 billion to the national debt over the next decade, the CBO estimated.
Democrats voted with Republicans three times during the Trump presidency to raise or suspend the debt limit to avoid default, despite opposing the 2017 Republican tax cuts that added to the debt.
This time, McConnell is insisting Democrats use a process called reconciliation to pass the debt limit increase in the Senate without Republican votes. Democrats so far have refused. They instead added the debt limit increase to stopgap legislation to avert an Oct. 1 government shutdown and fund disaster aid, daring Republicans to oppose the measure. The legislation passed the House, but Republicans have vowed to block the measure in the Senate when a procedural vote is taken as soon as Monday.
So far, Democratic efforts to blame Republicans for the stand-off haven’t worked. Asked which party would be more to blame if the U.S. defaulted, 33% of Americans said Democrats, 42% both parties, and only 16% Republicans, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll taken Sept. 18-20.
The stability of global financial markets and strength of U.S. economic growth once again are on the line in the resulting game of chicken.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, warned in a note to clients that even a short default would raise borrowing costs to U.S. taxpayers for decades. A prolonged default on U.S. debts would cost the country 6 million jobs, drive down U.S. stock prices by a third and wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth, Moody’s predicts.
Even without a default, brinksmanship over the debt limit between Republicans and the Obama administration in 2011 provoked the first-ever downgrade in the U.S. sovereign credit rating and contributed to a stock-market slide.
The political payoff for the risk is nebulous.
Republican pollster Whit Ayres, a 30-year campaign veteran, can’t think of a single election in which a debt limit vote played a decisive role.
“There may be some campaign out there that someone can point to,” Ayres said, “I can’t come up with one.”
Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at Third Way, a think tank aligned with the Democratic party’s moderate wing, also argues there’s “more bark than bite” in established political wisdom that votes to raise the debt limit are perilous.
Even so, many moderate Democratic lawmakers represent closely divided constituencies and aren’t anxious to add to their political risks. Public feeling on government debt can be potent.
“American voters’ sensitivity to debt and deficits shows up episodically, but when it shows up it shows up with a vengeance,” Kessler said, citing the Tea Party movement that began in 2009 and helped provide energy for the Republican resurgence in the 2010 midterm elections.
Pete Brodnitz, a Democratic pollster who has worked for party leaders’ House Majority super-PAC in battleground races every election the past decade, said the midterm results will hinge on what the public believes about the party’s economic strategy. And that is the critical battle beneath the surface.
“An economic narrative is critical,” Brodnitz said. “If the economy gets better, Democrats won’t be helped unless there is a Democratic strategy people associate with it.”
The debt limit fight is playing out just as Congress debates the spending packages that will enact the Biden agenda and voters are forming impressions of the plan.
“They want the narrative to be the Democrats just want to spend,” Brodnitz said. “We need the narrative to be we’re trying to invest in our future, and the Republicans are trying to stand in the way.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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