Have you missed the federal election debate on the French language? The following are the highlights.
On Wednesday, with less than two weeks until election night, the major federal party leaders squared off in the official French debate.
Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh, Erin O'Toole, Yves-Francois Blanchet, and Annamie Paul sparred over issues ranging from climate change to Indigenous Peoples and cultural identity, cost of living and public finances, justice and foreign policy, and health care and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some highlights from the debate that you may have missed.
Spending on healthcare.
The leaders were pressed to detail the amount of money they would give provinces for health care and whether it would equal the additional $28 billion requested by premiers.
Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Leader, pledged an additional $25 billion, with some restrictions on how the money could be spent.
Erin O'Toole stated that a Conservative government would not impose any conditions on funding in order to respect provincial jurisdiction.
Yves-Francois Blanchet has indicated that he will seek an additional $28 billion for the provinces.
Jagmeet Singh stated that the NDP would increase health-care transfers but did not specify the amount, while Annamie Paul stated that the Greens would discuss the issue with provinces.
Trudeau lashes out at Blanchet over Quebec's national identity.
Perhaps the most contentious exchange of the debate occurred when Yves-François Blanchet questioned why Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will not impose positions on Indigenous peoples but will do so on Quebecers.
Trudeau exploded at the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, his face flushed.
“Because I am a Quebecois,” Trudeau stated emphatically. “You keep forgetting that I am a proud Quebecer, that I have always been a Quebecer, and that I will always be a Quebecer. You do not possess a monopoly in Quebec... You treat the record of the Quebec government as if it were your own,” Trudeau continued. “You have no right to regard me as a non-Quebec citizen.”
The pair frequently spoke over one another, with Blanchet pleading with Trudeau to "relax, relax."
Blanchet admitted to reporters in English following the debate that Trudeau was "probably" as much a Quebecer as he was.
“He may scream 'I am a Quebecer' as loudly as he wishes... However, in terms of institutions, the Assemblee nationale du Quebec speaks for Quebec,” he stated, referring to the provincial legislature.
Paul faces adversity in his first debate.
The debate provided Green Party Leader Annamie Paul with her first genuine opportunity to connect with Canadians and halt her slide in the polls.
While Paul delivered some strong responses — particularly when she questioned why more money is spent on pipelines than on clean water for Indigenous reserves — she struggled throughout her first debate performance, frequently looking down at her notes before continuing with an answer.
Her opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline was undermined when she claimed it violated the sovereignty of the Wet'suwet'en people in northern British Columbia — conflating the Trans Mountain pipeline with the Coastal GasLink pipeline that runs through Wet'suwet'en territory. She appeared to recognize her error as the debate moved on to the next topic.
And when pressed on her party's position on Israel and Palestine, which was reportedly the source of internal conflict within the Greens, Paul was unable to provide a definitive response.
Paul and the Greens are trailing in the polls and are hoping to gain momentum from this week's debates, but Paul failed to make an impression on Wednesday.
O'Toole and Trudeau square off over wedge issues.
Erin O'Toole was questioned about his position on firearms and the assault-style weapon ban, which he has repeatedly contradicted.
While the Conservative leader pledged to maintain all remaining prohibitions while also focusing on gun smuggling and street gangs, Trudeau pounced, accusing his chief adversary of lacking a clear strategy before delving into other wedge issues.
“He is striking deals with special interest groups, as he did with vaccines, as he did with so-called pro-choice people, because the overwhelming majority of his members are opposed to women's choice,” Trudeau said.
“Mr. Trudeau will say anything to win,” responded O'Toole. “I am a pro-choice advocate.”
Following further exchanges, Singh intervened, describing both leaders as "two sides of the same coin, the same old parties" that fail to keep their promises.
Native American water boil advisories.
During the debate, federal opposition leaders were quick to point out the dozens of Canadian First Nations that still lack access to safe drinking water.
When asked how Singh's government would handle boil water advisories, the NDP leader declared that those communities' lack of access to safe drinking water was completely "unacceptable" for a wealthy country like Canada. He also chastised the Trudeau government for handing out billions of dollars to banks during the pandemic's early stages but failing to address Indigenous water shortages.
“I am not going to accept it as a lack of capability — it is an outrage,” Singh stated.
The issue of safe drinking water in many remote Indigenous communities came to a head last year with the evacuation of Neskantaga First Nation — an Ontario Indigenous community that had been under a 25-year-long water boil advisory.
Over six years ago, the Trudeau government committed to ending all long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities by March 2021. According to Trudeau, the Liberals have ended 109 of those advisories as of today and still have another 50 to go.
Trudeau defended his government's progress, stating that a plan remained in place, but blaming the slow pace on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other leaders chimed in with their own criticisms of the Liberal leader.
“It is critical that we have a strategy, not just words. We must deliver by collaborating with Indigenous leaders and businesses,” O'Toole stated.
Liberals' record on climate change.
With all federal parties pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in some capacity, leaders were forced to defend their plans for bolstering or maintaining Canada's economies in the event that one of the country's largest industries was eliminated.
Trudeau made it clear that only his plan would work, but only if he maintained the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which he did not specify how long he would maintain. Additionally, the Liberal leader warned that O'Toole's Conservatives wished to revert to Stephen Harper's climate change policy and violate the Paris Climate Accords — a charge denied by the Tory leader.
Singh, on the other hand, was quick to criticize Trudeau's record on climate change.
“You've had six years, and I am truly sorry,” Singh stated. “It pains me to say this, but you have the worst record of the G7 countries in six years, and the truth is that you promised to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies but instead increased them. So how can people believe you?”
Singh did not say whether his government would keep the Trans Mountain pipeline — only that he would make a decision after some deliberation.