Federal leaders square off, Trudeau tackles far right-wing media at French-language debate

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Published September 9, 2021 at 9:52 am

The Latest on the French-language leaders’ debate among Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul (all times local):

11:15 p.m.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says government needs to have the ability to immediately remove online misinformation that incites hate.

Otherwise, he says, the issue is left in the hands of social media companies that are not equipped to take action, and don’t appear particularly willing to step in.

He says the current laws around hate speech are not being applied very well and many hate crimes are not being prosecuted as such.

Singh was also asked to clarify his position on the Trans Mountain pipeline, and repeated that an NDP government would take stock of the situation before making a decision.

Singh also declined to answer a question from a Rebel News reporter, saying he does not take questions from that outlet.

11 p.m.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul says there’s “no question” the internal strife in her party — and the fact that it wasn’t fully put to rest before the campaign — has harmed them in the election.

But she says the party’s values remain the same, and she hopes tonight’s debate has swayed some people to vote Green on Sept. 20.

Paul, who was elected party leader last year, staved off efforts to oust her from the position weeks before the election was called, but tensions appear to have eased since the campaign began.

The party’s platform, released Tuesday, includes pledges to boost greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets, cancel all new pipelines and oil exploration, accelerate an increase in carbon pricing and ban the sale of all internal-combustion engine passenger vehicles.

10:50 p.m.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says organizations such as Rebel News Network need to take accountability for some of the polarization in Canada over vaccines and the pandemic.

Trudeau made the comment in response to a question from a Rebel News reporter regarding a Federal Court ruling that ordered the Leaders’ Debates Commission to allow the organization to cover tonight and tomorrow’s debates.

Trudeau said decisions regarding accreditation are made by the press gallery and the consortium of broadcasters.

But he added Rebel News and other similar organizations continue to spread misinformation and disinformation on vaccines and the pandemic, which contributes to some of the anger that has recently emerged in the country.

10:35 p.m.

Yves-Francois Blanchet says the health-care funding laid out in the Conservatives’ costed platform is clearly not what the provinces have been asking for.

The Bloc Québécois leader was asked to weigh in on the Tory costing, which was released a short time before the debate.

He says health-care support would essentially remain the same under the plan.

Blanchet was also asked about his exchange with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau during the debate over who represents Quebec.

He repeated that while Trudeau can call himself a proud Quebecer all he wants, the provincial legislature is the body that speaks for Quebec.

10:30 p.m.

The leaders are taking questions following tonight’s French-language debate.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was up first, and faced questions over his party’s platform costing, which was released shortly before the event.

O’Toole has promised to boost unconditional health transfers to the provinces by $60 billion over 10 years, by guaranteeing a six per cent increase in the transfer each year.

But the document shows that under the existing formula for the Canada Health Transfer, which is based on economic growth, the annual payments would already increase by almost six per cent for the next two to three years.

Pressed on the matter, O’Toole said his plan delivers what provinces have been asking for: predictable long-term funding without conditions.

9:45 p.m.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau defended his identity as a Quebecer in a heated exchange with the Bloc Québécois’ Yves-François Blanchet.

The exchange kicked off with Blanchet asking Trudeau why he feels he can tell Quebec what to do and think.

Trudeau replied that as a Quebecer, he has a say, adding there are many people representing the province in the House of Commons.

The pair talked over each other repeatedly, with Blanchet at one point urging Trudeau to “relax, relax.”

Blanchet said Quebec’s democracy plays out in the provincial legislature.

9:20 p.m.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wouldn’t say what will happen to the Trans Mountain pipeline if his party forms government, just that they would assess the situation.

The leaders were pressed on the fate of the pipeline — which the federal government bought from Kinder Morgan in 2018 — if they take the reins after Sept. 20.

The existing Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline has been operating for decades and a project to nearly triple its capacity is underway, over the objections of some coastal First Nations.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said some Indigenous communities want to buy the pipeline and would continue to operate it until “we don’t need it anymore.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, said only that families in Western Canada need an economic recovery, but didn’t say how long he would want the pipeline to be used.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet pledged to give the money from the pipeline to the people of Alberta, while Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said it should be cancelled.

8:30 p.m.

The leaders were pushed to spell out how much money they would give the provinces for health care — specifically, whether they would hand over the additional $28 billion requested by premiers.

Jagmeet Singh said the NDP would boost health-care transfers, but wouldn’t say by how much, while Annamie Paul would only say the Greens would discuss the issue with the provinces.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pledged an additional $25 billion, with some conditions regarding how the money could be spent.

Erin O’Toole said a Conservative government wouldn’t attach any strings to the funding, out of respect for provincial jurisdiction.

Yves-Francois Blanchet said he would demand the additional $28 billion for the provinces.

Quebec Premier François Legault has previously bristled at what he called a “centralist” approach by Ottawa in tying health-care funding to specific initiatives, such as hiring doctors.

8:20 p.m.

Annamie Paul was pressed on why her party hasn’t released a costed plan, with only two weeks left until Canadians go to the polls.

The Green Party leader said a costed platform is “coming,” but wouldn’t say when.

She pointed to the short campaign as contributing to the delay.

The NDP also has yet to release the costing for its platform, while the Conservatives released their costing hours before tonight’s debate.

The Liberals released their platform, with costing, last week.

8:10 p.m.

Several of the leaders are highlighting the importance of working together if this month’s election ends in another minority government.

The debate’s moderator, Patrice Roy, asked all five leaders whether they would commit to not triggering another election in a minority situation.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau went first, repeating his rationale for sending Canadians to the ballots — that the government needs a clear mandate to make decisions on pulling the country out of the pandemic.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Green Leader Annamie Paul both said collaboration in the House is paramount, while Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said his party would support any government measures that are good for Quebec.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he would respect the mandate given by Canadians to the government they elect.

7:30 p.m.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul has arrived at the debate venue by car — the last of the five leaders to make their way to the museum.

Speaking to reporters on her way in, Paul says she welcomes the release of the Conservatives’ costed platform, but hasn’t seen it yet.

She says her message to Canadians during tonight’s event will be that her party is ambitious and promises real action on climate change.

Climate is one of the designated topics for the debate, along with the cost of living, public finances, Indigenous issues, justice, foreign policy and the COVID-19 pandemic.

7:25 p.m.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has arrived at the museum for tonight’s French-language debate.

As his motorcade drives into the museum’s driveway, some in the crowd gathered on the sidewalk to boo him.

A few dozen people have also gathered outside the venue, including some who appear to be supporters of the People’s Party of Canada and the Bloc Québécois.

The Liberal leader stepped out of his vehicle, waved and headed inside without stopping to speak to reporters.

Trudeau’s campaign has been dogged by angry protesters, and tensions reached a new high Monday when someone threw gravel at him during an event in London, Ont.

7:20 p.m.

Three of the leaders taking part in tonight’s French-language debate have arrived at the Museum of Canadian History in Gatineau, Que., across from Parliament Hill.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François arrived first, walking up to the museum with his wife and stopping to speak to reporters for a few moments before going inside.

He said, in English, that the Conservatives released their costed platform too late for it to be analyzed before the debate.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also made a few remarks, in French, saying he’ll present his plan to Canadians.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, went inside without speaking to reporters.

6:30 p.m.

A small group of People’s Party of Canada supporters wearing party merchandise stands on the sidewalk near the Museum of Canadian History in Gatineau, Que., where tonight’s debate is being held.

A large number of people dressed in the party’s gear — as well as one of its candidates — were also present at a London, Ont., event Monday where protesters threw gravel at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

The leaders have not yet arrived at the museum for the debate, which is set to begin at 8 p.m.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said he would give the Trans Mountain pipeline to the people of Alberta. In fact, he said he would give them money from the pipeline.

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