TORONTO – Five federal party leaders debated mandatory vaccinations, midterm elections and climate change in the first of two official election debates on Wednesday evening.

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With less than two weeks to go in the campaign, voters spent two hours listening to the policies and promises of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François. Participated in the French debate. Blanchett and Green Party leader Annie Paul.

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Party leaders will also participate in the official English debate on Thursday. People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier did not meet the criteria established by the Independent Leaders’ Debate Commission for participation.

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The debate comes as polls reveal that liberals and conservatives are caught in a two-way race, raising the stakes of what leaders have promised Canadians during these debates.

Here are some highlights from Wednesday’s French language debate:

Debate on a pandemic election

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Why is there an election? This remains a contentious issue among the party leaders.

Amid questions about why Canadians need to go to the polls, several party leaders highlighted the importance of continuing to work together during the pandemic once the election is decided.

Moderator Patrice Roy asked leaders if they could promise that they would not call elections for the next four years if elected with a minority government.

Trudeau shrugged off the question, reiterating his reasoning for the government to start the election by arguing that a clear mandate is needed to make decisions to get the country out of the pandemic.

O’Toole said he would commit “yes absolutely” to not calling another election in a minority scenario. He highlighted, as Paul did, that cooperation between parties is essential for the economic recovery of the country.

“An election is a symptom or a consequence of the fact that people do not want to work together and they are acting in a partisan manner,” Paul said in French.

Singh said in French that it was the “wrong thing” to start the election amid the COVID-19 pandemic but would respect the mandate given by the Canadian people to the government they elected, while Blanchett said it would not be his decision.

Blanchett said his party would support good government measures for Quebec.

Getting to Know Annie Paul

As the new leader of the Green Party, Paul recognized that Canadians did not know as much about him as other leaders, and took the opportunity to be on the debate stage to reiterate his party’s promises while offering a personal antidote. .

Discussing the issue of neglect of seniors in long-term care homes, Paul shared that his father died in a care facility during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All the leaders promised national standards for long-term care homes during the debate in addition to better funding.

In discussing climate change, Paul highlights that she is the sister of someone who works in the oil and gas industry in Alberta. Because of this, Paul said she understands those activists need to be taken into account with the party’s promise to move Canada completely to renewable energy sources by 2030.

Asked about the relevance of his party, Paul said the Greens platform is practical and realistic, but ambitious.

When pressed why his party had not released a cost plan, with only two weeks left in the campaign, Paul answered calmly without faltering in his response.

The party leader said a costly platform was “coming”, but would not specify when. He said the short campaign for the mid-term elections contributed to the delay.

stance on daycare

The issue of parental support sparked a heated back-and-forth between Trudeau and O’Toole, with both leaders claiming the others’ promises are not what the Canadian people want.

Liberals, like the NDP, have promised to start care at $10 a day within five years, while the Conservatives are promising a refundable tax credit of up to 75 percent of the cost of child care.

However, a recent survey by Nanos Research found that Canadians are more likely to prefer a subsidized child-care space (50 percent) than a tax cut on child care expenses (40 percent).

Because the province of Quebec already has its own subsidized child care program, the Bloc Québécois has not advocated a national plan. Blanchett said during the debate that this is an example of how a province-built program can be successful.

While Trudeau and O’Toole went back and forth on the subject during the debate, Paul interrupted by saying that the issue of affordable daycare is the one that affects women the most, highlighting that he is the only party. There are leaders who can understand that with being a woman.

‘I’m a Quebecer’

In what may be considered the hottest moment of the debate, Trudeau and Blanchett get into an argument during the indigenous rights portion of the debate.

Blanchett asked Trudeau if he didn’t want to impose things on the indigenous people, if he thought he could do so with the people of Quebec.

“You keep forgetting, I’m a Quebecer,” Trudeau replied. “I’m a proud Quebec. I’ve always been a Quebec. I’ll always be a Quebec. I’ll always have a say on what happens in Quebec. You don’t have a monopoly on Quebec.”

With files from Granthshala News.ca writer Ben Cousins ​​and The Canadian Press