Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been forced to defend his government’s plans to combat climate change, Canada’s fractured relationship with indigenous people, and the country’s growing affordability crisis, as he faced off against the rivals ahead of federal elections.
The leaders of the parties competing in the upcoming elections from the liberal parties, conservative parties, the new democracy, the green parties, and the Quebec bloc entered into a debate on Thursday evening.
Trudeau, who has been prime minister for six years, has been on the defensive after calling an election during the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Early opinion polls suggest the decision to hold an early election was unpopular among Canadians and on stage, party leaders have stuck to the topic, accusing the prime minister of putting citizens at risk while planning elections for his own political gain.
“Leadership is about putting others first, not yourself,” said Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, noting that Trudeau called the election because Canada was scrambling to evacuate people from Afghanistan.
Anami Paul, the new green leader, also questioned the prime minister’s judgment by calling for elections and whether he was fully aware of the deteriorating situation in Kabul.
“I’m not going to take caucus lessons from you,” Trudeau replied, referring to the strife and chaos within the Green Party and the recent collapse in opinion polls.
After weeks of campaigning, the prime minister’s Liberal party has an advantage in dropping seats, but it lags narrowly behind the Conservatives in the popular vote.
Despite his leadership, O’Toole had to deal with elements of his party who opposed vaccinations and abortion.
“Mr. O’Toole, who says he wants to vaccinate all of Canada 90% in the next two months, can’t even convince 90% of his candidates to vaccinate,” Trudeau said.