Party Leaders Hoping for Campaign Boost After French Language Debate

By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
September 3, 2021 Updated: September 3, 2021

MONTREAL—With polls suggesting a tightening race the main party leaders are hoping to get a boost from the first of their two schedule televised debates as they return to the campaign trail today.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will follow up last night’s French−language encounter with an announcement and press conference later this morning in Mississauga, Ont.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole will make an announcement in Montreal before joining supporters at an event in North Vancouver, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will make a platform announcement this morning in Quebec City.

Four of the main party leaders went head to head Thursday night in Montreal in the first televised debate of the campaign, trading barbs over the COVID-19 pandemic, health care and systemic racism in Quebec, a key battleground in Canada’s 44th federal election.

The French-language debate on TVA, one of the province’s most-watched networks, comes at the midpoint of the campaign and could prove crucial to the outcome on Sept. 20 as Quebec becomes a three-way fight between the Liberals, Bloc Québécois and Conservatives.

Trudeau, O’Toole, Singh, and the Bloc’s Yves-François Blanchet took part, with the three opposition leaders accusing Trudeau of unleashing an election unnecessarily amid rising COVID-19 cases and a crisis in Afghanistan.

Trudeau’s minority government was elected in 2019 before the pandemic struck and upended federal priorities, which he said necessitated a fresh mandate from voters.

The debate covered three main subjects: the pandemic, social policy and the recovery.

The Green party’s Annamie Paul and Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, were not invited to participate.

Vote-rich Quebec has proven volatile in past elections, swooning for the NDP under Jack Layton in 2011 and swinging unexpectedly toward the Bloc two years ago.

In 2019 the Bloc more than tripled its seat count to 32, pushing the Liberals down to 35 in Quebec and the Tories to 10 while the NDP plummeted to just a single seat in Montreal—a far cry from the 16 they won in 2015 or their high-water mark of 59 under “le bon Jack.”