Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, facing a possible election defeat and a serious criticism over climate and foreign policies, tried to paint his Conservative rival as unready to lead on a debate stage Thursday.
The national primetime debate was Trudeau’s last opportunity to face-off in person against the Tories’ rookie captain Erin O’Toole in a bid to sway voters.
Several national and international issues such as climate, global warming, Afghanistan, Covid-19 vaccines and indigenous reconciliation, triggered brief clashes between the main candidates.
Tensions have risen in recently as O’Toole took a slight lead in public opinion polls. Trudeau spoke over O’Toole and three other party leaders on the stage, before the moderator cut him off.
He accused O’Toole of hiding an agenda to loosen gun controls, and highlighted splinters in the Conservative party’s approach to global warming.
He said, “The problem with Mr O’Toole and his principles is he says all the right-sounding things and he’s working on reassuring everyone that he’s right there as a strong leader, but he can’t convince his candidates to get vaccinated.”
O’Toole, who has led the Conservatives for one year, fired back at the criticism of his leadership: “I am driving the bus to make sure we get this country back on track.”
On foreign policy, he criticized Trudeau for calling an election on the day Kabul fell to the Taliban, and an unsettled row with China.
The plight of two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, was raised.
Kovrig and Spavor have been detained by China since December 2018 following Ottawa’s arrest on a US warrant of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.
“You let the Michaels down,” O’Toole said, addressing Trudeau.
He also said veterans had called for a plan to evacuate Afghan interpreters and others who worked with the Canadian military months before Kabul fell.
“When Afghanistan was falling there were 1,200 Canadians and hundreds more translators and others waiting for help from Canada,” O’Toole said.
“Mr Trudeau should not have called this election, you should have gotten the job done in Afghanistan,” he said.
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