Canada’s top political leaders held Thursday night the second national election debate in the run-up to the September 20 elections in which, once again, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struggled to defend his call for early elections.
Trudeau debated today in English with the leaders of the Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole, of the social democratic New Democratic Party (NPD), Jagmeet Singh, of the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois (BQ), Yves-Francois Blanchet, and of the Green Party, Annamie Paul, 24 hours after sharing the stage with the same protagonists for the debate in French.
And like yesterday, Trudeau was on the defensive for much of the debate and unable to clearly explain why he called an early election in the midst of the fourth wave of the pandemic and only two years after the previous election.
Trudeau merely pointed out that it was necessary for Canadians to have the opportunity to decide on the measures to be taken to get out of the crisis caused by the pandemic. But the opposition accused the Liberal Party leader of dissolving Parliament just because polls showed him ahead in voting intentions.
But since Trudeau called a federal election on Aug. 15 for Sept. 20, the Liberals have lost the lead in polls that now show the Conservatives on track to win the election.
During the debate, Trudeau, who won with an absolute majority in the 2015 elections but in 2019 won only a simple majority in the lower house of the Canadian Parliament, was pressed by opposition leaders on his environmental policies, relations with China and the Afghanistan crisis.
It was precisely during the segment dedicated to the diplomatic crisis with China, which erupted in December 2018 when Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States, that the BQ leader snuck the name of Spanish politician Carles Puigdemont into the debate.
Blanchet said Trudeau’s human rights advocacy record is “not perfect” because the Liberal leader does nothing. And after referring to the Canadian government’s policies towards Chinese Uighurs, Taiwan or Hong Kong, the sovereigntist leader added the former president of the Generalitat of Catalonia to the list.
“We can name Catalonia and Mr. Puigdemont,” Blanchet declared.
The sovereigntist leader, who after the debate accused the leaders of the other four parties as well as the debate moderator of insulting Quebec for allegedly insinuating that Quebeckers are racist, was referring to the decision by Canadian immigration authorities not to authorize Puigdemont to enter the country in 2019.
Puigdemont, who has resided in Belgium since fleeing Spain in 2017, was invited again by Blanchet in July this year to visit Quebec.
The former Catalan president has appealed to the Federal Court of Canada against the Canadian government’s decision to deny him authorization to enter the country.