Federal leaders' debate, as it happened

Recap the exchanges, analysis and fact checks as the six main party leaders faced off for the first time. More here.

    I covered the release of the Green Party's "costed" platform. There are a lot of unanswered questions about their plan (mine were never answered by the party, I tried), particularly where their revenues are coming from, and whether they could really be realized. They appeared to invent a wealth tax on the fly and upped their level of other taxation between the release of the platform and the release of their costing. May's claims of credibility are not backed up by what I found when I started combing through her party's documents.


    Claim: Trudeau touts his record. He says poverty is way down, unemployment is at historic lows and job creation is way up.
    Verdict: Mostly true

    Poverty: Measuring poverty rates in Canada is difficult because they depend largely on how poverty is defined. Still, it finds Trudeau is mostly right.

    Unemployment: Has not been lower since the mid-1970s, according to the data here

    Job creation: With unemployment low, it follows that job creation is up. Compared with a year earlier, the numbers show Canada added 471,300 jobs — the majority of which were full time — for an increase of 2.5 per cent. Read the full article here.


    Claim: May says universal pharmacare is the best way to cut healthcare costs. 
    Verdict: Likely true
    According to HealthCareCAN - a merger of the Canadian Healthcare Association and the Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations - Canada has higher rates of cost-related non-adherence (not taking prescribed drugs because they are too expensive) than other countries with universal health care systems. Non adherence includes skipped doses, delayed refills or unfilled prescriptions. It reports that between 5.4 per cent and 6.5 per cent of hospital admissions are the result of non adherence, resulting in costs of approximately $1.6 billion per year.
    “More ambitious pharmacare models will tend to do more to drive cost-related non adherence down, resulting in costs savings that health institutions can use to deliver better care for the communities they serve.”
    The Parliamentary Budget Office reported at the end of 2017 that a national pharmacare program would cost about $4 billion less than what Canadians spend on prescription drugs.
    The final report of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of national pharmacare cites recent research that found that removing out-of-pocket costs for the medications used to treat just three health problems — diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory conditions — would result in up to 220,000 fewer emergency room visits and 90,000 fewer hospital stays annually. This has the potential to save the health care system up to $1.2 billion a year—just for those three diseases.
    One trouble with debates is the need to keep moving just as things get interesting.
    Elizabeth May challenges Justin Trudeau to say whether he accepts the Hoskins report on universal pharmacare ... but before he can answer we're off the Maxime Bernier to talk about affordability. Jagmeet Singh comes back to pharmacare, saying Trudeau lacks the courage to take on big drug companies.
    Pharmacare a big ticket item, but it's not officially on this debate agenda. May and Singh both promising universal pharmacare. The Liberals not prepared to go that far.
    Responses to fourth theme
    May: Delves into full Green platform, including going after hidden offshore money and a one per cent tax on those who have more than $20 million.
    Blanchet: Cut subsidies to oil, tax shelters and online giants. "D'accord," May replies.
    Trudeau: Mentions his government initiatives for the middle class, differentiates his government from previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper. May brings up healthcare and pharmacare, to which Trudeau replies with his promises.
    Bernier: We need more private sector investment. May counters that the money hasn't reached the public sector.
    Singh: Appreciates May's shift to healthcare. Says Trudeau doesn't have the "courage" to take on lobbies opposed to universal pharmacare.
    Scheer: Will put money in Canadians' hands by cutting corporate welfare and reducing foreign aid. "That may be the worst idea [from] your whole non-platform," May retorts.


    Claim:  Scheer believes that life has become less affordable under the Trudeau government.  He says 80 per cent of middle-income families have seen their federal taxes increase by $800 or more per year.
    Verdict: Not quite.
    Scheer is using a report from the Fraser Institute, a B.C. think-tank that favours lower taxes and less government spending. It looks at all the tax credits the Trudeau government took away (ie. children’s arts and fitness credits, the transit credit) in making its calculations - but it fails to take into account the Liberals’ Canada Child Benefit, today worth a maximum of $6,639 a year per child under age six, and $5,602 for each child between six and 17.
    Question from Yellowknife
    What is your government going to do about the growing crisis of income inequality and affordability in Canada?
    May's attack on Scheer's "affordability" platform has landed some punches here, particularly his suggestion that cutting foreign aid is the way to pay for it.
    When Trudeau gets a turn on this key ballot question-type issue, he races through highlights of the Liberals' track record and what they're proposing to do next. But he seems a bit breathless as he does it. He's not in the same groove we saw last week.
    Singh still looks the most confident in this round. I'd say Scheer's confidence has returned - perhaps because he can sense Trudeau beside him is having a rougher night.
    A thought: Feels like there is not enough Scheer and Trudeau - not to take anything away from anyone else but they are most likely to become PM and I am hearing a lot from voters who want to be hearing more from them.
    by Vassy Kapelos edited by Haydn Watters 10/8/2019 12:27:26 AM
    Conservative's "universal tax cut"
    It's a campaign promise that keeps coming up in this affordability section. The promise would cut the rate on taxable income under $47,630 from 15 to 13.75 per cent over three years.
    CBC fact checkers found it isn't "universal" as the party claims — but it would save money for many Canadians. More on that.
    The eyes of Pierre Trudeau's son lit up at that chance to say that a Quebecer is a Canadian.
    Singh touts "working together" on health and dental care. "You have good ideas, but your ideas always interfere into jurisdictions," Blanchet responds.
    Polls suggest that Jagmeet Singh is the only leader who has managed to improve his own personal approval ratings during this campaign. He is certainly the one on the stage who seems to be having the most fun.
    "I wore a bright orange turban on purpose today!" Singh says, as the moderator mixes up his name with Scheer's - the 2nd time this has happened tonight.
    Again, working humour to his advantage to win over this audience, and perhaps viewers at home too. NDP leader looks so comfortable here, as he did in the first English debate (hosted by Maclean's, which Trudeau declined.)
    What's equalization?
    It seems the topic comes up every federal election ... and has been referenced a few times in this topic.
    So who actually pays? Not the provinces. Not provincial governments. According to the Library of Parliament, "Equalization is financed entirely from government of Canada general revenues" raised through federal taxes on all Canadians.
    Blanchet, after a brief "hmm," asks Scheer: You said you would protect Bill 21. How would you do that?
    Blanchet goes after Scheer in his question. Polls have shown the Bloc increasing its support in Quebec while the Conservatives have dropped. This is a problem for Scheer — if his chances to make gains in Quebec get worse, he will have to bank on winning more seats in Ontario, where his party is trailing the Liberals.
    Blanchet cedes some of his time to Scheer after interjecting during the Conservative leader's response.
    "You haven't apologized for your words against LGBT Canadians [from] years ago," Trudeau tells Scheer.
    Was just about to say we've gone a chunk of time without Trudeau (mostly as a result of the format), but then all of a sudden the Liberal leader is butting in to hit Scheer on LGBTQ right and abortion.
    As Trudeau and Scheer spar on abortion
    It's worth noting that Trudeau clarified his personal stance on abortion last week.
    While defending his Catholic faith in a 2011 article, Trudeau said he was personally opposed to abortion but believed nobody should tell a woman what she should do with her body.

    "I expressed something I no longer believe," Trudeau told reporters Friday. "I evolved past that particular perspective." More here.
    "A man has no position in a discussion of women's rights issues," Singh says to applause from the audience.
    Trudeau is only too happy to step back and let May fire away at Scheer on women's rights. I have never seen one leader (Trudeau) actually applaud another (May) on stage during an election debate. Anyone?
    Where does May stand on abortion
    There has been confusion around this issue as Elizabeth May does not believe in whipping votes.
    So when May told CBC's Power & Politics that she wouldn't forbid a Green MP from advancing legislation to curb access to abortion services, some took that as saying the Party was not pro-choice. May said she personally is pro-choice.
    A Green party spokesperson later said all candidates for the party must "wholeheartedly agree that the abortion debate is closed in Canada ... any who disagree are not allowed to run."
    The spokesperson said the party's federal council has disqualified candidates over anti-abortion views.
    The actual exchange between Trudeau and Scheer was a mess, but Trudeau at least got the topics raised.
    The cross talk isn’t helping anyone. Values (abortion, LGBT) just came into the discussion - much later than the last debate (TVA). Not sure anyone landed anything though, given the aforementioned crosstalk.
    Fifth theme: Environment and energy
    Rosemary Barton pivots to a question from Halifax: What concrete plans does each leader have to address big business polluting?
    Simon Donner, an associate professor of climatology at the University of British Columbia, says no party platform includes modeling on how they would achieve the Paris targets.
    He wrote about this and published this chart in Policy Options:
    Scheer has had a few nice comments for Singh during this debate. The Conservatives could use a boost from the NDP in the polls. In the 18 elections held since the New Democrats' first contested an election in 1962, the party has averaged 14.8 per cent of the vote whenever the Liberals have formed government. They have averaged 19.6 per cent of the vote in the elections that ended in victory for the Conservatives (or their predecessors, the Progressive Conservatives).
    "I find myself agreeing with you again Mr. Singh," Scheer says. (Although on climate, there really isn't a lot Conservatives and New Democrats agree with on substance. This is an odd couple if I ever saw one.)
    Again, strategically it is smart for the Conservatives to applaud the NDP - trying to peel disenchanted progressives away from the Liberal camp in any form helps reach their ultimate objective. The enemy of my enemy is my friend - dismantle the Liberal track record on the environment using any means possible.

    The Liberals' 'net-zero' carbon pledge

    The party has pledged to net-zero emissions by 2050. According to experts and environmentalists, adopting this even more ambitious goal might actually be the best way forward.

    "The 2050 pledge is meaningful because you are kind of setting up the North Star," says Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada.

    More on that here.

    According to Canada's Changing Climate Report (CCCR), which was commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada, since 1948, Canada's annual average temperature over land has warmed 1.7 C, with higher rates seen in the North, the Prairies and northern British Columbia.
    In Northern Canada, the annual average temperature has increased by 2.3 C.
    Responses to fifth theme
    Blanchet: Touts involvment in working on trade-exchange system between Quebec and California.
    Trudeau: Mentions federal carbon tax, frames debate as a choice between it and Scheer's policies.
    Bernier: All other leaders claim they can save the world, but they can't. PPC wouldn't have a carbon tax.
    Singh: Acknowledges climate crisis, knocks Trudeau for having strong rhetoric but conflicting action.
    Scheer: Agrees with Singh on Trudeau's actions versus promises, criticizes Liberal climate plan and touts Conservative "global" plan.
    May: Fighting climate change isn't easy, must meet goals or risk failing children. "Greta Thunberg is right," May says.
    Barton asks Trudeau: Should Canada not be moving further away from the development of the oil and gas sector? Should the Trans Mountain extension be Canada's last pipeline?
    "Your words are not good enough anymore," Singh says to Trudeau about his environmental promises. Trudeau counters with NDP plan to build a refinery in Alberta.
    Climate has brought out the most passionate version of Trudeau and is driving his clearest line of the night: that it's between him and Scheer. That's where the Liberals are putting their chips.
    With 12 minutes to go in this debate, Trudeau finally finds his feet and makes his case for re-election: Conservative premiers across Canada are dismantling action on climate change, the only way to stop them is a strong federal Liberal government.
    Again with the secret platform accusation. 3rd time teeing off on Doug Ford.
    "Mr. Trudeau, you seem to be oddly obsessed with provincial politics," Scheer says, trying to cut him down. Suggests that the Ontario Liberal leadership is open, perhaps he could run for that. Part of the audience, which is not supposed to be applauding, can't help itself it seems.
    There's been multiple references to Ontario politics
    Former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford have been brought up by their federal political rivals multiple times during the campaign, including during tonight's debate.
    So why do the Liberals and the Conservatives keep bringing up these provincial leaders? 
    Somehow this section on the environment turned into a debate about how many tax returns Quebecers should fill out.
    Aaron's got a point
    This section is supposed to be about the environment and energy, after all.
    "With all due respect, you're not going to be prime minister," May says to Scheer. "I'm going to prove you wrong on that," Scheer retorts.
    Bernier asks Scheer: "Andrew, are you a real Conservative? No, I think you are a Liberal. Why are you pretending to be something that you're not?"
    Now the scramble by everyone to use the last precious minutes for their parting shots.
    It took nearly two hours, but finally Maxime Bernier has had his sharpest critiques of Andrew Scheer, questioning whether he is a real Conservative. Scheer quickly pivots to saying the election is a choice between himself and Trudeau — the same message Trudeau has been pushing to progressive voters that are currently backing New Democrats and Greens. Issue for Scheer is that there aren't as many voters to the right of him as there are for Trudeau to the left.


    Claim: Scheer has said the Trudeau government sends $2.2 billion of foreign aid to middle- and upper-income countries. He claims the money is being shovelled to "repressive regimes that are adversarial, if not outright hostile, to Canadian interests and values."
    Verdict: Misleading
    A large slice of the money that Andrew Scheer says went to Iran was actually used to pay for enforcement of the Iran nuclear deal. None went to the government. The money that Scheer said was given to Russia, $200,000, was actually given to independent election monitors to keep an eye on vote-rigging by the Kremlin. Canada did give a one-time contribution of two million dollars to Italy after the 2016 Amatrice earthquake. But there is no regular foreign aid to Italy or anywhere else in Western Europe. Moreover, it’s not clear how the Conservatives came up with the number $2.2 billion.
    Read more on our fact check here.
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