Canadian election: Federal leaders continue election campaign after back-to-back debates


The Canadian Press

Posted on Friday, September 10, 2021 at 5:56 a.m. EDT

Last updated Friday, September 10, 2021 8:35 PM EDT

OTTAWA – Federal party leaders defended Quebec against racism charges on Friday – a day too late, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet fired back – as they hit the road again in hopes of shooting party of any post-debate momentum as Canadians start to advance polls.

Accustomed to recent federal election campaigns, the controversial issue of secularism in Quebec once again erupted during Thursday’s English debate, when Blanchet strongly opposed the wording of a question by moderator Shachi Kurl.

Kurl asked about Blanchet’s support for “discriminatory” laws in Quebec, such as the one known as Bill 21, which prohibits certain officials in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols or clothing. Blanchet accuses him in turn of portraying all Quebecers as racists.

On Friday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his Conservative rival Erin O’Toole asserted that Quebecers were not racist, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said there was no point in the fight against systemic racism singling out a province or territory.

Quebec, with 78 seats, is a key battleground that could determine the outcome of the election. At the time of the dissolution, the Liberals held 35 seats in the provinces, the Bloc 32, the Conservatives 10 and the NDP only one.

The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, for his part, described the issue of Bills 21 and 96, which propose to strengthen the role of French in Quebec, as “unacceptable” and an attack on the province. He called on Kurl and the debate organizers to apologize.

In a statement Friday, the Debate Broadcast Group said Kurl’s question on the bills should give Blanchet a chance to explain his party’s point of view on them.

“The question was explicitly about these bills; it did not indicate that Quebecers are racist,” the statement said.

Bills 21 and 96 have both been deemed discriminatory by civil liberties and human rights groups. Bill 21, which enjoys wide support in the province, has been challenged in the courts, although the province has used the notwithstanding clause as a preventive measure to protect it from a Charter of Rights challenge. and freedoms.

Blanchet defended the two laws during the debate as being legitimate and representative of Quebec values.

He also objected to how the issue of systemic discrimination had become “a political tool” to be used against Quebec. “It has become a tool to say that Quebec is this and that and racist and xenophobic and all that,” Blanchet said in the debate.

The only leader to challenge Blanchet during the debate was the leader of the Green Party Annamie Paul, who invited the leader of the Bloc Québécois “to learn about systemic discrimination”.

Trudeau had already spoken out against Bill 21, particularly during the 2019 federal election, as well as against the ban on face covering adopted by the Quebec government. This issue also featured prominently in the 2015 election, when the former Conservative government considered a niqab ban for public servants. He reiterated his opposition to the law on secularism on Friday.

Yet the Liberal leader also said he was “baffled” by the premise of Kurl’s question, saying during an election event in Hamilton. : “It is wrong to suggest that Quebecers are racist. As a Quebecker, I found this question really offensive.

“Yes, there is a lot of work to be done to continue to fight systemic racism in this country and in all parts of this country. But I don’t think this question was acceptable or appropriate.”

Trudeau made the comments when the Liberals announced they were launching a new advertising campaign in Quebec.

O’Toole went further, promising that as premier he would never challenge a law passed by a provincial legislature.

“Quebeckers are not racist and it is unfair to make this radical categorization,” the Conservative leader said at an event in Mississauga, Ontario. “They made decisions and passed laws passed by their national assembly. I will respect that.”

Singh told a press conference in Ottawa that systemic racism and discrimination are not isolated in a province or territory, suggesting that one of the biggest examples is Ottawa’s failure to respond to advice. water boiling on First Nations.

“This is not a problem of any province or territory,” he said before flying to British Columbia to vote at the advance poll in his riding. “It exists all over Canada. And to face it, we must recognize that it is everywhere and work together to eradicate it.

Blanchet, who also voted early on Friday, accused the other three counts of coming too late to the defense of Quebec.

“I will let Quebeckers measure the credibility of these renewed ailments, which did not appear at the right time,” he said in French.

He also defended the law, saying in English: “Religion has never protected women’s equality in the state and never will. We are not the ones who work with discrimination in mind.

Others have also criticized Trudeau, O’Toole and Singh, but for different reasons: not to stand up to Blanchet and clearly denounce Bill 21.

“When the other party leaders have not intervened to claim that Bill 21 engages in an act of systemic discrimination, it is shameful,” said Mustafa Farooq, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, who contested the law before the Court. Quebec appeal.

The founder of Canadians United Against Hate, Fareed Khan, accused Blanchet of being “all angry” during the debate, adding: “I would say to Mr. Blanchet, if he was in front of me: ‘If you don’t don’t want to be labeled as xenophobic and a racist then don’t support xenophobic and racist legislation. “‘

Singh, meanwhile, revealed that the NDP would release the full cost of its election promises on Saturday, as he faced several questions about why Canadians had yet to see the fine print on his platform. form with the final vote just 10 days.

The Conservatives and Liberals have released fully encrypted platforms.

“We are working with the PBO, and it certainly takes time,” said the leader of the NDP, referring to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

“The PBO is obviously well respected and they have a great track record to be able to evaluate our platform. So we wanted to work with them and we will release our encrypted platform on Saturday.”

On Friday, Statistics Canada announced that the economy created 90,000 jobs in August, the third consecutive monthly increase.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.1% for the month from 7.5% in July, bringing the rate to its lowest level since the pandemic began last year.

Gains were concentrated in full-time work and the hard-hit service sector, led by gains in accommodation and food services as restrictions eased across much of the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 10, 2021.

– with files from Lee Berthiaume and Maan Alhmidi in Ottawa, Jacob Serebrin in Montreal and Allison Jones in Toronto.

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