Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau battles Conservative rival over climate and election calendar


On Wednesday, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fought with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole over climate change and Canada’s election calendar amid the pandemic, in one of two key debates ahead of the elections.

The environment is one of the main issues cited by Canadians in the run-up to the September 20 vote, as Trudeau saw his support plunge after calling an early election.

He now trails O’Toole in the polls from 33.7% to 31.2% – within the margin of error.

In a poignant moment in the Francophone debate, a boy far too young to vote, but worried about his future, asked leaders how they were going to deal with the warming.

Trudeau, who has campaigned for a green recovery, touted his plan to cut carbon emissions by gradually increasing the carbon tax to C $ 170 per tonne by the end of the decade, saying it had been considered the best by experts.

He accused the Tories of “backtracking” by subscribing to a commitment under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, compared to at 2005 levels.

The Liberals are “the only ones with a real plan to tackle climate change,” he said, while attacking O’Toole over his promise to revive an Alberta tar sands pipeline project at the Port of Kitimat in the Pacific.

O’Toole countered that a strong economic recovery is needed to pay for environmental measures, and pointed out that the Trudeau administration has missed its emissions targets to date.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the left-wing New Democratic Party, also added to Trudeau regarding broadcasts: “In six years you have the worst record in the G7.”

Canada is the fourth largest oil producer in the world, and emissions from the sector have hampered its climate efforts.

In March, O’Toole found himself at odds with his base after telling a party convention that a solid plan to tackle climate change was needed if the Conservatives were to ever hope to overthrow Trudeau.

Instead, members rejected a resolution saying “climate change is real”.

– On the defensive-

On Wednesday, the debate moderator urged O’Toole to explain “how we can pollute less by consuming more” as part of the conservatives’ CO2 affinity program.

The party proposes to create “low carbon savings accounts” with points earned by spending gasoline, for example, to be used to purchase items from an approved green list.

Earlier in the debate, Trudeau was forced to squat on the defensive for unplugging his minority government to force an early election.

“Now is not the time for an election. Why in the middle of a pandemic have you called an election?” O’Toole said, echoed by other political party leaders on stage.

Trudeau has been accused of calling the election when he was high in the polls, hoping to win back a majority in the House of Commons.

But few Canadians wanted an election so soon after emerging from pandemic lockdowns as another wave of Covid threatens a return to offices and schools.

Trudeau, the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, came to power in 2015, toppling conservatives in power for nearly a decade.

But fatigue set in, while his image as a golden boy has been tarnished by scandals.

In retaliation, Trudeau said Canadians face significant challenges ahead and must decide which party is best prepared to lead Canada’s exit from the pandemic.

“We can clearly see that there are some pretty deep differences in our view of the country. These elections are a chance for Canadians to choose,” he said.

Along with Singh, the separatist leader of the Bloc Québécois Yves-François Blanchet and the leader of the Green Party Annamie Paul, Trudeau and O’Toole also fought over Covid deaths in retirement homes, mandatory vaccines, public finances and indigenous reconciliation.

A second debate, in English, is scheduled for Thursday evening.

amc / dw

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