All five party leaders in the upcoming 2019 federal election. (The Canadian Press photos)

Scheer, Trudeau trade barbs ahead of debate, amid Ontario education unrest

All six federal party leaders in Ottawa for national English-language debate

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called his Liberal rival Justin Trudeau “disgusting” Monday morning for trying to score political points on the backs of Ontario students.

Trudeau fired back at Scheer at an event with local teachers, where he tried to highlight the ongoing tension between Ontario’s education workers and the government of Premier Doug Ford.

The early-morning skirmish marked what was otherwise quiet day on the campaign trail as all the party leaders prepared for the evening’s national English-language debate.

Scheer made an announcement about making national museum admission free and ensuring the memories of important Canadian historical figures aren’t erased by political correctness.

Trudeau started the day at a Boys and Girls Club in Ottawa, saying that as a former teacher, he understands that the education policies of the Ford government “are impacting not just teachers in schools but kids and families as well as the future we are building.”

The event was planned before a last-minute deal was reached Sunday night between the Ontario government and education support workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The agreement averted the closure of hundreds of the provinces elementary and high schools Monday morning.

Trudeau has repeatedly tried to link Scheer to Ford, to appeal to Ontario voters who may be having second thoughts about electing a Conservative government. Scheer hasn’t campaigned with Ford so far, including during stops in the premier’s own riding.

Trudeau has issued repeated warnings that Scheer will make cuts to important services just like Ford has done in Ontario. Recent changes made by the Ford government have increased class size limits in Ontario to save $2.8 billion over the next five years. As a result, the province’s Financial Accountability Office said by 2023-24 there will be 10,000 fewer teachers in classrooms than if class sizes had not been increased.

“The reality is the cuts Doug Ford has already brought in to education are being felt right across the province,” he said. “Right now we’re in an election where the option is to double down on Conservative approaches which always cut services, looks for austerity and gives tax breaks to the wealthiest instead of to everyone else.

Scheer was having none of it Monday, and said he thought Trudeau was probably the only parent in Ontario that was disappointed by the strike not going forward.

“It’s quite disgusting that he was trying to politicize kids’ education for his own personal partisan gain.

Monday’s debate is considered a critical appearance for all the leaders in a campaign that has seen little movement in the polls since it began on Sept. 11.

Trudeau could find himself on the defensive, facing attacks on his record from all sides.

For Scheer, it will be the first time he shares the stage with Maxime Bernier, who left the Conservatives in 2018 to start up his own People’s Party of Canada. Bernier was not invited to either a Maclean’s magazine debate in the first week of the campaign nor a TVA French debate in Montreal last week.

He presents a possible wild card for Scheer in the debate as he tries to attack disgruntled Conservative voters. Scheer dismissed the idea he has any concerns about Bernier’s presence.

“That changes nothing for me, because I am always there to replace Justin Trudeau,” he said.

READ MORE: Separation of church and state a hot topic in French-language debate

Scheer is coming off what was deemed a weak performance in the TVA debate last week that some Quebec pundits think harmed Conservative fortunes in that province.

Leaders don’t usually reveal new policies or promises in a debate but how they come off when facing opponents directly can buoy or sink a campaign.

The dynamic could also be interesting between NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and the Greens’ Elizabeth May, who appear to be fighting for third place.

The Bloc Quebecois’ Yves-Francois Blanchet has little to gain or lose in front of a national audience primarily of English-speakers.

This is the first of two debates taking place this week in a theatre at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., with a French-language version coming Thursday.

The election is in two weeks, on Oct. 21.

READ MORE: Trudeau attacks Conservatives for not releasing platform as leaders prepare for debate

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Red Deer has nine active COVID-19 cases

Number of cases increased by 107 Friday

“My world exploded,” says Bentley-area farmer who’s swather was struck by a motorist

Dennis Duncan was a mile from home when his swather was struck by another travelling at high speeds

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

Ki Yun Jo was killed after Mitchell Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel

New owners of Sylvan Lake Canadian Tire looking to be big part of the community

Randy and Alison Patton are the new owners of Sylvan Lake Canadian Tire

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Six injured, man in custody following BB gun incident in Alberta, RCMP say

Airdrie’s downtown core was told to shelter-in-place, while others nearby were asked to stay inside

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Wetaskiwin RCMP make arrests for Hit and Run to residence

Damage estimates are expected to be in excess of $20,000.

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C., Alberta sending nearly 300 fire personnel by Friday to help battle wildfires in Oregon

Some 230 firefighters, most from British Columbia but including a number from Alberta, will be deployed Friday

Death of mother grizzly a ‘big loss’ for bear population in Banff park: experts

The bear, known as No. 143, spent most of her time in the backcountry of Banff

Most Read