After a week of campaigning, the political landscape leading into Canada’s 43rd federal election on October 21 has slowly shifted with platform reveals and several controversial announcements.
Last Monday, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), Maxime Bernier, received an invitation to take part in the two televised debates organized by the independent Leaders’ Debate Commission. The English and French debates will take place on October 7 and 10 respectively.
Leaders’ Debate Commissioner David Johnston initially decided to not invite Bernier as he didn’t meet the requirements to participate in the debates.
The Commission considers three criteria when inviting party leaders to participate in the debates: whether a party is represented by an MP in the House of Commons; whether a party plans to field candidates in at least 90 per cent of ridings; and whether a party has a substantial chance of electing more than one MP.
Johnston wrote to Bernier on Monday that he satisfied the last two requirements.
“Based on recent political context, public opinion polls and previous general election results, I consider that more than one candidate of your party has a legitimate chance to be elected,” wrote Johnston.
Johnston’s initial decision, informed by current polling data at the time, was that the PPC did not have a “legitimate chance” to win more than one seat in the House of Commons. Johnston reportedly gave the PPC time to submit more material to appeal the decision.
Following the announcement, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh publicized his disagreement with the Commission’s decision.
“I think it’s wrong to give Mr. Bernier the platform to spread his hateful and divisive message,” said Singh during a campaign stop in Montreal.
In a letter to the Commission, Singh accused Bernier of “courting racists to run for his party” and for “promoting conspiracy theories.”
Singh also criticized Bernier for his comments on 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. Bernier referred to Thunberg as being “clearly mentally unstable.”
“Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, [has an] eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear,” posted Bernier on Twitter on September 2. He back-tracked his statements shortly after.
Factoring in the “recent political context” and recent polling data, the PPC can potentially win in at least four ridings across the country.
In a video posted to his Twitter account, Bernier welcomed the Commission’s decision to include him in the debates.
“Canadians will be able to look at all the options. I can tell you that the People’s Party is a real, national party with serious reforms that need to be done for a freer and more prosperous country,” said Bernier.
A second controversy began to make waves on the campaign trail last Monday when rumours surfaced that Justin Trudeau “had drinks” with former Rebel Media journalist and far-right activist, Faith Goldy.
“Only one federal party leader has bought me drinks at Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier,” Goldy tweeted on Monday. “Any guesses?”
Attached to the tweet was a 2014 image of Goldy and Trudeau as she interviewed him for Sun Media. Goldy has since deleted the tweet.
Only a few days prior, Liberal Maryam Monsef released a video of Conservative candidate Justina McCaffrey with Goldy, dating their friendship back to 2013.
Goldy was fired from Rebel Media for appearing on a white nationalist podcast during the 2017 Charlottesville riots. She made a bid in Toronto’s mayoral race last year and finished third, receiving 3.40 per cent of the vote.
Andrew Scheer, the leader for the Conservative party, was quick to defend his candidate and question Trudeau’s relationship with Goldy.
“If we’re going to talk about candidates, let’s talk about the Liberal candidate in Papineau [Trudeau’s riding], who broke ethics laws twice, who brought a convicted terrorist along to an official state function, who is now interfering and blocking an RCMP investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair. I also look forward to Justin Trudeau’s response to allegations that he took Faith Goldy out for drinks,” Scheer said at a campaign event in British Columbia on Monday.
Scheer has also recently been subject of criticism for his defence of several Conservative candidates who have been accused of making derogatory remarks in the past.
Last week, Scheer answered questions from the media about his candidate for Brampton North, Arpan Khanna, who reportedly made homophobic remarks on Twitter in 2010.
At the same press conference, Scheer defended Ghada Melek, Conservative candidate for Mississauga-Streetsville. Malek was rejected as a candidate by the Ontario Progressive Conservative party for her homophobic and Islamophobic online remarks but was accepted to run as a candidate for Scheer’s Conservative Party.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation from the campaign trail emerged last Wednesday evening when TIME published a story after receiving a photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing a turban and robes. His face, neck, and hands are covered in dark makeup.
The article reported that the picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala and was featured in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau worked as a teacher.
“Earlier this month, TIME obtained a copy of the yearbook, The View, with the photograph of Trudeau in brownface from Vancouver businessman Michael Adamson, who was part of the West Point Grey Academy community. Adamson was not at the party, which was attended by school faculty, administrators and parents of students. He said that he first saw the photograph in July and felt it should be made public,” explains the article.
The Liberal Party of Canada confirmed that Trudeau was in fact the individual in the photo.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the photograph surfaced, Trudeau appeared remorseful for his actions.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” said Trudeau. “I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry.”
When asked by TIME reporters if he thought the photograph was racist, Trudeau replied, “Yes it was. I didn’t consider it racist at the time, but now we know better.”
Two other photographs from separate incidents have since surfaced showing Trudeau in blackface.
At the time of writing, the Conservatives and Liberals are polling at a 34.8 per cent and 33.8 per cent support, respectively. The New Democratic Party are in third with 13.5 per cent support. The Green Party trail behind with 9.6 per cent support. The Bloc Québécois are polling at 4.6 per cent and the People’s Party are at 2.8 per cent. The poll averages collected is per the CBC’s Poll Tracker.