Stephen Harper’s record on the economy and the environment faced an all-out assault from three different fronts in Thursday’s televised leaders’ debate.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the Green party’s Elizabeth May set their sights on multiple aspects of the Conservative government’s program of tax cuts and balanced budget pledges.
Harper was repeatedly forced on to the defensive, clarifying statistics flung at him by his opponents.
He blamed low oil prices for the slumping economy, but both Mulcair and Trudeau argued the malaise runs deeper and blamed Harper’s policies — particularly the Conservative plan to allow income-splitting for families with children fewer than 18.
The NDP leader reminded Harper that in the 2008 election, he denied the country had slid into recession when in fact it was on the verge of the economic crisis.
Mulcair says the country can’t afford another four years of Harper.
“Back in 2008, Mr. Harper was misleading. He said we were not in a recession in fact, turned out we were in the worst recession since the 1920’s. He’s trying to hide the fact we are in a deficit again.”
Green leader Elizabeth May wanted Harper to answer for his trade record.
“We have more barriers to trade within Canada than the 28-nation states of the European Union. Where is your plan?”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau called Harper out for his poor relationship with provincial leaders.
“Simply refused to engage with provincial leaders whether it’s on interprovincial trade barriers, whether it’s on climate change, whether it’s on training and job creation, and that’s quite frankly not the kind of leadership that a broad and diverse country like Canada actually needs from a prime minister.”
The Macleans magazine-sponsored event debate may be the last time all four leaders of the federal parties engage in a debate.
The Conservatives say the Prime Minister won’t take part in the Canadian Broadcaster consortium debates, and Mulcair says he won’t debate if Harper won’t.