The leaders of Canada’s main political parties squared off Thursday night in the first debate of the 11-week election campaign.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seeking a fourth term in office and is locked in a tight three-way race ahead of the Oct. 19 vote. His Conservatives are slightly behind Tom Mulcair’s New Democratic Party in the polls, with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals within striking distance in third place.
Here are the memorable quotes from the two-hour sparring session in Toronto.
Mulcair on the economy:
“Honestly Mr. Harper, we really can’t afford another four years of you,” the NDP leader said, countering Harper’s campaign ads claiming Mulcair will raise taxes and boost spending.
Harper and Mulcair sparring on recession:
“We are one month away from a technical definition of a recession but according to a lot of observers we are already in a recession,” Mulcair said.
Harper’s reply: “Mr. Mulcair, I’m not denying that. What I am saying is that that contraction is exclusively in the energy sector. The rest of the economy has grown.”
Mulcair on corporate taxes:
“Canadians are paying their fair share, Canada’s largest corporations are not paying their fair share and yes we as the NDP will bring up their taxes slightly.”
Harper on the Keystone XL pipeline:
“There’s overwhelming public support on both sides so I’m very optimistic about the future of that project,” he said. “I’m very confident that whoever is the next president I think will approve that project very soon.”
Trudeau on Harper’s environmental record:
“Nobody believes you.”
Trudeau on Harper’s energy record:
“Mr. Harper has turned the oil sands into the scapegoat around the world for climate change, and he’s put a big target on our oil sands, which are going to be an important part of our economy for a number of years to come although we have to get beyond them.”
Trudeau on the environment:
“You cannot make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy. In the 21st century they go together.”
Harper on carbon taxes:
“A carbon tax is not about reducing emissions, it’s a front” for governments to raise revenue.
Harper on pipelines and the NDP:
“That’s the record of the NDP: they’re always for projects until they actually face one and then they’re against it.”
Mulcair on Harper:
“You’re going to do everything you can to hang onto your job; I’m going to do everything I can to create jobs.”
Trudeau on Mulcair’s position on Quebec separatism:
“It is not worthy of a prime minister. No prime minister should make it easier for Quebec to separate from Canada.”
Mulcair on Russian President Vladimir Putin:
“Putin is a danger. We stand firmly with Ukraine against the aggression by Russia.”
Trudeau on fear:
“Mr. Harper wants everyone to be scared and that there are terrorists behind every leaf and rock. Mr. Mulcair wants us to be scared for our charter and our basic rights and freedoms.”