Fact-checking the English federal leaders’ debate


Five federal party leaders took to the stage Thursday night at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau for the first, and only, English debate of the 2021 federal election campaign.

Justin Trudeau, Erin O’Toole, Jagmeet Singh, Yves-François Blanchet and Annamie Paul had a lot to say on a range of subjects — and CBC News has been listening closely for any falsehoods.

Here are some of the more notable claims and CBC’s evaluations of them.

On sexual misconduct

“Yes, these problems continue in workplaces across the country, particularly in the military. That’s unacceptable, which is why we’ve taken even stronger measures.”

— Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

This has been a difficult subject for the Trudeau government over the past year and during the campaign.

Trudeau didn’t specify what measures he was talking about, but female staffers who have worked with Raj Saini, a Liberal MP who represented Kitchener Centre, might dispute this.

A number of staffers allege that Saini made sexual advances and said inappropriate comments to them. Saini denies the allegations; he eventually terminated his candidacy in Kitchener Centre.

One of those staffers, who spoke to CBC News under the condition of anonymity, said that a workplace assessment into Saini’s office working conditions lacked rigour. She said that although her complaints prompted the workplace assessment, she was not allowed to participate in it.

She was later dismissed from her job at Saini’s office. A dismissal letter she showed CBC said she “repeatedly breached” her “duty of good faith and loyalty” to her employer through “persistent and incessant unwelcome and disparaging comments toward the MP.”

The House of Commons has agreed to review that workplace assessment.

The Trudeau government has launched an external review of sexual misconduct in the military, led by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour. While the government has agreed to adopt the measures she suggests while the review is ongoing, none have been adopted yet.

Many sexual assault victims and veterans have called for an external reporting system on sexual misconduct outside of the military chain of command. Arbour’s review will look at that.

On greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

“You have never made a target Mr. Trudeau.”

— Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole

The Trudeau government claims that it can meet its 2030 Paris Climate Agreement target, which is an emissions reduction of 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels. Jagmeet Singh and the NDP have attacked Trudeau and the Liberals on GHG emissions, saying that emissions have only risen since the Trudeau government signed on to the agreement in 2016.

Trudeau, O’Toole debate climate change

During the English leaders’ debate, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole respond to the question about how one in four Canadians do not believe climate change is caused by human activity. 2:11

This is true, according to official statistics on GHG emissions. Emissions have risen consistently from 2016 to 2019, but only by a small amount — from 707 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to 730 in 2019. Emissions are also rising in Canada while they are on a downward trajectory in the United States, U.K. and EU.

But experts have told CBC News that this line of attack is misleading. Policies introduced by the government to reduce emissions, such as carbon pricing in 2019, will have an effect on GHG emissions, but not immediately. That means that the government could still meet the target — and it certainly hasn’t “missed” a target that’s still in the future. 

We also don’t have GHG emissions statistics yet for 2020 — a year during which they likely went down due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On long-term care

“Unlike Mr. Trudeau and Mr. O’Toole, who believe in private long-term care delivery, we want to get out profit … from the delivery of long-term care”

— NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh

The NDP did introduce a motion in the House of Commons to abolish for-profit long-term care homes

The Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc voted against it, citing provincial jurisdiction over long-term care.

On home sales

“Mr. Trudeau, Canadians are worried you are going to be taxing their primary home sales”

— Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole

The Liberals have only pledged to do this for a very limited number of sales — homes that are sold after fewer than 12 months of ownership.

Federal party leaders debate housing affordability

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke with the CBC’s Rosemary Barton during the leaders debate. 2:22

“We will establish an anti-flipping tax on residential properties, requiring properties to be held for at least 12 months,” the Liberal housing platform says.

Even then, there are a lot of ways to get an exemption from this proposed tax, such as a change in employment or divorce.

Read more at CBC.ca