Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he wished Monday’s English-language debate had afforded more one-on-one exchanges with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, criticizing the format that forced the six main party leaders to fight for airtime on a crowded stage.
The leaders were campaigning on Tuesday with less than two weeks to go until Election Day, and with two days to go until their next tête-à-tête.
“I believe that Canadians would have liked to see me explain my policies and him defend his,” Mr. Scheer said on Tuesday at a subway extension announcement in Markham, Ont. “Unfortunately, the format did not really allow for a lot of that.”
Speaking to reporters in Iqaluit on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau said Mr. Scheer’s attacks demonstrated that “he thinks this election is about me.”
“This election isn’t about me. This election is about Canadians,” Mr. Trudeau said.
The debate was organized by the Leaders’ Debates Commission, an independent panel the federal government established since the last election.
Conservative strategist and commentator Dennis Matthews said the format, which featured six leaders and five moderators, did not allow any substantial policy discussion. Instead, Mr. Scheer focused on performing in a way that could create “online digital moments that can be shared.”
In Toronto, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appeared to be riding high after the debate, as hundreds of students crowded around him at Ryerson University for a photo or handshake.
Mr. Singh was asked by media earlier in the day to clarify his position on a Quebec law that restricts religious dress among some public servants, which was raised during Monday’s debate.
Mr. Trudeau, who has left the door open to federal intervention in the law, grilled Mr. Singh at the debate for not committing to intervene if the NDP formed government. The law is being challenged in Quebec Superior Court on questions of jurisdiction and broader constitutional principles.
“I am a lawyer, and I think it’s very important that I don’t interfere in any way with a court challenge,” Mr. Singh said on Tuesday.
He also announced a promise to save young people $1,200 in cellphone fees, student loans and prescription-drug and dental-care costs, as well as a $5,000-a-year benefit for families spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.
NDP strategist Anne McGrath said Mr. Singh was authentic, measured and policy-focused during Monday’s debate. Canadians will consider the debate as they decide how to vote, Ms. McGrath added, stressing the importance of Thanksgiving weekend.
“That’s when people will start talking about the election,” she said.
Liberal strategist Amanda Alvaro said Canadians can expect a “ramp up” of political television advertisements around Thanksgiving weekend.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was in Longueuil, Que., on Tuesday, where she committed to stand against the construction of a pipeline in the province.
The leaders will meet on Thursday for another French-language debate in Gatineau.
According to the daily tracking survey from Nanos Research, the Liberals and Conservatives are tied at 35 per cent support, while the NDP sits at 14 per cent, the Greens at 10 per cent, the Bloc Québécois at 5 per cent, and the People’s Party at 1 per cent.
The poll was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV, with a total of 1,200 Canadians surveyed from Oct. 5 to Oct. 7. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” A report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys can be found at http://tgam.ca/election-polls.
Chief data scientist Nik Nanos said there is a deadlock between the Conservatives and the Liberals, and a lack of enthusiasm for both of the front-running leaders.
“The one casualty in this campaign could actually be the voter turnout where people are not motivated,” Mr. Nanos said.