Campaign 2019: Andrew Scheer, American? Singh Told to “Cut off” Turban and May Responds to Debate Snub
The 2019 federal election is heating up, as Jagmeet Singh handles a heckler who suggests the NDP leader “cut off” his turban to fit in, Elizabeth May decries her exclusion from the French-language debate as an attempt to silence her, Scheer is attacked from all sides over his stance on climate change, and Trudeau says a re-elected Liberal government will not appeal a Quebec court decision striking down parts of the assisted dying legislation as unconstitutional.
But there was more to come for the conservative leader.
With the Liberals calling for an investigation into whether Scheer was in fact the insurance broker he had claimed to be after the Globe and Mail reported he had reached only level one of a four stage certification, Scheer hoped for some wiggle room saying “I did receive my accreditation,” but “I left the insurance office before the licensing process was finalized.” A statement that essentially admits that he never held a broker’s license and had padded his resume.
The other shoe dropped when the Toronto Star revealed that Scheer has American citizenship , an embarrassing revelation given his and his party’ s record of blasting other politicians and political appointments for holding dual citizenship. Scheer has never voted in a U.S. election, did not renew his U.S. passport as an adult and is in the process of renouncing his American citizenship but his answer as to why he did not reveal this information, “No one’s ever asked me before,” is disingenuous at best. And at Monday night’s debate, the report will give Prime Minister Trudeau — who has been hit hard by Scheer on dishonesty, inauthenticity and a lack of transparency stemming from the SNC Lavalin and brown and black face scandals — some ground, though not necessarily higher, to stand on.
Heckler to Singh: “Cut off your turban”
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh continues to make a name for himself on the campaign trail, winning respect for the way he deals with questions about racism and religious symbols. Yesterday, while shopping in Montreal’s Atwater Market with his wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, a man accosted Singh, suggesting that in order to “look like a Canadian,” the NDP leader should “cut off his turban.” Singh, who never seems to lose his cool with hecklers (often disarming them with a hug), barely missed a beat, telling the man: “Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people. That’s the beauty of Canada.”
One of the big hot-button questions entering the election campaign was how well Singh would navigate the tricky waters of Quebec nationalist politics. In a province that forbids its public servants from wearing religious symbols (including headwear and crucifixes), how would voters react to the NDP leader’s turban? Instead of crumbling under this difficult assignment, Singh has surprised skeptics by owning the issue. Not only has he refused to apologize for his turban in Quebec , but he has also scored huge marks for confronting racism head on. During the outcry that followed Trudeau’s brown- and blackface incidents, Singh made an emotional plea that struck the perfect note. After a slow start on the campaign, he’s definitely found his groove. As Singh walked away from yesterday’s encounter, the heckler called out — “Take care, eh? I hope you win.” You must be doing something right when even the hecklers are cheering for you.
French debate gets intense
While much of English Canada was preoccupied with the opening night of the NHL season, voters in Quebec shifted their focus to another arena, the French-language debate. In some heated exchanges, Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet didn’t pull any punches. As expected, Blanchet came under heavy attack for his separatist agenda, with Trudeau accusing the Bloc leader of trying to “fuel divisions” in the province and Scheer saying that, without the hope of forming the government, “there is nothing you can do for Quebec.” But for much of the night, it was Scheer — not Blanchet — on the defensive. The Conservative leader fended off pressure from the other three leaders asking him to state his personal stance on abortion and medically assisted dying. And the halting defence he gave to his party’s moderate climate-change platform allowed Blanchet to score the line of the night, suggesting that Scheer believes “the free market or divine inspiration” will fix the environment.
Trudeau on assisted dying
After a court challenge that saw key sections of both the federal government’s and the Quebec government’s assisted dying legislation struck down in September, Trudeau admitted in last night’s debate that the current law, passed by the Liberals three years ago, might be too limited. Responding to a question, Trudeau said that while his government “will revisit the law within six months,” he said they would not appeal the decision. Trudeau quickly lobbed the assisted-dying grenade over to Scheer, accusing the Conservative leader of opposing the law right from the start. After the debate, Trudeau clarified his response, telling reporters that, “we’ve always recognized that there would be changes to this law, and we will take into account the court judgment as we move forward to improvements to this law to better get that balance right.” While the Liberals won’t appeal the Quebec court decision, Scheer told voters that, as Prime Minister, he would appeal, asking the Supreme Court to provide certainty on the issue.
Elizabeth May’s recurring nightmare
After People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier and Green Party leader Elizabeth May were excluded from last night’s French-language debate on the TVA network, May wrote an article in Maclean’s expressing her “resigned indignation,” saying “the debate on debates has been a perennial nightmare of my life.” May, a quality debater who has spent much of her political career trying (often in vain) to score an invite to these leadership tilts, said the French debate organizers failed to “offer the full picture that voters are facing at the polls this election.” She also complained that, as the only female leader in this election, last night’s proceedings “excluded 50 per cent of the population from being represented on the debate stage.” Despite the setback, she remains unbowed: “We won’t back down.” May can take some solace from the fact she wasn’t completely shut out of the national spotlight last night. She was invited — and delivered a typically folksy effort — on CBC’s Face to Face.