OTTAWA, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's main rival Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer on Monday night took direct aim at him during the second election debate.
The televised debate brought together on stage a record six party leaders, including Trudeau, who seeks a second term. Recent polls showed that his governing Liberal Party almost tied with the Conservative Party in public support. The voting day is scheduled for Oct. 21.
Instead of directly responding to the first question from the audience -- about how each of the party leaders would, as prime minister, defend Canadians' interests and values on the world stage amid U.S. protectionism, Britain's Brexit debate and Canada's growing tensions with China -- Scheer said that he would "always stand up for Canada and Canadians' interests, and promote free trade."
To the same question, Trudeau said that Canadians were "in a very challenging time right now -- from protectionism to fear-based politics to the transformative technological change ... We need to make sure that Canadians are equipped and tooled to succeed in an uncertain world," before proceeding to outline his government's achievements in this regard.
Scheer approached the rivals with a tactic targeting personal character rather than policy differences, calling Trudeau a phony and fraud who did "not deserve to govern the country."
He brought up Trudeau's blackface scandal which surfaced last month, when Time magazine published a photo showing the then 20-year-old Trudeau in black makeup, a controversial behavior linked to the racial caricature of black communities in North American history.
Scheer later tried to discredit Trudeau's effort in healing historical wounds of the Canadian indigenous peoples, one of his administration's priorities. He said that the dismissal of Jody Wilson-Raybould, "the first attorney general of indigenous background", from Trudeau's cabinet revealed that the prime minister was only donning a "reconciliation mask."
Wilson-Raybould resigned as justice minister and attorney general earlier this year in protest against Trudeau's demand that she drop a criminal prosecution against Canadian construction giant, SNC-Lavalin. A parliament watchdog ruled in August that Trudeau violated the country's ethics law in helping the company.
For Scheer, his dual American-Canadian citizenship and vocational record were under attack during the debate, particularly since he had chastised other senior government officials for holding both a French and Canadian passport. Scheer also reportedly never obtained the proper licensing accreditation for insurance broker even though he claimed he was in the profession before entering national politics 15 years ago.
While the debate between the top two contenders was getting personal, other party leaders shared their proposals about major issues affecting Canadians, such as healthcare and Canada's position in world politics and economy.
Maxime Bernier, who leads the right-wing People's Party, said that his party "puts Canada first" in its foreign policy. New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, a Canadian Sikh, said that the debated questions about trade, Canada-U.S. relationships and others all come down to one thing -- "the courage to stand up to the powerful and wealthy interests" of Canadian corporations.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May stood for Canadian's active role in ending poverty and gender inequality in education worldwide, and proposed a reform of the World Trade Organization to tackle climate issues.