Trudeau under pressure in last TV debate before Canadian election

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Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under pressure on Thursday in the last televised debate of top candidates before parliamentary elections.

His Conservative Party opponent Erin O’Toole criticized Trudeau for his decision to call an early election despite the crisis in Afghanistan and the current coronavirus pandemic.

“You called an election, so you put your own political interests ahead of the well being of thousands of people. Leadership is about putting others first, not yourself,” he said.

The leader of the social-democratic NDP party, Jagmeet Singh, agreed.

Trudeau defended his Afghanistan policy and praised the work of Canadian security forces to evacuate thousands of people from Kabul.

As in other NATO nations, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and its disastrous consequences has sparked fierce criticism.

Nearly 38 million people will go to the polls in Canada on September 20 to vote for a new government.

Trudeau, who has been in charge since 2015 and has led a minority government since 2019, called the elections several weeks ago.

Critics accuse him of unnecessarily bringing people to the polls during the coronavirus crisis in a bid to reclaim a majority in parliament.

It is a close race between Trudeau and his main rival O’Toole. Though O’Toole is polling ahead in some surveys in terms of absolute votes, most opinion polls put Trudeau’s Liberal Party ahead in terms of parliamentary seats.

This is due to the 338 electoral districts, whose mandates are distributed according to the absolute majority principle.

This means only a few dozens contested districts will be decisive – similar to the so-called swing states in the US.

In the 2019 election, Trudeau’s Liberals netted 157 seats, and the Conservatives 121.

With ten days to go, no party appeared set to achieve an absolute majority of 170 seats in parliament.

Canada tends to form minority governments rather than coalitions in such cases.

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