US & Canada

Canada election: Leaders clash over IS fight

Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair Image copyright AP/REUTERS/AFP
Image caption Justin Trudeau (left), Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair set out their foreign policy plans

Canadian party leaders have clashed over the refugee crisis and the fight against Islamic State (IS), in the election campaign's fourth TV debate.

New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Tom Mulcair said he would withdraw from the bombing campaign against IS.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended Canada's combat role, saying IS would slaughter "millions".

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said Canada should stick to peacekeeping and urged Mr Harper to take more refugees.

The prime minister's governing Conservative Party has pledged to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the next 12 months, plus another 10,000 over four years.

"I think we're responding in a way that is responsible," he said on the debate stage in Toronto.

Canadians cast their votes in the parliamentary election on 19 October, with pollsters predicting a tight race.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair clashed on several foreign policy issues

The prime minister, who assumed office in 2006, said the aerial campaign against IS was "the only way to keep them in their positions".

The New Democrats vowed to end the military mission, while the Liberals said they would end the bombing but continue training Kurdish forces in Iraq.

Mr Harper was also forced to defend his relationship with Canada's neighbour, the US, after Mr Trudeau said his personal antipathy to US President Barack Obama meant the country's most important foreign relationship was not functioning well.

There was laughter in the audience when the prime minister responded by saying he had a "great" relationship with the president.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Liberals and NDP members have both called for Canada to accept more migrants from Syria

Mr Mulcair accused Mr Harper of failing to convince the US of the merits of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which has stalled because of an ongoing review by the US state department and White House opposition.

Canada, Mr Harper responded, had no problem with the US, having worked productively with its superpower neighbour on a number of missions - against IS, on the response to the Ukraine crisis, Ebola, clean energy and climate change.

The refugee crisis became a big election story after a photo of a drowned Syrian boy with connections to Canada made headlines around the world last month.

Mr Trudeau has said the Liberal party would want to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by 2016 via direct sponsorship.

Mr Mulcair has pledged that an NDP government would welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year and 46,000 by the end of 2019.

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