Canada election: First week begins with a crash

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A bus ferrying journalists collided with the wing of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's chartered Boeing on the first night of the election campaign.Image source, Canadian Press
Image caption,
A bus ferrying journalists collided with the wing of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's chartered Boeing

Candidates have been on the campaign trail for a week and all the federal leaders have kicked off their campaigns with appeals to people's pocketbooks, announcing policies related to housing, childcare, household savings, parental benefits, and taxes.

Cost of living and affordability are top issues for Canadian voters this campaign.

But other topics have also emerged as dominant issues, including the contentious secularism bill passed by Quebec earlier this year.

Where do leaders stand on Bill 21?

It was one of the first questions launched at Liberal leader Justin Trudeau this week, and subsequently all other leaders have had to come up with their response: What should be done about Bill 21?

The controversial legislation, which was passed by the province of Quebec in June, bars civil servants in positions of "authority" from wearing religious symbols at work like judges, police officers, teachers and other public figures.

Critics say it is discriminatory, will make it more difficult for religious minorities to integrate into Quebec society, and that it unfairly targets Muslim women.

But many Quebecers support the controversial law, which puts all political leaders in a sticky spot, since the province - with 78 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons - will be a crucial battleground this election.

Image caption,
Quebec Premier Francois Legault has warned federal leaders to stay out of the province's politics

To varying degrees, all the federal leaders have spoken out against the legislation though the Bloc Quebecois, a federal sovereignist party that only runs candidates in Quebec, support the bill.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, a practising Sikh who wears a turban, has called his own presence in Quebec an "act of defiance" against the bill.

But despite critical words, party leaders say they will let court battles launched in Quebec against the bill play out - keeping their hands out of Quebec's affairs.

Mr Trudeau has gone the furthest in his statements on Bill 21, saying last week he wouldn't "close the door on intervening" down the road.

Why hesitate? If Mr Trudeau takes too strong a stance against the law, he could alienate some Quebec voters.

Trudeau's campaign plane mishap

The election got off the a flying start even if Mr Trudeau's plane was grounded by a scraped wing on the first day of the campaign.

It was not unprecedented in Canadian election history - something similar happened to Mr Trudeau's father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 39 years ago.

Empty podium

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau did not attend the first leaders debate of the election, hosted by Maclean's / CityTV last Thursday,.

His absence was marked by an empty podium.

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Candidate switcheroo

With the Green party nipping at the heels of the New Democrats (NDP) in the polls, there is a clear rivalry emerging between the two left-leaning parties.

The latest in their tit-for-tat saga is that the NDP has recruited Éric Ferland, a former a former head of the Green Party in Quebec, to run against Pierre Nantel, who quit the NDP to join the Greens in August.

Image source, The Canadian Press
Image caption,
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh drives a tractor as he campaigns in Ontario

Shortly after he quit, the provincial Green Party leader of New Brunswick said 14 NDP provincial candidates were switching to the Green Party because they were unhappy with Mr Singh's federal leadership.

Many who were initially named as part of the exodus said the claim was not true, which led federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May to accuse the federal NDP of using "strong-arm tactics" to get those candidates back in the fold.

Will the real Maxime Bernier please stand up?

MP Maxime Bernier made quite the splash when he quit the Conservative Party to form the right-wing People's Party of Canda last year.

Now, the Rhinoceros Party, a fringe satirical - but real - federal party plans to field a candidate to run against him named... Maxime Bernier. The Rhinoceros Party's Mr Bernier says he would make a vasectomy mandatory for men over the age of 16 so that "Canada will be a world leader in the fight against climate change".

Reuters noted in their piece on the candidate that PPC's Bernier does not believe in climate change.