Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is clearly hoping to minimize his time in the spotlight after being hit with an embarrassing “blackface” scandal just one month before election day. In that spirit, the PM has decided to skip a debate on foreign policy with his rivals, prompting the organizer, Munk Debates, to cancel the event.
The chairman of the organization, Rudyard Griffiths, told the Globe and Mail that the debate was cancelled because of Trudeau’s refusal, seeing as he would be the only one on stage with any foreign policy experience.
“It’s really unfortunate that Canadians are not going to have a standalone debate on foreign policy this election,” Mr. Griffiths said.
It’s not difficult to imagine how Trudeau’s rivals might use a debate about foreign policy to attack Trudeau about his ‘blackface’ scandal. At this point, any events that aren’t tightly controlled by Trudeau and his campaign are probably off limits, or best avoided, as Trudeau and his party struggle to regain their lead in the polls with only weeks to go until election day.
In that spirit, Trudeau has only agreed to participate in three debates this campaign season, down from 5 during the 2015 campaign, and has already refused to take part in the Maclean’s/Citytv debate earlier this month.
Instead, Trudeau will participate in two televised debates organized by a government commission (established by Trudeau’s Liberal government, so there’s a good chance he might be able to get the questions in advance) – one in English, and one in French – as well as another debate hosted by French-language network TVA.
But as Griffith said, it’s truly unfortunate that Trudeau forced the cancellation of the foreign policy debate. Because if there was ever an election where foreign policy was relevant to the lives of Canadians, this is it.
“With everything that’s going on the world, if there ever was a moment, if there ever was a time, to really focus on the competing foreign-policy platforms of the various parties contending for government, now is that moment.”
Griffin also criticized the ‘commission’ that will organize two of the debates, saying it has become a tool for the PM to avoid real scrutiny.
“It seems like the commission has become a vehicle for an incumbent prime minister to actually avoid other debates and that it’s actually working against this whole process of opening the election,” he said.
During his first run, Trudeau was criticized for his debate performances, during which he came off as amateurish and unprepared.
Conservative campaign spokesman Simon Jefferies also criticized Trudeau for pulling out of the foreign policy debate: “It’s a shame that voters won’t have the opportunity to hear political leaders discussing issues of global importance because Justin Trudeau was too afraid to defend his record of failure.”
But will it be enough for Trump to overcome the two major scandals weighing on his campaign? That remains to be seen.