Final French federal leaders' debate centres on environment, Bill 21; China issue broached

The final French-language debate for federal leaders heading into the election later this month was more orderly than the English affair three days ago - when candidates took turns shouting over one another and often drowned out actual discussion points.

On Thursday, moderator Patrice Roy was firm in establishing order in the debate, warning candidates not to all talk at once. Roy followed through later in the debate by cutting off a shouting match between Conservatives leader Andrew Scheer and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.

As expected, the debate centred often on Quebec issues, such as the controversial Bill 21 which has taken heavy criticism from Ottawa and other provinces. Again, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau committed to not intervening at this point, but leaving the door open for options later as anything otherwise would be "irresponsible."

Scheer and People's Party leader Maxime Bernier also said he would not intervene, while NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said he doesn't want to do so while not committing completely. Blanchet, whose party carries the strongest stance in support of Bill 21, added that he would drop candidates from BQ's ticket if they are found to have made racists social media posts and refuse to apologize about it. (A report emerged earlier today that five candidates made or took part in anti-Muslim posts.)

Also high on the agenda was environment, where Singh again scored points by calling Trudeau, Scheer and Bernier "Mr. Pipeline." The NDP leader also promised he would not add to the tax burden of the middle class. Greens leader Elizabeth May and Singh both tore into Trudeau for not doing enough on climate change, which Trudeau responded by saying pipelines are better than rail transport of oil and that the Liberals have an actionable plan that will continue the path of the last four years.

Also for the first time in three debates, Canada's worsening relationship with China and the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. CFO Meng Wanzhou entered the discussion. Trudeau defended the Liberals' attempts to re-engage Beijing despite ongoing tensions, noting that the Chinese market creates economic opportunities. Scheer fired back and criticized Trudeau's policies, noting that he isn't surprised that Beijing doesn't respect Trudeau or the Liberal government in Ottawa.

The leader who spoke most on the Chinese issue was BQ leader Blanchet, who again criticized Ottawa for allowing authorities to follow through on an American extradition request and arrest Meng in Vancouver last December. Blanchet, however, deflected to the damage being done to the Canadian agricultural sector after China banned Canadian canola and red meat exports earlier this year when asked about whether the PQ believes in the rule of law.

The election is slated for Oct. 21.