Justin Trudeau has been accused of betraying Canadian voters, in a leadership debate in which he was mocked by his five rivals for being untrustworthy and superficial.
With two weeks before Canada votes for its next prime minister, Mr Trudeau, 47, and his Liberal Party are tied in a dead heat with his Conservative rival, Andrew Scheer, 40.
The two-hour debate — the only one to be held in English, the language spoken by two-thirds of Canada’s 38 million population — has traditionally been regarded as an important way of winning the minds of voters.
Immediately obvious was how young the candidates were, compared to the septuagenarian crowd south of the border.
Mr Trudeau’s sunshine image has been battered by a gruelling electoral campaign. First he was accused of violating ethics rules when he tried to pressure his former justice minister and attorney general to drop criminal charges against a Quebec-based company. Then a series of embarrassing photos emerged of him in blackface at parties in his younger years.
“He can’t even remember how many times he put blackface on, because the fact of the matter is he’s always wearing a mask,” said Mr Scheer.
“He puts on a middle-class mask and then raises taxes on middle-class Canadians.
“Mr Trudeau, you are a phony and you are a fraud and you do not deserve to govern this country,” continued Mr Scheer, who is promising to cut taxes and make life more affordable.
He attacked Mr Trudeau for the business scandal, saying: “Tell me, when did you decide that the rules don’t apply to you?”
Moderators stuck to a series of topics – climate change, indigenous rights, polarisation, human rights and immigration – and then threw the subject open.
“You may pick any leader of your choice, and ask any question of your choosing. You have 30 seconds,” they said.
Mr Trudeau spent much of his time warning voters that electing Mr Scheer would be a return to the "bad old days" of Stephen Harper, Mr Trudeau’s Conservative predecessor, or a nationwide rule by Doug Ford, the controversial Trumpian premier of Ontario.
“We all remember 10 years of Stephen Harper, who did not protect indigenous people,” said Mr Trudeau.
Mr Scheer retorted: “I have nothing to learn from Mr Trudeau who fired the first indigenous attorney general for doing her job.”
Jagmeet Singh, the eloquent candidate for the New Democratic Party, hit back: “What we have here is Mr Scheer and Mr Trudeau arguing over who is worse for Canada.”
Mr Singh was widely praised by his rivals for his dignified handling of what one described as “a turbulent few weeks”.
Last week the 40-year-old son of Indian immigrants was confronted by a man in Montreal, who told him: “You know what, you should cut your turban off and you’d look like a Canadian.”
Mr Singh replied: “You know, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people. That’s the beauty of Canada.”
The man shrugged, and said: “Alright, take care. I hope you win.”
In June Quebec passed a controversial policy known as Bill 21, forbidding anyone wearing a religious symbol from holding public positions or employment.
The bill was a source of contention in the debate, and Mr Singh told voters: “It obviously hurts me, and makes me feel sad. I think about the people in Quebec now being told that because they wear a hijab they can’t be a teacher, or because they wear a yarmulke they can’t be a judge.”
Mr Trudeau is hoping that his incumbency will help carry him to a second term, despite the recent controversies, and despite many Canadians feeling that the sheen has dulled somewhat.
He returned relentlessly to his experience, saying his job was not yet done.
“The responsibility of any prime minster is to put the people first,” he said.
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.