5 things to expect from tonight's federal leaders debate on foreign policy

Dec 20 2017, 1:39 am

The Munk federal leaders debate on foreign policy is set to air tonight, September 28, at 4 p.m. Pacific Time, and there are a few key things you should know ahead of time to prepare yourself.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper, Liberals’ Justin Trudeau and NDP’s Thomas Mulcair will all be present at the debate. Green Party leader Elizabeth May will be responding via social media.

Several foreign policy-related topics will likely be brought up, so here’s a crash course on five issues and where the federal party leaders stand on them.

Refugee crisis

With the Syrian refugee crisis getting more media attention in the last few weeks, each party leader has proposed their own solution to lend a helping hand to the displaced group.

  • Harper has promised to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by September 2016, but haven’t provided any financial numbers.
  • Trudeau said he will expand Canada’s intake of Syrian refugees to 25,000, dedicate $100 million this fiscal year to helping them get processed faster and settled, and provide another $100 million to the U.N. High Commissions for support in Syria.
  • Mulcair has said they would bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 and then take on an additional 9,000 refugees a year. They would also lift the cap on private sponsorships and eliminate quotas and “bureaucratic obstacles.”
  • May was the first to be critical of Harper’s response to the Syrian crisis, saying we need to take in at least 25,000 refugees and “do more to end the conflict.”


  • The Liberals were mostly supportive of the controversial Bill C-51 introduced by the Conservatives that’s supposed to fight in the effort against terrorism on home soil. If elected, they’ve promised to amend certain aspects of the bill.
  • Mulcair and May have been critical of Bill C-51. Both have said they would repeal Bill C-51 and Mulcair has a petition on the NDP’s website calling for the Harper government to repeal it.
  • Most recently, Trudeau was caught on tape discussing Bill C-24, which would repeal a duel citizen’s Canadian citizenship if they were convicted of terrorism. He can be heard in the audio tape calling it “disgusting.”

Military defence

  • Harper has said the Conservatives have a goal to re-build Canada’s Armed Forces and to expand the primary reserve to 30,000 members. They also plan to continue to have a military presence in Afghanistan.
  • Trudeau has said that the Liberals will contribute billions to fortify our Navy to increase Canadian defence, create jobs and stimulate the economy. He would replace aging equipment, but claims the Liberals would maintain current national spending levels. Trudeau has stated that they would not purchase the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber and would open a competition to replace the CF-18 fleet.
  • The NDP have promised they would replace the aging CF-18 fleet and insure Canada’s naval shipbuilding meets the country’s requirements.
  • May wants to ask reservists if they want to move into part-time positions to cut spending and reduce consultants with the Department of National Defence.

Climate change

  • The Conservatives, Stephen Harper says they have a goal to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by 30 per cent by 2030. He’s stated that his major focuses in the Conservative campaign are the economy and national security.
  • Climate change has left many of the parties divided. The Liberals say they would attend the Paris Climate Conference and would hold a First Ministers meeting within 90 days to establish a framework, including national emissions reduction targets.
  • Thomas Mulcair recently announced that the NDP plan to do a “cap-and-trade” program where certain industries would have a cap on emissions. If they go over their cap, they can purchase credits from other industries that remain under their quota.
  • The Green Party has arguably the boldest plan of all. May wants to eliminate fossil fuel use in Canada by mid-century and to get levels to 40 per cent lower by 2025 for the short-term goal. She also said she would eliminate tanker traffic and “risky” pipeline projects.


  • The Conservatives say they are currently pursuing free trade agreements internationally and are generally pro free-trade.
  • The Liberals want to create more open trade. Justin Trudeau said he plans on reducing trade barriers by improving border infrastructure and streamlining cargo inspection.
  • The NDP are more middle of the road when it comes to international trade. Thomas Mulcair said he supports the recent free-trade pact with South Korea and wants to see negotiations close on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with Europe.
  • The Green Party has said they will “vigorously oppose” the Trans Pacific Partnership and Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement.

How to watch

Live streamed it on the Munk debates’ website.

Watch the broadcast on CPAC, televised and online.

Online through a partnership with Facebook Canada.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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