(BBC) – Canadian federal party leaders clashed over vaccines, climate policy and the economy in the first national TV debate of this general election campaign.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap election in August, launching a 35-day sprint to the ballot box.
He headed into the French-language debate tied with Conservative leader Erin O’Toole in national opinion polls.
The debate comes at a pivotal moment with two weeks left before Canadians cast their ballots.
On stage with Mr Trudeau, the Liberal Party leader, and Mr O’Toole were Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and Green Party leader Annamie Paul.
Mr Trudeau was in the hot seat early on, asked by the debate moderator whether he would commit to serving a full four-year term if he again won a minority government. He dodged the question.
The Liberal leader has struggled to justify why he is sending voters to the polls two years ahead of schedule during a fourth pandemic wave.
Mr Trudeau has said Canadians deserve to have a say on pandemic recovery – but other party leaders took repeated jabs at the prime minister, accusing him of calling an unnecessary election in the hopes of securing a majority.