Trudeau on the defensive ahead of Canada's election

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to play defense in a key leaders' debate on Thursday, after sustaining a barrage of criticism from his rivals in the final debate ahead of the country's September 20 election.

SINGH: "You've got the worst track record in all the G7 after six years. How can people trust you?"

PAUL: "I do not believe that Mr. Trudeau is a real feminist."

O'TOOLE: "You put your own political interests ahead of the well-being of thousands of people."

Polls show Conservative Party leader Erin O' Toole ahead of Trudeau's Liberal Party, which would end six years of Liberal rule.

That comes amid voter unhappiness that Trudeau called the vote two years early, as a referendum on his handling of the global health crisis.

O'Toole capitalised on that unhappiness in Thursday's debate:

"He called an election in the fourth wave of a pandemic, with fires in British Columbia, and with unfinished business in Afghanistan..."

While the Prime Minister attempted to paint his main rival as weak:

"He can't convince his candidates to get vaccinated, he can't convince his MPs..."

Trudeau is in favor of mandating vaccines, while O'Toole believes that's a step too far.

Trudeau also appeared agitated while accusing O'Toole of not being serious about climate change.

O' TOOLE: "Without a strong economy, we can't tackle climate change."

TRUDEAU: "The reality that Mr. O'Toole has never understood is, you can't have a strong economy unless you tackle climate change. You ask about how we're going to convince the quarter of Canadians who still don't think climate change is real? Well, Mr. O'Toole can't even convince his party that climate change is real, because they voted against that."

Thursday's leadership debate was the only one of three held in English, a language spoken by two-thirds of the 38 million people in Canada.

That debate is traditionally seen as a key means of influencing voters.

Though pollsters told Reuters that Thursday's performances were not necessarily 'game-changing'.

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