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Sparks fly over climate change, environment in federal leaders’ debate

WATCH: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May criticized Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for the actions he's taken on climate change, such as purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline, saying it was "heartbreaking" to know he could've done more in the past four years and hoped he wouldn't get another majority.

Carbon tax, carbon offsets, carbon emissions.

Climate change permeated the federal leaders’ debate, even though it was technically just one of five topics up for discussion among the six party leaders taking part a in feisty, politically-charged debate that saw leaders on the attack over whether their opponents are taking the issue seriously enough.

It started off with a familiar attack by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on the carbon tax, in which he pledged to repeal the legislation and accused Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau of planning to increase the carbon tax on Canadians — something Trudeau has argued is not planned for the next four years if he gets elected, but isn’t being ruled out after the next election.

READ MORE: Federal leaders trade barbs on immigration, SNC-Lavalin, climate change in debate

Trudeau rebutted by referencing the tax rebates his government also put in place to give the money collected under the carbon tax back to citizens.

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But while the issue reared its head over the course of two hours, it wasn’t until the debate reached its final segment that the conversation was specifically focused entirely on climate change and the environment.

That segment saw Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet lead off with praise for Quebec’s cap-and-trade system, and its partnership with California for trading those credits, arguing that “it should be used elsewhere.”

Leaders’ Debate: Singh refers to Trudeau, Scheer as ‘Mr. Delay, and Mr. Deny’ when it comes to climate change
Leaders’ Debate: Singh refers to Trudeau, Scheer as ‘Mr. Delay, and Mr. Deny’ when it comes to climate change

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Scheer both attacked Trudeau over his decision to apply an output-based pricing system to industrial emitters.

That decision has proven contentious over the fact it exempts industrial polluters from paying the carbon tax on the entirety of their greenhouse gas emissions.

READ MORE: Here’s where the federal parties stand on the carbon tax

Instead, they pay the tax only on the portion of their emissions that exceed established industrial averages.

Singh also argued that continued subsidies for oil and gas industries show Trudeau saying one thing and doing another when it comes to pledging action on climate change and environmentalism.

“There’s a big gap between what Mr. Trudeau says and what he does,” said Singh, who made the case to voters that, “You do not need to choose between Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny,” referring to Trudeau and Scheer, respectively.

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Scheer quickly jumped in, disputing Singh’s characterization of him but supporting his criticism of Trudeau.

“I find myself agreeing with you again,” Scheer said to Singh.

Trudeau also proved evasive when questioned by the CBC’s Rosemary Barton, the moderator for the climate change segment.

She pushed him on whether Canada should be moving more quickly away from oil and gas development, and specifically, whether the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project should be Canada’s last.

“We absolutely have to move faster; we absolutely have to do more,” Trudeau responded, but did not answer the question about whether he would like to see more pipelines built beyond the Trans Mountain expansion project.

READ MORE: LIVE: 2019 federal leaders’ debate

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May scored few hits on her opponents, often finding herself drowned out by the other leaders on the stage.

Scheer, however, doubled down on the attack he launched during last week’s French-language debate on TVA, accusing Trudeau of being a hypocrite on climate change for using two campaign planes when the other leaders with planes are only using one.

Trudeau’s defence has largely been that his campaign is buying carbon offsets, while Scheer’s is not.

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Scheer, however, dismissed the idea of carbon offsets as “just a thing that privileged people do to keep polluting.”

People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier, who does not accept the scientific consensus that human activity is causing global warming, called his party “the only real environmentalist party” and called the other leaders “hypocrites” for trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to mitigate climate change.

Leaders’ Debate: Scheer attacks Trudeau campaign’s use of two planes
Leaders’ Debate: Scheer attacks Trudeau campaign’s use of two planes
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