Federal party leaders have light day on campaign trail ahead of French debate

OTTAWA – Just hours before the last televised debate of the federal election campaign, Jagmeet Singh is setting the Thanksgiving table for Canadians — and he’s trying to make his New Democrats the centrepiece.

Singh, buoyed by good reviews of his performance in Monday’s English debate, headed into Thursday night’s French clash by laying out the conditions it would take to earn the support of the NDP in a minority Parliament.

Not surprisingly, those conditions largely match his campaign menu — national pharmacare and dental care programs, more affordable housing, eliminating interest on federal student loans, a tax for the super-rich and action on climate change.

“So these six things we want to say to Canadians, if you vote for us, we’re going to sit down with anyone, whatever government that Canadians choose, and we’re going to say ‘These are our six things that we need urgent action on, and we need real commitments on. We need you to take these things seriously.’ And if we don’t have urgent action, we don’t have real commitments on these things, then we won’t be able to move forward with them.”

But on Thursday, Singh added a new item: changing the way the country votes.

Electoral reform is an especially sore spot for the Liberals, who promised that the 2015 election would be the last under the traditional first-past-the-post electoral system, only to scuttle the recommendations of the committee they put together to examine the issue.

Singh’s NDP backs a system of mixed-member proportional representation, which advocates say better reflects the will of voters as expressed in the popular vote. More details were expected at a news conference with NDP hopeful Emilie Taman and former MP Nathan Cullen later in the day on Parliament Hill.

Meantime, the federal Conservatives are promising to provide more paid time off and an expanded tax credit for adopting parents.

As it stands, parents who adopt children receive 35 weeks of leave through the employment insurance system, compared to an additional 15 weeks of maternity leave for new mothers.

The Tories are promising that a Conservative government would give parents who adopt children under the age of 18 an extra 15 weeks of EI-funded leave to provide a full year off.

The Liberals made a similar pledge last month.

The Conservatives are also promising to increase the value of the adoption expense tax credit to $20,000 and make the credit refundable — meaning families may get money back at tax time.

Ahead of the French-language debate, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau opted for a photo-op at a pumpkin patch with his son Hadrien.

The leaders of the Conservatives, Greens, Bloc Quebecois, and People’s Party are all stuck in debate prep for most of the day.

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