Federal party leaders to square off on foreign policy in fourth election debate

OTTAWA — Foreign policy takes the spotlight today in the federal election campaign as the party leaders debate international issues in Toronto.

The Munk Debates, a charitable organization, is hosting the discussion, the fourth time the leaders have squared off in the campaign.

It’s the first debate that focuses entirely on foreign issues, which have cropped up on the campaign trail since the race formally began Aug. 2, primarily as a result of the unfolding refugee and migrant crisis in Syria.

Stephen Harper has made his foreign policy credentials one of his staple messages, saying his track record will keep Canada secure.

Justin Trudeau has talked about Canada working more closely with the United Nations while Tom Mulcair has vowed to end Canada’s military involvement in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

One of the organizers of the debate says he hopes the leaders will engage in a free-flowing discussion and leave their scripted talking points at home.

Rudyard Griffiths says because the world is at a pivotal moment — he points to new challenges posed by a more assertive China and Russia, the refugee crisis and the troubles in the Middle East — the three leaders should explain their rationale for how Canada can navigate all of that turmoil and make a concrete contribution.

He is offering few clues about what he’ll likely end up asking, but says the Tories, Liberals and New Democrats were recently given a wide range of topics that could come up.

“These debates are also a pressure test for who will be our next prime minister,” he said.

The Canadian Press

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