OTTAWA — Jagmeet Singh looked to paint a bright orange line between his party and the Bloc Quebecois on Thursday, telling Quebecers that only the NDP would be able to land the things that matter to the province's voters.
Polls suggest the Bloc gained momentum at the expense of Singh's NDP, despite the province having been home to the "orange wave" that delivered New Democrats most Quebec seats in the 2011 election.
After being vaulted into official Opposition status eight years ago, the party witnessed an erosion in 2015 largely to the Liberals.
During a morning campaign stop, Singh laid out what he said was a clear contrast between New Democrats and the Bloc: the NDP could work with the rest of Canada on policy proposals like pharmacare and dental care, while the Bloc could not, he said.
Singh vowed to make that contrast during Thursday night's French-language leaders' debate.
The debate is the last opportunity the six federal leaders will have to confront each other before voters head to the polls Oct. 21.
"We're the ones that can work with the rest of Canada," he said as he recited a number of his party's core campaign promises. "These are things we can do that the Bloc can't do. So that contrast is clear."
Singh also looked to create one more contrast between the two parties, taking aim at social media posts by four Bloc candidates that were reportedly racist in tone.
Caroline Desbiens, running in riding northeast of Quebec City, wrote in a 2013 post about the need to approve a controversial secularism law by the provincial Parti Quebecois government to prevent all Quebec women from one day being forced to wear a veil.
The Journal de Montreal report also said candidate Claude Forgues, running in Sherbrooke, shared a video in April calling Islam a "disease."
Singh called the posts saddening and hurtful, adding that their message must be denounced.
"No one would be able to have those types of values and stay a member of my party, but the Bloc has to make that decision," Singh said.
"But for me, this is exactly why we need to denounce hate, because hate is something that is — it spreads like fire and consumes everything."
The four candidates later released apologies for their posts. Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said in a statement that he spoke with each candidate and echoed their regrets for past posts that had "inappropriate comments."
"They apologized. As leader of the Bloc Quebecois, I add my apologies on their behalf to the entire population of Quebec," Blanchet's statement said.
This report by the Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 10, 2019.
— With files from Catherine Levesque