The nationally televised debates are now in the rear-view mirror for the five main federal party leaders. But did last night’s debate do anything to sway voters from one party to another or more importantly, help those who are still undecided?
If you were one of the many Canadians who watched one or more of the debates and are wondering this morning if debates matter, check out these two interesting pieces from The Writ’s Eric Grénier and the CBC’s Vassy Kapelos who look at the impact of debates on the outcome of an election.
Once again, our team of political observers watched every minute of last night’s debate and are here with their thoughts on the deliberations.
From the desk of Geoff Turner, Vice President
Anti-charisma and pessimism ran unchecked for two long hours. The misfire of the English debate was galling in contrast to a well-executed French counterpart. Having enjoyed the engaging, loose but uncovering style of Radio Canada’s Patrice Roy, complimented by the “rafale” of questions from punchy but composed reporters, I’m not the only one who was immediately and constantly off-put by how last night’s English debate unfolded.
There was a bug in the software with this production and it widely missed the moment… a moment with a lot of importance. The hostile tenor and awkward speaking orders stifled cross-debate and denied a runway for the main contenders to deliver directed points. In the end, the prize for most blows - and swings! - seemed to belong to the moderators. Congratulations.
Despite the barrage from every corner, Trudeau got off good with clippable shots at Singh and O’Toole. But he was strategically stymied by topical vacuums on key issues he can contrast and wins votes on: vaccines, child care, healthcare, assault weapons.
So, the best night was for Mr. O’Toole by attrition. He was able to stay to the side, ducking in to deliver polished lines when called. His body language belied enjoyment at Trudeau’s bad luck on getting a launch-point for any planned or counterattacks on him. O’Toole only needed to stay out of his party’s and his minefields, with the so-called ‘introduction’ a secondary objective - and that seemed to have been his fortune.
It’s clear that Justin Trudeau needs his own fortune to catch a break and get more traction, starting now to align with Canadians just tuning in after Labour Day and to build that momentum to a desirable seat outcome over the coming ten days. But this wasn’t it. So it will have to come from campaign trail air-war now, as political machines simultaneously transition to the get-out-the-vote ground wars. With turn-out and voter splits unclear, it’s anyone’s game and it’s volatile – especially judging Thursday’s mood.
From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President
The only newsworthy item between Wednesday’s French-language debate and last night’s debate was Québec Premier Legault telling Québec that a vote for the Liberals, NDPs and Greens was a waste.
The first hit was from Ms. Paul on the prime minister when Mr. Trudeau tried to defend his record on sexual harassment. Ms. Paul let him know that feminists don’t fire strong women like the former Ministers of Justice and Health.
Boy what a pile-on during the climate discussion! But much to my surprise, Mr. Trudeau was at the bottom of the pile. It was pointed out time and again that after six years, GHG emissions continue to rise. He looked rattled and for much of the night it looked like he was going for a midnight swim at Amity Island.
Every leader looks relaxed except Trudeau. The smooth-talking emotive Trudeau is gone and replaced by a guy explaining to his boss why he shouldn’t be fired while security is emptying his desk.
Overall, I think the debate ran as well as can be expected when you put five leaders on stage with five moderators, four public questioners and only 115 minutes to discuss many topics. Nonetheless, I wish there was a second English debate to hear Ms. Paul again. I think she would be even better. Blanchet’s media availability was fantastic, “le débat commence par une chaudière d'insultes” and “Québeckers need a guard dog to protect them”. However, I still don’t think the Greens or Bloc should have been invited.
Before I wrap up, a reader commented that Mr. O’Toole was the only leader wearing a Canadian Flag pin on stage last night but more importantly, there was still no answer about why we are having an election.
From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant
Last night we saw the lone English debate of the 44th General Election campaign. With a very tight race, two previous debates that have barely moved the needle and so much for all leaders to gain or lose, the scene was set for a night that could make or break this race to be the next prime minister of Canada.
While the previous two debates were lifeless, last night’s was the opposite. The leaders came out swinging as they were tested by strong questions from the moderators. Liberal Justin Trudeau formally threw aside any pretension of his former “sunny ways” and came out swinging, wildly at times. Under heavy pressure from all sides, he came across as angry, frustrated and made some factually questionable statements, especially regarding his record on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. He showed a very different side of himself and not his best side.
Erin O’Toole stayed on message for the most part. While he didn’t score any big hits against Mr. Trudeau, he didn’t sustain any fatal blows either. Compared to Mr. Trudeau, he looked much better. Mr. Blanchet played the usual role of the Bloc leader in the English debate and lost nothing by his performance. Green Leader Annamie Paul also fared much better, scoring strong points while making a good impression.
But the best performance of the night belonged to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. When Mr. Trudeau aimed his anger at him, Singh replied with a sunny demeanour, facts and pointing to Trudeau’s record. He stayed on message, connecting through the screen and made the case that Canadians have another choice beyond voting red or blue. It was his best night for the campaign so far. We’ll see if this debate moves the polls in the days to come, but if it doesn’t, nothing was going to.
Prior to the debate, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau visited frontline workers at an Ottawa hospital.
For Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is was back to school day for his children Mollie and Jack.
And for NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, there was some time before the debate to head to an Ottawa baby store and get in a little shopping with his wife before their first child arrives.
WOW – Hours before the English debate, Quebec Premier François Legault lambastes Trudeau, says O’Toole would be easier to work with.
WHAT MATTERS – A new study from Angus Reid on the issues eager Canadian voters are wanting to hear from the leaders.