It was a big night in Montreal for the federal leaders as they came to speak to Quebeckers and French-speaking Canadians in the rest of Canada. Face-à-Face is the first French-language debate of #Elxn44 and will take place on TVA, one of Quebec’s most-watch networks. Quebec is a key battleground in this election but how much of an impact will tonight’s debate have on the outcome on September 20th? According to The Writ’s Eric Grénier, “this debate matters” and is lays it out in his latest post.
Our team of political observers kept an eye on last night’s prime time event en français and here are their key takeaways.
From the desk of Hussain Shorish, Senior Consultant
This morning, many will be singing Mr. Trudeau’s praises following a successful debate and rightfully, so. Mr. Trudeau looked anxious at the beginning of the debate when he was attacked and cornered by all party leaders for his decision to call an election in the middle of a pandemic and the recent crisis in Afghanistan.
For those who had to be reminded, including me, Mr. Trudeau has the ability to command a strong performance during debates and charm his way out of tricky situations. The prime minister communicated well his position on the environment and Canada’s pandemic record under the Liberals. Perhaps Mr. Trudeau was driven by the polls indicating a decline in support for the Bloc Quebecois and the opportunity to give a performance that will be enough to gain the seats that were lost in the Belle Province.
If one thing is certain during Canadian elections is that French debates matter. It was Mr. Blanchet’s strong performance during the French-language debate-last time around that played a vital role in the resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois and propelled the Liberals to a minority government. Mr. Blanchet is an excellent communicator and played his tactics well. He looked comfortable as ever and his performance last night might reignite some support for his party heading into the last two weeks of the election.
Mr. Singh had one impactful moment when he put Mr. Blanchet in his place and refused to be cornered on the issue of systematic racism. Otherwise, it was a surprisingly uninspiring performance by the NDP leader.
Mr. O’Toole had arguably the most momentum going into this debate with polls indicating a rise in Conservative support nationally and in Quebec. Mr. O’Toole looked composed and what’s working for him in Quebec is that people want to forget about Mr. Scheer after the last election and him constantly reminding Legault that he won’t intervene in the province’s politics (i.e.Bill 21). It’s too early to say whether the Liberals will be able to chart their way to a majority through Quebec because Quebecers are known to play their cards close.
From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President
Random thoughts from an anglophone on the TVA debate.
I wasn't a big fan of cutting off microphones in the USA presidential debates, however, having Mr. Trudeau talking to the other participants is unwatchable. Hopefully, this gets sorted out before next week's debates. I understand it's a Liberal tactic, please give it a rest.
Trudeau is taking fast to start the debate. He looks the most nervous. No espressos before next week's debates.
Singh and Trudeau are wearing the same suit and tie. A very Ferryman's Funeral Home look.
I think I have the same ties as Blanchet and O'Toole.
I hear O'Toole's French is better than people thought.
O'Toole looks the most relaxed and happy, I wonder if Canadians will warm up to angry Trudeau.
Did Trudeau laugh at Singh?
Singh gives a very impassioned lesson to Blanchet on racism.
O'Toole gives a very stern lesson to Trudeau on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces, and in the Liberal caucus.
It looked like a four-way tie.
From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant
Yesterday, we saw the first debate amongst the federal leaders. With the Liberals and BQ slumping in the polls & the Conservatives and NDP on the rise, this was a chance for all parties to make their mark. Each leader had a goal and that shone through early and often.
For Justin Trudeau, he was trying to revive his flagging campaign and his party’s slide in Quebec. He came out energetic and engaged, trying to throw as many haymakers as he could at both Erin O’Toole and Yves-Francois Blanchet. He landed some punches and failed with others. He offered no new answers to questions that have dogged his campaign, sticking to the lines he’s been using to limited effect. While the night wasn’t a wash for him, it wasn’t the result he needed.
Mr. O’Toole was trying to keep his nose clean and continue to perform well. He didn’t shine, but he didn’t sink either. He treaded water while smiling, which was a win for him. Mr. Blanchet was not the happy warrior that we have seen past Bloc leaders be. He was sullen, prickly and brought a negative tone that was noteworthy. He overreached on some of his attacks, especially against Jagmeet Singh. His personal attack against Singh was the highlight of the night and capped a solid performance for the NDP leader. In trying to attack Mr. Singh on racism, Mr. Blanchet looked like a bully and allowed Singh to show what Canadians like about him. Singh refused to fall into whatever trap Blanchet was trying to lay and instead the Bloc leader found himself trapped. There was no clear winner but both Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Singh came out having achieved what they needed. Neither Mr. Trudeau nor Blancher can say the same and that will increase the pressure on them in the next debate on September 8th.
THIS DOESN’T MATCH – Trudeau and O’Toole have a big problem. This economy doesn’t match their fiscal plans or hopes for our prosperity - Opinion Column from Heather Scoffield, Toronto Star
SECOND TIME A CHARM? - At least 22 former MPs running to win back seats in the 2021 election
TIME FOR SOME CHEESY NEWS – NDP leader’s campaign event delayed because his custom poutine truck broke down
CAN’T DEFEND THIS – That’s how Marci Ien, the Liberal candidate for Toronto Centre, responds to comments about the fact that her party has failed to end the blood ban and conversion therapy for Canada’s 2SLGBTQI community.
Here is where you can expect the leaders to be today (all times are in Eastern):
Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada will make an announcement at 11 am from Mississauga, ON.
Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada starts the day off where at 9:30 am, he will make an announcement. He will then fly to Vancouver where at 9 pm, he will attend an event with supporters.
Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP travels to Quebec City, where at 915 am, he will unveil the NDP’s Quebec platform behind the Château Frontenac.
Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada is in Toronto, where she will hold a 230 pm press conference and then in the evening, she will meet with members of the Filipino community in the St. James Town neighbourhood.
Yves Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois is in Longueuil, Que., where he will speak to the media after meeting with the Union of Agricultural Producers.
Senior Associate, Lt.-Gen. the Honourable Andrew Leslie spoke to BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-58389802
Consultant Cameron Holmstrom joined the Political Heat panel on Ottawa’s 580 CFRA to give his thoughts on the stories that have people talking from the #elxn44 campaign trail. Click on the photo below to listen to the panel.
About Bluesky Strategy Group
Bluesky Strategy Group Inc. is a full-service public affairs firm with nearly two decades of extensive experience working with clients - from corporate, not-for-profit, and national associations, to governments, departments and agencies. We provide our clients with government relations, strategic communications and media relations advice and execution.