BLUESKY BRIEF - September 9th

Five federal leaders appeared together for the first time last night for the first nationally televised debate and the second in French. The evening started fairly structured and well-behaved but once the topic turned to the environment, things changed. But will what was said during this debate stick with francophone voters or get lost in translation with the rest of Canada?

Let’s find out…

From the desk of Geoff Turner, Vice President

First, the format and look of this official debate were far better than 2019, perhaps the best in recent memory. I am sure people will say the opposite today, but my viewing was of a slick production, smooth flow, decent prodding by the moderators fueling exchanges, and temperate candidates not yelling over each other. For critics, I’m not sure how they would intend to create a better medium for the leaders to fill but, we love to complain.

The punchy rapid-fire question rounds from journalists was an excellent way to keep leaders on their toes and perform the challenge function that scripted leaders won’t outside of their pre-selected targets. That was good because some of the questions used to lead off the debate sections were woefully light on substance (an especially shallow dive on Indigenous issues was my most serious disappointment), and this short section drew leaders further out in each topic than would have happened otherwise.

Trudeau’s ability to explain why he called this election remains fraught and each opposing leader certainly took their top-cue from polling showing this irritates voters. His answer continues to be unimpressive, but the frequency of complaint was too much as it became an obvious dodge to any uncomfortable question, dozens of times. Mr. Singh asked about “magical thinking” in his platform and its non-costing? Well, it is magic but if Mr. Trudeau hadn’t called an election it wouldn’t need to be! Mr. O’Toole, your “petro-points” rebate makes no policy sense. Well, how dare the prime minister call an election to discuss wildly differing climate change choices on offer!

The prime minister performed well and was never knocked down. He landed significant blows to O’Toole on child care and vaccines, Singh on thin climate change plans, and Blanchet was upbraided for an arrogant comment about the Bloc Quebecois as the only true Quebeckers. Everyone will be back at it tonight…and I can’t wait!

From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President

Quel spectacle!! What a show. Larry Walker was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Now about the debate. As an anglophone commenting on the French-language debate I feel a bit out of place but I’ll try my best.

What did strike me was how quickly the debate moved from subject to subject. Not sure anyone followed every topic change, some of which occurred minute to minute.

The hosts did a fairly good job of keeping order in the sometimes chaotic mess of five leaders talking. The transition from media questioner to questions from the public were handled fine, but six media questioners, five members of the public asking questions and five leaders answering, made the format busier than it needed to be. I think the hosts got a bit lost from time to time, forgetting to elicit answers from all leaders in certain segments.

Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Blanchet had the highpoint of the evening arguing over who was more of a Québecer. It seemed odd given that the prime minister was born in Ontario, but that nuance is likely lost on me. Mr. O’Toole held his own in the translation to English, but I am biased. Mr. Singh didn’t lose any points. Ms. Paul was tentative in her participation in the debate but, since the Greens won’t achieve official party status, the public didn’t lose anything because of it.

Hopefully, the producers of the show will cancel the pulsating lights behind the participants.

Brian Mulroney’s record of the only knockout in a televised political debate is still standing. Perhaps a ballot question can be added to this election, do Canadians want debates in future elections? I think their time has passed in an era of video townhalls and targeted social media campaigns.

We still have no answer why Mr. Trudeau called this election.

From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant

Wednesday night marked the last French debate of this campaign and the last chance to make a mark on the francophone community. With the polls tight and so much on the line, many were expecting a lively event that could have a big impact on the final result of this campaign. But this debate was a letdown.

To paraphrase the words of the immortal Obi-Wan Kenobi, “This wasn’t the debate you were looking for.” It lacked many moments of fire or passion, with few memorable moments to speak of. And of those memorable exchanges, none were of the positive variety for those who initiated them. This wasn’t a debate with a clear winner as much as you could point to degrees of having lost less. Depending on what you were aiming to achieve, that could be taken as a win of sorts. For Liberal Justin Trudeau, he didn’t score any hits but didn’t give up many either. He didn’t win this debate, but he did enough to keep things going forward. The same goes for Bloq leader Yves-François Blanchet, who took a few more hits but still finished better than the rest.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was more engaged than he was in Thursday’s TVA debate but didn’t score any more points than he conceded. It wasn’t the best performance he’s ever had, but it did the job. For Conservative Erin O’Toole, we cannot say the same. His was the weakest performance of the group, mostly because he refused to answer direct questions that his platform spoke to. It made him look evasive, which didn’t help. As for the Green’s Annamie Paul, she had her struggles. Given this was her first debate & the troubles she’s faced within her party, she acquitted herself well. Given the lack of scores tonight, the pressure will be that much greater during the English debate tonight.

While there was no appearance by Erin O’Toole due to debate prep, the Conservative Party of Canada unveiled the costs of their election platform two hours before the start of the debate. They also released their plan to “introduce a Dine and Discover program to support the tourism and hospitality sectors.”

Late on Tuesday evening, the Green Party released their election platform…via email. Within the 101 pages, voters are presented with a plan that focuses on a green future, life with dignity and a just society. The plan does not include any costing.

MULTILINGUAL – History made once again on the language front in this country

GREAT VISUAL – there is nothing better than political cartoons…especially during an election

POLL NUMBERS – looks like we are still facing a minority government but in terms of what party will form the government, it’s still too close to call.

NOT SURPRISING - This is Canada’s most expensive election BTW – kudos to CBC for the great explainer video

FACT CHECKING The Toronto Star has updated their fact checks on O’Toole, Singh and Paul. I have been told by the reporter that Trudeau is also under the microscope and that article will be out Monday…so stay tuned.

LOOKING FOR A RESPONSE – Mark Gerretsen, the Liberal candidate for Kingston and the Islands has sent a letter to the Canada Elections Commissioner asking for an investigation into a potential breach by the Conservative Party of Canada, its National Campaign Manage, Fred DeLory, and the National Firearms Association (NFA)

ON THE ATTACK – And speaking of the NFA, they have put out attack ads on social media targeting Trudeau as Tories shift gears on gun control

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 Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP, Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Yves Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois remain in the National Capital Region where they will participate in the second national leaders’ debate at 9 pm at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

Principal Susan Smith was on CBCNews Network with Suhana Meharchamd giving her thoughts on what she was looking for during the French leaders' debate. .

Vice President Geoff Turner took to the radio airwaves for the Political Fix panel on CityNews Ottawa The Rob Snow Show to also discuss the French debate.

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.

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