Friday, September 18, 2015

Last Night's Debate

I tuned in to last night's leaders' debate on the economy with little enthusiasm and low expectations; the exclusion of Elizabeth May suggested that there would be little fire and more of the same rhetoric I have come to expect in this campaign. While I wasn't entirely wrong, there were one or two surprises.

First, in the "no surprise' category, Stephen Harper continued with his references to the turbulence of world economies and his "stay the course" message - reassuring to his base, no doubt, but singularly uninspiring to the rest of us. When asked by moderator David Walmsley what new ideas he had since the economy has flatlined and things are bad for people, Harper answered by entirely rejecting the premise of the question. I guess when you are the Emperor, questions that displease are dismissed.

Thomas Mulcair performed as a prime-minister-in-waiting, repeating his promises for day-care spaces and modest increases in corporate taxation. Although by the luck of the draw he occupied the centre, with Trudeau on the left of the screen and Harper on the right, he seemed to have been aptly placed. He was evasive when asked about the costs of his carbon plan, but, in my view, made no mistakes. Harper light might be an appropriate label to affix to his lapel.

Justin Trudeau was the one who surprised me. Passionate when the others were calm, I got the impression that he was presenting the human side of politics, where the fate of the country matters more than for reasons of wanting power. As he pointed out, the record low rates at which the federal government can borrow money makes it the perfect time to invest in our woefully neglected infrastructure, a time when we can aspire to more than what the soulless Harper vision offers. He seemed to have some fire in his belly, whereas the other two appeared to have ingested mega doses of Maalox.

Here are a few highlights from Mr. Trudeau's performance:

The part I recall most vividly was when Trudeau talked through the camera to Canadians, asserting that he was being straight with them in proposing the measures he was outlining. With his earnest demeanour, he carried it off, in my view, quite successfully.

For more in-depth analysis and some fact-checking, here are the CBC's Susan Ormiston and Adrienne Arsenault: And finally, the At Issue panel weighs in:


  1. Agree that Trudeau has matured in presenting the Lib message but seemed to interrupt too much. Mulcair was well-positioned on centre-stage and performed like a PM-in-waiting. Harper appeared on the run and made several gaffs, although 'old stock Canadians' may have been a deliberate one. ;) What we need is a 'real' debate!

    1. I do believe that Harper's "old stock" reference was quite intentional, Karu, a kind of code phrase to offer some red meat to his base.

      As for the possibility of a real debate, Susan Delacourt has an interesting perspective in today's Star: