Federal election debate: five takeaways from a disjointed but energetic showdown – Macleans.ca

Every electoral debate“Let alone one with five leaders and 613 moderators / interrogators” will become a jumble of problems, attempted short sentences, and vain struggles to make any singular moment stand out. There is hardly ever a knockout punch, which is why experts keep referring to an exchange of 1984 election, 37 years ago.

But some themes and impressions appeared to emerge Thursday over the din and incessant interruptions of the only English-language debate to take place during the 2021 election campaign, an event organized by the federal debating commission and a consortium of broadcasters.

Without any more preambles:

Justin Trudeau’s six-year record is easily made to look like a crushing burden

The liberal leader may profess to have raised 109 drinking water advisories in indigenous reserves since 2015. But it is much more painful than in a modern and very rich country there are still dozens of communities that have to boil and then cool the water before drinking it.

Time and again, the Liberal leader was attacked for his government’s record and tried to back down aggressively. If it wasn’t Jagmeet Singh who hit him by taking indigenous children to court, it was Erin O’Toole who criticized his ability to meet climate change goals, to which Trudeau replied that 2030 is nine years away, in one of the multiple moments in which he flashed visible irritation, or became unusually combative.

At the beginning of this campaign, it seemed that Trudeau could come to victory thanks to his track record. But some of the liberals’ shortcomings seem glaring, albeit cleverly framed, and their opponents did so on Thursday.

If the success of water purification in 109 communities is overshadowed by the remaining 51 notices, it is because Trudeau promised to have them all removed. The expectations you created with high commitments in 2015 certainly haunt you in 2021, providing opportunities for all challengers to hit you.

One advantage of being Prime Minister is that it is easier for you to look like Prime Minister. The downside, which is clearly shown in this debate, is that you have to defend everything that you have done, or have not done, as Prime Minister.

After all, there was a foreign affairs section, and isn’t that better for O’Toole?

Many observers, especially those with a conservative tendency, expressed frustration that there was no section of the campaign’s only English debate devoted to foreign affairs, especially after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the imprisonment of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in China.

The thing is, a section called “Governance and Accountability” can be quite flexible. So two initial questions focused on the crisis in Afghanistan and how to deal with China.

On a night when O’Toole was largely stable and quiet, this mini section was the strongest. He stressed that while Canada’s population is small compared to China, this country could be a “giant” with its commitments to human rights and the rule of law, and that it must work more effectively with its allies. Failing to get thousands of Afghans out of his country, he argued that Canada should never leave behind those who helped him, and returned to the favorite topic of all non-liberals, the questionable timing of the elections: “You put your own political interests first. for the well-being of thousands of people. ”And when he noted that Trudeau did not show up to vote on the conservative motion to declare China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs a genocide, the coup landed.

Liberals sidestepped that motion because of the diplomatic ramifications such a clear-cut measure would have with Beijing’s fragile hostage-taking. And in Afghanistan, Trudeau tried to defend himself by pointing to the many successful escape flights that Canada facilitated to get thousands of people out of harm’s way. International affairs involve complicated and nuanced performing arts. But that’s harder to convey in a debate than O’Toole’s appeal to Canadian ideals, served up with furrowed brows and serious phrases.

The format, and the mod, really got under Blanchet’s skin

Much of the pre-debate talk reasoned that a strictly structured format – a rotating cast of interrogators, changes between open debate and two- or three-person jousting sessions, and citizen questions – would limit anyone’s ability to shine. leader in particular. In reality, the moderators’ stubborn fidelity to their structure and timeline squeezed most of the light out of this matter.

The main moderator, Shachi Kurl, a pollster and former journalist, quickly cut off many attempts to move from one topic to another, and watched the clock with determination to make sure that all the myriad elements of the show were on their scheduled times. It led to a time when some observers I think it will raise anger in Quebec and potentially draw votes to the Bloc: Kurl ended up arguing with Yves-François Blanchet, the leader of the Québecois Bloc, who claimed that he had fallen short on time. This came after she had started the debate with a tense exchange with Blanchet about Quebec’s controversial Bill 21 banning religious symbols in public workplaces.

At another point, Kurl offered Trudeau five absurdly paltry seconds to respond to various criticisms of his record. Some past debates have been grossly off-topic or derailed and would have benefited from a moderator on a tighter leash. Kurl’s strap often looked like a choke chain, stifling many exchanges from flourishing to actual debates, you know.

Some of the individual questions from Kurl and other journalists had leaders hot on their heels in ways debate viewers rarely see, such as when CBC’s Rosemary Barton asked Singh if she wanted to protect home equity or help out. young people to be able to afford a house (the NDP leader tried to do it both ways). But the one-by-one questioning of five leaders prevented any of those topics from unfolding properly, and the discussion suffered because the fellow leaders were unable to intervene on their own.

This was supposed to be O’Toole’s introduction to Canadians, but Annamie Paul took center stage

The Green leader has been cornered and stifled throughout the campaign so far, by a party high command who has tried to extinguish her leadership; by a troubled organization that has left dozens of candidates short of a complete national list; and for his decision to spend most of the season obsessed with his risky bid to win his own seat at the Toronto Center. She needed him to carry her.

She turned herself in on a Thursday, introducing herself as the reasoned conciliator among a group of men in dispute, and sharing much of her biography. We were introduced to not just a lawyer, but her entire supporting cast: a husband who worked in international human rights, a brother who used to be a bully from Alberta, a grandmother who worked long after retirement age, parents who fought for putting food on the table, relatives who taught him Caribbean expressions. Was that exaggerated in the minds of some politicians? Yes. But he made her likable in a way that will appeal to many voters, instilling in them, at the very least, that there is more to her than embattled leadership. (O’Toole, the only other newcomer to the English debate stage, did much less to present his personal story or much of his character, aside from positing that he is the guy who will drive the bus, not the conservative caucus.) .

Paul also gently knocked Blanchet down when he objected to a comment about his refusal to acknowledge systemic racism in Quebec: “It is not an insult, it is an invitation to educate yourself,” Paul said.

However, I offer my condolences if you were seeking policies from the leader of a party that has long presented itself as the smart alternative. He gave more family anecdotes than political solutions. What was this green leader’s big idea to solve the climate crisis? Bring together all the parties in Parliament to discuss it. Several of her proposed solutions were along those lines, which is a far cry from those of her detail-obsessed predecessor Elizabeth May. And maybe that’s why so many Greens try to thwart her.

Jody Wilson-Raybould is back, in talking point form

Two years ago, Trudeau’s former Justice Minister (and her expulsion from the caucus) were at the center of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, the main ethical problem of the 2019 elections. That saga is only a memory in 2021, and Wilson herself -Raybould has decided not to run again after a short term as an Independent. And yet both Paul and O’Toole mentioned it at least three times during this debate. In 2019, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer only removed the name once.

Why the repeated reference that, for now, will seem like a distant memory for many addicts to politics? It is likely to be a preview of material that could dominate political discussions in the last week of the elections. Wilson-Raybould’s book will be published next Tuesday. Title: Indio ‘in the cabinet: tell the truth to power.


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