Federal leaders debate: Jagmeet Singh loses his moment – Macleans.ca

Jagmeet Singh spent so much time arguing that Justin Trudeau is the wrong leader for Canada, he forgot to argue that he is the right one.

During a brief two-hour debate, Singh chided the Liberal leader for failing on climate, pharmacology and reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and was often the most effective interrogator of Trudeau’s famed bona fides.

But when it came to offering voters details about how he would rule, or even a compelling emotional reason why he is better suited to lead than others, Singh largely repeated the script he has been reading throughout the campaign.

Would you eliminate the Trans Mountain pipeline upon election? Who knows. Where would your investments go to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent? I could not say. How would you protect the ancestral rights of indigenous people to log, fish and hunt? No idea.

Voters at home would no doubt come out of Thursday’s debate knowing that Singh wants to “make the rich pay their fair share,” as if that was ever in doubt. But that often sounded like the most profound political proposition he had under his belt.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective on stage.

As I entered the debate, a strategist on Singh’s team told me not to expect fireworks from the NDP leader. During the campaign, Singh is not even willing to interrupt his own staff when they argue; They said not to expect anything different on stage.

Singh, however, was most effective when he hit Trudeau in the chest.

“You can’t get on your knees one day and take Indigenous children to court the next day,” Singh told Trudeau, about Canada’s continued failure to guarantee decent care for Indigenous youth.

Trudeau, clearly nervous, interrupted Singh: “It’s not really true.” He later insisted that Singh’s criticism actually damaged Canada’s effort to promote reconciliation.

The Liberal leader was himself verified by advocate Cindy Blackstock, who tweeted: “You have the right to litigate against First Nations children and you have chosen to do so, you have no right to make false statements about it.” . “

And there is the pharmacare: “You got engaged, you campaigned for him, you included him in your speech from the throne, now you have abandoned him,” Singh told him.

Also on the climate, Singh caught Trudeau in a falsehood: After criticizing the liberals for not reaching one emissions target after another, Trudeau replied: “We have not lost any targets.”

Of course, that is not true either. Under Trudeau, Canada has exceeded the goals it committed to in the Kyoto Agreement (goals, of course, discarded by the then Conservative government) and the Copenhagen Accord. As Singh and Green leader Annamie Paul were quick to point out, Canada has been the only G7 country that has seen its emissions rise in recent years.

But a good effort to keep the incumbent honest doesn’t exactly build a strong case for electing a party that is never governed at the federal level.

And to a large extent, Singh entered the debate stage with one hand tied behind his back or with a dirty secret he is trying to hide; In its infinite wisdom, the NDP has chosen to keep its expensive platform a secret until Saturday.

That meant that, with every chance to bring his “bold” and “ambitious” plan to the table, he lacked numbers to back it up, instead leaning toward platitudes and relentless optimism.

If Trudeau “announces things, then never delivers,” as Singh said at one point, then the NDP’s strategy seems to be: Never announce things.

It didn’t help that Singh was at Paul’s side, who frequently cleared up the same criticisms of the Prime Minister with a little more specificity.

At the end of the day, Singh’s gesture toward Erin O’Toole and Trudeau (“let me tell you, you’re not stuck with these two”) might be his most effective tactic, but it won’t make him Prime Minister.


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