By the time the leaders clash in televised debates, Canadian federal elections are usually already decided. Voters’ minds are made up and the debate doesn’t change anything. This year is different.
After squaring off twice in French, finallly the party leaders will spar with each other tonight in an election that all polls indicate is too close to call. Many voters are undecided, and will make their election day decision based on what they see tonight.
The pressure is on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, whose popularity has been dropping each day of the campaign. He needs a stellar performance to reverse the slide, but can he do it?
His “sunny ways” mantra has devolved into incrisingly strident personal attacks on his opponents. His smugness when speaking, his holier-than-thou demeanor may be wearing thin with Canadians as he has been overexposed to the public during this pandemic. And that isn’t even taking into consideration the myriad scandals, both personal and governmental, that may be brought up during the course of the debate.
Conservative Erin O’Toole entered the campiagn relatively unknown to Canadians, having won the leadership during the pandemic. For many this debate will be a formal introduction, and I expect him to do well.
O’Toole, as I have observed him, is more comfortable with retail politics than his precdecessors were, and his policies are more mainstream than those of past Conservatives. When Trudeau attacks him he will probably just laugh and suggest such attacks are absurd and a sign of Liberal desperation.
Jagmeet Singh is not running tobe Prime Minister, but he may have a shot at his NDP forming the official opposition. In 2019 I thought he was the clear winner of the leaders’ debate.
He would have won me over if his party’s policies were viable. He will do well once more, something the Liberals probably fear most as they would be expected to pick up progressive votes if he stumbles.
Green Party leader Annamie Paul is fighting for her political life. Her fractured party isn’t fielding a full slate of candidates. She lost an MP to the Liberals in the spring. Her party executive tried to oust her in July. Her campaign has been invisible.
While O’Toole may not have been well know to Canadians, he at least has some recognition from his days as a cabinet minister in the last Conservative government. Paul is a complete unknown. However, as the only woman in the debate she may manage to make an unexpected impact.
If she doesn’t, expect her to be gone by September 21. And her party may be gone with her.
The English-language debate is always a lot of fun for Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet. He truly has nothing to lose. His party is only running candidates inside Quebec, and with its separatist agenda it doesn’t do well in English speaking areas. Blanchet will be a persistent mosquito, attempting to draw political blood from all his opponents.
Missing from the debate will be Maxime Bernier, whose People’s Party was disqualified because it has never elected a candidate. If the polls are correct, it won’t in 2021 either.
I’ll be watching tonight. It should be fun. Things get underway at 9 p.m. EDT. You can watch the livestream at cpac.ca if the link at the start of this post doesn’t work.