2019 Canadian election log, II : verdicts on the October 7 great debate

Oct 7th, 2019 | By | Category: In Brief
“Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left, shakes hands with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer at the start of a bicycle trek, Thursday, June 14, 2018, in Saguenay Que. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jacques Boissinot).”

OCTOBER 7. 3 PM ET : Waiting for the great debate to start at 7 PM. (And more immediately for the daily office trek to the Tim Horton’s overlooking our local Kew Gardens.)

Already today’s public polling installment has moved away from possible early signs of a Liberal surge in the final two weeks, and back to a still very close race (or even a tie), with the Liberals only slightly ahead of the Conservatives, Canada-wide.

Factoring in the regional permutations of the polling evidence, today’s CBC Poll Tracker is nonetheless giving Liberals 163 seats in the Canadian House of Commons (where 170 is a bare majority) and Conservatives 135 — a 28-seat margin. The most recent (October 6) 338Canada update narrows the margin somewhat to 161 Liberals and 137 Conservatives, or 24 seats.

A new Abacus poll also shows the Liberal lead in Ontario shrinking somewhat. Wild Alberta patriots might attribute this to their Premier Jason Kenney’s recent Ontario campaigning on behalf of Andrew Scheer. But Abacus more dramatically underlines a tale that explains the Liberal lead in seats as well : “The regional races tell a clearer story of where the race stands. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Conservative Party has a 37-point lead, an advantage which has widened from 30 points in August. In the rest of the country, the Liberals have consistently led the Conservatives this year, and since August, a 5-point advantage has widened to 9 points.”

Stephanie Smyth — another attractive feminist on cp24 in Toronto.

10:45 PM ET : After some collective deliberation we seem to agree with Stephanie Smyth at cp24 in Toronto (ably assisted by Jenni Byrne, Mike Schreiner, Robin Sears, and Andrew Steele). The very bottom line is probably that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau survived the debate quite intact and (perhaps inevitably) looking the most prime ministerial.

We’d almost agree that good things could be said about almost everyone else as well. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer showed he could participate in such exercises and not fall flat on his face. (Though, to our tastes at any rate, his attacks on Justin Trudeau often suffered from excessive and even artificial hyperbole, even in the age of Donald Trump next door.)

Jagmeet Singh, as many observers also seemed to acknowledge (and here as elsewhere in his first campaign as federal NDP leader), did very well too. Of course what he says doesn’t quite add up when you notice that his party has only 14.5% of the cross-Canada vote in the latest CBC Poll Tracker (October 7). But he is saying it very well, and almost certainly doing his party and possibly even the country some longer term good.

L to R : Elizabeth May, Jagmeet Singh, and Justin Trudeau at Vancouver Pride Parade, Sunday August 4, 2019. DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS.

Not quite so good but for us good enough things could also be said about Elizabeth May (Greens), Yves-François Blanchet (Bloc Québécois), and even Maxime Bernier ( People’s Party of Canada). At the same time, we’d agree with the view that the format made for a complicated and often less than gripping two hours — which finally may not have much impact on anything.

Yet again stay tuned. Meanwhile, we are left with two questions about the October 7 debate in English. First, was Elizabeth May on the money when she explained to Andrew Scheer that, with all due respect, he was not going to win the election. The only important question is whether it will be a Liberal majority government, or (Ms. May’s obvious own overwhelming preference) a Liberal minority government, a bit like the one Justin Trudeau’s father wound up with in 1972?

(Mr. Scheer, to give him his due, did respond well enough to this, saying he believed he was going to prove her wrong on October 21.)

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and his wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu in his Burnaby, BC riding.

Our second question concerns the at least two times Justin Trudeau called Jagmeet Singh Andrew Scheer at the start of the debate. (And then joked the second time that the two of them looked so much alike. Mr. Singh got his own nice one-liner off on this or some related occasion. He quipped that he had already worn a special hat to help tell the two leaders apart. Mr. Scheer himself bragged that the key difference was just that he is taller).

Our question : did an increasingly coolly Machiavellian PM Justin Trudeau make the mistake of calling Mr. Singh Mr. Scheer on purpose? To subtly drive home the message that a vote for Jagmeet Singh is just another vote for Andrew Scheer. Better to vote for the moderate progressive with a doable plan etc … (And whatever the ultimate answer here may be, we’ll likely enough be back with another 2019 Canadian election meditation all too soon …)

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