A debate that will not change voters’ mind on the election

di Francesco Veronesi del 9 October 2019

TORONTO - Let’s face it. The debate on Monday night will hardly produce a biblical electoral exodus from one party to another. The format of what had been described as the key event of the electoral campaign did not favour a civilized, reasoned and mature discussion on the main issues that Canadian voters who are called to the polls on October 21.

The main protagonists were the leaders of the minor parties - Yves-François Blanchet of the Bloc, Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada and Elizabeth May of the Green Party.

She astutely exploited the national stage to win over potential voters, taking advantage to drive home the point of who in a debate of this type should have equal access to those millions of voters when they can barely register 2-3 percent in public opinion polls.

All this worked to the advantage of Justin Trudeau, who, objectively, had a good evening. Usually in these debates the outgoing prime minister becomes the target of the crossfire of all other leaders.

On Monday evening, on the other hand, the outgoing prime minister had to defend himself only from the bland attacks of Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh, without ever really getting in trouble. Thanks in part to the inabilities of the opponents.

Bernier and Blanchet instead focused their attacks on the conservative leader, with the first aiming to divide the electorate of the right into a replay of the race for conservative leadership two years ago.

He will not succeed, but he will gnaw a few percentage points in many districts, an electoral dynamic that could be undermine Scheer’s aspirations of winning and forming a majority government.

Blanchet had a fairly easy time presenting and reiterating his one basic tenet: I am here to defend the interests of Quebec, which is not a province but a nation with the same rights as Canada.

As mentioned, Trudeau has to thank his main opponents for spending a fairly quiet evening. He strongly defended the results of his government - classic script of the outgoing prime ministers - and played the card of the need to do better and more in the next legislature.

Scheer has dusted off the slogans with which he is hammering the electorate in this election campaign. One wonders if it was a smart choice - after all Doug Ford went very well in the provincial vote of 2018 - or if instead it would have been more effective to present himself clearly as the only real alternative to the liberal leader, with a specific program to be contrasted with that of the outgoing prime minister. The problem is that with two weeks before the vote, the conservative final platform has not yet been formalized.

The shortcut of ad hominem attacks has been chosen, which may perhaps bring a few more votes but in the long run does not pay well.

Jagmeet Singh also failed to fully grasp the opportunity to corner the liberal leader.

In the middle of the debate, for the fifth time, he repeated his mantra - "Trudeau speaks well but at the test of the facts he behaved like Harper". He missed the opportunity to show that the contents are always more important than talking points. With the debate on Monday night, in our opinion, a precious opportunity was been lost to clarify some fundamental issues.

The only ones to draw the line were Bernier, May and Blanchet. The leader of the People’s Party tried to ignite the spark of sovereignty and said clearly that we need to abandon immigration and multiculturalism.

The leader of the Greens explained that in our country there is only one problem, the climate crisis, while Blanchet reiterated that the Quebecers are not interested in the problems of Canada, but those of Quebec. Ideas that can be shared or not: but at least they are clear ideas, without compromise.

In any case, the last judgment belongs to the voters on Oct 21.

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