By Harvey Oberfeld
June 19, 2015
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is an EXCEPTIONAL debater … and I suspect that’s why Prime Minister Stephen Harper is planning … so far … to be a “no show” at the two traditional broadcast consortium nationally televised debates planned for the federal election.
Mulcair would verbally cut Harper to shreds with saber-sharp verbal parries and thrusts … and no doubt also be able to diminish Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to a quivering mass of sweat under the tv lights … all watched by millions of voters.
In fact, this has ALREADY happened.
Readers of this blog may recall that way back, in Oct 2013, I wrote about Mulcair doing just that to the other two federal leaders during the Commons debates during the early phase of the Senate scandal. You can review that piece here: http://harveyoberfeld.ca/blog/mulcair-bests-harper-and-trudeau-as-senate-scandal-unfolds/
Today, I believe the debating capability gap … especially between Mulcair and Harper … is even greater.
Let’s face it, Mulcair has it much easier: as Opposition Leader, he has no track record, screw ups, scandals while in power to explain or defend and can promise almost everything to everyone. Debates usually favour those NOT in charge of government.
And in Harper’s case, the vulnerability is HUGE: all kinds of environmental cuts; scientific program slashing; silencing of officials; Coast Guard closures; tax moves favoring the wealthy more than the middle class or poor; the Senate scandals/payouts; foreign entanglements etc. etc.
The challenge for the incumbent is always more difficult than for those across the floor.
And with Mulcair’s background as a very experienced political lawyer/Quebec (Liberal) Cabinet Minister … with a superb and almost charismatic delivery, I don’t believe Harper stands much of a chance in any nationally-televised debates under the hot lights … in either official language … against Mulcair.
In fact, the latest Angus Reid poll on GlobalTV, shows Mulcair’s on-camera persona and sharp tongued comments are already winning over potential voters.
Scoring 54% approval, Mulcair topped the poll as a LEADER; followed by Trudeau with 43% support; and Harper at only 37% … that’s quite a spread!
Harper did retain the lead as Who Would Make the Best Prime Minister, with 26% support, but that was DOWN 4% from the previous poll; and Mulcair, close behind at 28%, was UP 8%; while Trudeau, scoring 18%, dropped 10%.
But most interestingly, on Best PM, 27% were undecided … that’s a fairly large number and signals many uncommitted Canadians are at least considering Mulcair and Trudeau as having the potential to do that job.
I believe Harper, under attack from both (armed with LOTS of ammunition), would have a very tough time in those national debates this time around.
That, I believe is why Harper/Tory strategists have opted for four smaller, issue discussion-type debates organized by what many see as Harper-friendlier groups and in Harper-friendlier formats.
That won’t be enough.
If the nationally televised broadcast debates go ahead …with an empty podium signalling Harper’s absence … the damage to Harper will be tremendous.
The remaining question … and it’s a BIG one … is whether the Tory NEGATIVE attack ads …. and there will be MANY, MANY, MANY targeting Mulcair and Trudeau will outweigh Harper’s refusal to take part in the broadcast debates. The couple we’ve seen so far are nothing compared to what’s about to fill our TV screens.
In other words … the coming Tory campaign will not center so much on their own achievements and promises … but on generating FEAR about the alternatives … a SCARE campaign like we’ve never seen before.
With those undecided voters ultimately determing the outcome, by deciding WHO and HOW MUCH to believe.
I can hardly wait!
Debates are a joke,NDP will not win,Trudeau will have some problems.Harper like him or not is a strong leader.Wake me when its Labor day.
I’ve voted conservative most of my life, but with bill C 51 introduced and now made into law with the help of Justin Trudeau, I’m ready for a change, to get the two big parties conservative and liberals OUT, and vote for the NDP. Looking at Alberta politics, its such a breath of fresh air to kick the old boys be it conservative or liberal. Only the New Democrats have promised to do away with this bill. If its the pot vote voters are looking for, the ND says they will decriminalize.
Let the Orange Crush the Nation, which they probably will do, but it can be fixable in election.
The NDP has never held power federally and I don’t expect that to change at any point now or in the future. From what we’ve seen when the New Democrats held power provincially (including now in Alberta and Manitoba), if Mulcair led them to a win in the upcoming federal election, we’d see Canada get turned into a have-not country within months if their history with forming provincial governments is any indication. I’m looking at Harper and the Conservatives to retain, but they’ll need to get their own affairs in order as well.
Is the television debates even relevant anymore
I am not sure who will be the government after the next election, but Oberfeld makes a blanket assumption that a) the tv debates are still important (they are NOT) and that b) television, the medium, is equally important. (it is not).
We all know that traditional television is viewed less and less and internet based, social media mediums have gained in popularity.
Since it is also a well know fact that the whole election is essentially an eastern Canadian “sport,” i.e. fated on the results of the vote in both Ontario and Quebec, maybe the Quebec (French) televised debate will be more important than the English one.
The biggest question for Mulcair, is can he repeat in Quebec and retain those NDP seats what essentially was Jack Layton’s popular vote and therefore, NOT Mulcair’s popularity at all.
That is the magic question, heading into the election, NOT who is the best debater, liar, etc, but who is the most popular ?
Everything we know about Mulcair is that he is still an unlikable leader, ie rude, arrogant, just like the rest of them !
On that note, you cannot count out Trudeau Junior, as he is far more likable than Mulcair ?
Maybe Harper is focusing on social/new media to get his views across to voters,