By Harvey Oberfeld
August 7th, 2015
It was the FIRST election debate … and possibly the last, because the three leading parties have not yet agreed to participate in any more, even though Election Day is still 73 days away.
And it sure seemed to me that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau bettered NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in winning over undecided voters … especially in Ontario.
It all happened during the second hour, when Trudeau revealed (to voters outside Quebec) what Mulcair promised, speaking in French, a few weeks ago at the nationalist St. Jean Baptiste celebrations in Quebec: that MULCAIR/NDP government would repeal the Clarity Act.
The Act, passed by Parliament and upheld by the Supreme Court, requires a CLEAR question and a CLEAR outcome should Quebec (or any province) ever hold another separatist referendum.
It was introduced after a fuzzy “sovereignty-association” referendum question was put to voters by Quebec’s Parti Quebecois government … and came within a whisker of passing. Federalists saw the question as separatism by subterfuge … and Parliament voted to require that if any future separation votes are held, the question MUST be clear and unambiguous.
The Quebec National Assembly, the Parti Quebecois, the Bloc Quebecois ….AND the federal NDP …. believe an approval vote of “50% plus one” is all that should be required to pass ANY question written, designed and put before Quebec voters by a Quebec government.
The federal Tories and Liberals back the federal Clarity Act … but the federal NDP opposed it in Parliament … Mulcair reminding Quebec voters an NDP government would repeal the law.
Trudeau went after Mulcair during the debate for saying things in French in Quebec that he does NOT say in English in the rest of Canada … and I thought it was one of the best exchanges during the event.
It will especially play VERY WELL for Trudeau/Liberals in Ontario … where the party and the NDP are really in some very tight battles: especially in urban areas, where about 125,000 former Montrealers who fled the separatist governments/ laws in Quebec now live.
Don’t forget …Ontario will deliver 121 MPs to Parliament in this election … compared to 78 for Quebec, and 42 in BC.
And by the way, it was not raised in the debate, but at his first election event on Monday in Montreal after the election was called, Mulcair … again speaking in French, but not repeating his remark in English … said an NDP government would REMOVE any toll Harper/Tories plan to place on the brand new Champlain Bridge, being built and totally paid for by federal taxpayers.
How ironic … in view of the fact that BC motorists are facing a 5% increase in tolls on the Port Mann Bridge next week … a bridge paid for by BC taxes, not the federal government … even though it is part of the Trans-Canada highway …and the Champlain Bridge is not. I have written about that before:http://harveyoberfeld.ca/blog/federal-ndplibs-want-bcwest-to-pay-for-quebec-bridges-as-well-as-our-own-while-bc-media-snoozes/.
Maybe Trudeau didn’t mention that injustice in the debate because Trudeau/Liberals ALSO want Quebeckers to have a free ride …while the rest of us pay … for both bridges.
Meanwhile, Mulcair started out quite stiff in the debate … smiling almost unnaturally at the cameras … but when he got into the swing of the discussions he scored a good point, managing to get Prime Minister Stephen Harper to admit … finally … that Canada IS close to fulfilling the dubious official definition of being in a recession.
Leader Elizabeth May of the Greens spoke well on the environment, but I doubt she scored much with those looking for job creation or economic growth ideas.
Harper was … Harper. But that’s not necessarily bad: he did not make any bad gaffes, was well-prepared and I suspect he pleased the stay-the-course voters.
But if anyone moved up in the polls … I predict it will be Trudeau.
Mulcair came out the loser for sure. Trudeau second, and Harper still leads the pack. But … a lot of days left to help citizens make a choice.
Your analysis is bang on. Trudeau came off as far from an amateur, which is how the Harper ads have been trying to paint him. I also agree Mulcair has been oddly stiff since the campaign began and must be getting crappy media advice. I do have a concern though that Elizabeth May’s good performance may lead to more vote splitting, allowing Harper to eke out another win.