Thursday, August 06, 2015

And the verdict is...

Having set out my criteria for watching tonight's leaders' debate in today's column, I'll offer a quick rundown as to my evaluation.

Justin Trudeau was by far the weakest of the lot in terms of both depth and flexibility of thought from the very beginning, answering Paul Wells' question about whether he could do more than what was in his party's economic platform by merely reciting talking points about the exact plan which was being challenged. And matters didn't improve for Trudeau throughout: at best he was aware enough to find allies among the other leaders on some points, but he offered little by way of either detail or explanation as the discussion progressed on any issue.

(Meanwhile, his final statement in which his occasional tendency toward word salad gave way to word compost can't be described as much beyond cringe-inducing.)

Elizabeth May was rarely the subject of anybody else's direct challenges, which served to limit her involvement at times but also to allow her to pick her spots. To her credit, she mostly did so to good effect - though it's unclear how and why she managed to completely reverse her position on suppression of democratic governance in the name of trade in the course of a minute between the domestic and international scene.

Rather than playing matters entirely safe, Thomas Mulcair offered more new content than any of the other leaders (including both examples from his experience and memorable lines aimed at Stephen Harper), and found opportunities to work it into the debate. The downside is that it was tough to tell much about Mulcair's response to the unexpected when he didn't face much by way of surprises, but it hardly seems a problem to have been prepared.

Finally, Stephen Harper stuck almost entirely to talking points we've heard dozens of times before (the bulk of which have long since been debunked) and was the lone leader to distinctly fail to acknowledge anybody else's points even on legislation where he had another party's support. At best, one can say that Harper hewed more to the chosen topics and went into slightly more depth than his spokespeople tend to - but that's hardly a ringing endorsement.

In sum, when it came to the leaders' judgment, Trudeau seemed out of his element, May held her own within her chosen niches, Mulcair was thoroughly prepared and Harper appeared isolated in his own bubble. Which is to say that while the debate had its interesting moments, we may have learned less than we might have hoped.


  1. Anonymous2:11 a.m.

    Like this was comedic prose 101 - you need to at least give May a lot more credit, but I suppose if you're playing rope-a-dope with reality aka Mulcair's robotic, awkward Dix-ian start and then his scramble for script in the end, that's the prescription your Optometrist needs to answer for...

  2. How could you tell when the PM was lieing, or as Ms May said "cherry picking his data"? He started his sentence with "The fact is......."

  3. It's okay to be for Mulcair, but you're sounding awfully partisan and the old argument that trudeau was out of his element doesn't hold water anymore. Elizabeth May was the most articulate and I think intelligent.

    1. As I say, I think May did do well for herself. For Trudeau the biggest problem is that his strengths had nothing to do with the criteria I applied (which I set out in my earlier column): he was fine as a communicator, but any ability to think on his feet and discuss issues in any depth was sorely lacking.

      Conversely, I've heard some complaints about Mulcair's style - which didn't strike me as a problem, but I'll acknowledge that may be because I'm familiar with it already. That said, I'd think the substance of what he had to say is more important.

  4. Anonymous11:14 a.m.

    Trudeau did better than expected.
    May did as expected.
    Mulcair did worse than expected.
    Harper was exactly how you would expect someone who hates debate.

    There was no clear winner, but Harper did take a beating and Trudeau probably won points for those who watched. Mulcair didn't appear like himself as he overcompensated for the "Angry Tom" rep by the crazy smiley eyes and smile. He did come into his own later. But to say Trudeau was that much of failure is just being overly partisan.

    1. Anonymous9:57 p.m.

      Saying Trudeau did better than expected isn't saying much since the bar was set pretty low for him to begin with.