Post-Munk Debate: How do the Leaders Rate?

By Ian Capstick · September 29, 2015

The Media Narrative

The debate went overtime last night and no one minded. That’s a first in Canadian history.

On the topic of firsts, can you imagine any other NDP leader saying the following words:

“…We understand there will be times when we have to, either under the NATO charter or under our international obligations with the UN, use force and we won’t shy away from that.”

No, not even Jack Layton — who reversed the decades-long party position of withdrawing from NATO and NORAD — could have gone this far. Thomas Mulcair is readying himself to be prime minister and is ensuring our international allies know he’s ready to step up to the plate.

Each of the leaders would present a different face of Canada to the world. Mulcair clearly demonstrated a new NDP approach to Canada’s foreign affairs focussed on reasonable international intervention when required, instead of default anti-interventionism.

Was Mulcair’s performance last night enough to bring a few points back to the NDP?

Trudeau worked hard to dig into his opponents, but didn’t present himself as a possible world leader. Though that’s not really what voters are looking for out of a debate. They want restrained passion. His spirited defence of his father was a strong pitch to partisans and people who adored Prime Minister Trudeau. This may, however, turn off other voters.

Stephen Harper managed to stay out of any major trouble and reinforced his image as a tough-on-terror PM. He accomplished his debate goals and oddly wasn’t the focus of the majority of attacks.

Selected Headlines

Highlights from yesterday’s National Newswatch and MediaStyle panel:

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As the parties look to calibrate the last twenty days of the campaign, here is what should be on their mind:

In the Star, Tim Harper contends that Trudeau has turned a perceived weakness, foreign affairs, into a strength, but more importantly he rightly points out “there was likely nothing said Monday that would cause Harper’s bedrock base to wobble.”

The National Post’s Jen Gerson suggests last night was the moment the left began to eat itself. That’s a bit of headline hyperbole, but all campaigns would be wise to read the next passage a few times: “The fact that no one has scored anything but technical points against the Prime Minister over the course of four debates should probably be the left’s most worrisome omen yet.” Worrisome, indeed.

Wrapping up all that political posturing may be the emergence of a critical issue: free trade. Specifically the much maligned Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail suggests, “In the three weeks that remain before the election, Mr. Harper will seek to define the choice: a Pacific, globalized, outward-looking Canada under the Conservatives versus a closed, protectionist and declining Canada under the Liberals or the NDP.”

A full collection of election opinions worth reading can be found on National Newswatch.


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