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Who won the leaders debate? 

By- Yudhvir Jaswal

ONTARIO – To start with I must say all the four leaders did quite well. I was quite pleased to see leaders discussing all the issues very well at the recently held Macleans’ National Leaders Debate. But if I have to pick up a surprise for me, I’ll pick up the Green Party leader Elizabeth May. I think she certainly surprised me personally. She was very confident and she highlighted many good points. Talking about Stephen Harper, I think as expected he was attacked from all sides because he is the sitting prime minister right now and as expected all the leaders – Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May targeted him. I will still give him the credit that there weren’t any knockout punches because at this particular time the discussion is about the knockout punches and anybody could deliver the knockout punch and anyone could have been knocked out with one wrong statement or something they are unable to answer. But what I saw was though the leaders tried to corner Stephen Harper but none of them were really able to deliver any knockout punch. So overall I think Stephen Harper did quite well especially on economy and jobs he threw a lot of data and the other leaders did not counter him much. If I talk about NDP leader Tom Mulcair, he had the burden of high expectations, for one reason that he is leading the polls consistently and when this paper goes in print, NDP could still be in the lead. Thus I think expectations from NDP leader Tom Mulcair were quite high. He had to establish himself that if anyone is looking for the change, he is the person and he really had to differentiate himself that he is way ahead of Justin Trudeau. So overall I think Tom Mulcair did very well but at one single point where I saw Tom Mulcair not scoring was that he could not clearly establish himself as the face of the change. Another reason could be that Justin Trudeau did very well. But I wish to add that Mulcair was able to corner Harper a little bit on the issue of recession. When Mulcair asked Harper to clearly tell the Canadians are we not in recession, Harper at that point had to admit: “I do not deny that.” So that was a good moment as far as Mulcair is concerned.

As far as Justin Trudeau is concerned, he also surprised many. One of the many reasons could be that there weren’t many expectations from him. During recent polls the numbers of the Liberal party were at the third position and therefore not many expectations from Justin Trudeau. The attack ads consistently targeted Justin Trudeau that he was not ready for the job. But despite all this I think Justin Trudeau scored some very good points especially on the Quebec separatism issue. Tom Mulcair consistently kept on asking him what is your number, and Justin Trudeau said, “My number is nine,” he came out quite strongly. On other issues also I think Justin Trudeau did very well. Green party leader Elizabeth May, when she highlighted how much money the corporations are having right now and if the taxes are very low for big corporations in Canada, that money should not be stashed with the corporations. It should be passed on to a common person but that’s not being done. So I think she highlighted a very good point. She also indicated that there is infrastructural deficit right across the country. Tom Mulcair also had his moment when he said that NDP is going to reduce taxes on small businesses as they create the majority of jobs in Canada but increasing the taxes of bigger corporations to raise money somehow.

Regarding foreign policy, Stephen Harper certainly defended his policy of bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq. NDP’s Mulcair did not agree with it as well as Trudeau. So we could clearly listen what is the difference between Mulcair and Trudeau’s opinion on the issues of foreign policy and terrorism and though Harper gave his viewpoint quite a number of times to media but here was a chance to listen to other leaders on Canada’s foreign policy especially the fight against ISIS and how Canada should be positioned or dealing with this terrorist outfit. But every leader did acknowledge that we need to fight against them. The only difference being should we be engaging in bombing ISIS or as Trudeau said that ours should not be a combat role but it should be training Iraqi soldiers.

On economy Harper brought a lot of numbers but was consistently attacked by other leaders who disagreed with his numbers. Elizabeth May said Harper was trying to cherry pick the numbers while Trudeau and Mulcair did not agree on the jobs though Harper claimed our taxes are the lowest in G-7 countries and that is the reason we are creating so many jobs. He also claimed the Conservatives are creating good and better jobs and Canadians are getting richer.

As far as the democratic reforms are concerned, that is one area we knew Harper will be hammered in wake of ongoing senate expense scandals as expected and there were a lot of attacks. Trudeau questioned that despite Harper saying that he will not appoint anyone in the senate but he kept on appointing. Trudeau pointed out Harper started appointments as soon as he was elected the prime minster. Elizabeth May asked if the prime minister could really put a moratorium and put a stop on senate appointments now. Harper though wanted to clarify that he has stopped appointing senators now but again Elizabeth May asked if the prime minister could do so legally or not, an issue still debated. Harper also tried to claim that these issues regarding senate were not a recent phenomenon and have persisted for the past many years.

On the economic front Harper tried to blame falling oil prices for slump in economy but the other leaders did not agree on that and blamed Harper’s policies. Mulcair said in the last 10 years he has created an additional debt of a $150 billion.

Harper got some relief when Trudeau attacked Mulcair on the issue of Quebec’s separation and I think at this point Mulcair got aggressive initially and had to be defensive when Trudeau counter attacked Mulcair. At that point Harper also joined in and both attacked Mulcair putting him on defensive position.

And now the big question: Will this debate translate into any kind of electoral support? I think NDP’s support will not go up or down just because of this debate and this is strictly my personal opinion. Harper’s support could have gone down had he been cornered more or there were more knockout punches and so just because of this debate his numbers will not go down. There could only be a little increase in the support of Trudeau and Elizabeth May but will this translate into more seats for Elizabeth May? I doubt so. Also, will this translate into more seats for Trudeau? May be very few. But this still is anybody’s game and there is still some time. We will keep on discussing the upcoming debates and let’s see who wins this race?

And now the big question: Did this debate translate into any kind of support? I think NDP’s support will not go up or down just because of this debate and this is strictly my personal opinion. Harper’s support could have gone down had he been cornered more or there were more knockout punches and so just because of this debate his numbers would not have gone down. There could only be a little increase in the support of Trudeau and Elizabeth May but will this translate into more seats for Elizabeth May? I doubt so. Also, will this translate into more seats for Trudeau? May be very few. But this still is anybody’s game and there is still some time. We will keep on discussing the upcoming debates and let’s see who wins this race?

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