LIVE BLOG – Rogers/Macleans Federal Leaders Debate


Tonight is the accidental first major campaign event of the 2015 Federal Election. I have taken up residence at the Penny Whistle pub in downtown Guelph where the local NDP is hosting a debate watch. Obviously, they’re riled up because they’re banking on their man Mulcair to take the night as the next step on the long ladder to the Prime Minister’s Office. Can he do it? Can Justin Trudeau make a serious impression? What impact will Elizabeth May have? Can Stephen Harper make his case for re-election? Stand by.

I will posting quick thoughts on my Twitter feed and going into greater detail here on the live blog as time allows.

8:02 – Paul Wells introduces the first topic, the Economy.

8:07 – Despite what Prime Minister Harper says, most economic indicators are that Canada’s economy has shrunk and is shrinking through the 2015 year.

8:08 – Elizabeth May points out that Harper didn’t see the 2008 market crash coming. She’s right. The 2008 budget forecasted continued surpluses through 2009 and 2010.

8:15 – That was a highly feisty first round. It’s seems pretty obvious that everyone’s tactic on the economy question is “Get Harper!”

8:19 – May’s point about corporations sitting on capital is one of the most under-reported economic stories. Trillions of dollars are just sitting liquid in the bank accounts of many of North America’s biggest corporations.

8:27 – The first break of the evening. A very lively debate so far, but Stephen Harper’s going to clear himself into the quantum realm if he doesn’t find another rhetorical flourish. Mulcair has kept his cool for the most part and been guarded the way he’s entered the fight. Trudeau has been pretty brazen on the attack, willing to step on toes and might for air. (He clearly put his pants on both metaphorically and literally.) May has been cautious, cutting in with sound feedback. Now, on to round two.

8:54 – That’s the end of the environment and energy round. Although it’s easy to assume that Harper was at the losing end of that round, he managed to hold his own by pointing out the inconsistencies in both the Liberal and NDP statements on projects like the Energy East pipeline. Trudeau stayed on the attack, but in terms of the heir apparent, Mulcair looked more like the Prime Minister in waiting, staying out of the fray and waiting to answer when called. This was May’s issue to lose, and she managed to keep the boys honest and on point. Everyone was a winner, but if I had to choose one, I’d choose May.

9:23 – Between my furious tweeting and my arrived beer and fries, I sort of lost track there. On the question of senate reform, it was clearly Mulcair’s to own as he has a clear, simple message on the issue. He really sold that, and he really looked strong in attacks on Harper, and in critiquing Trudeau’s approach. Harper meanwhile looked unsure in terms of what he’s said he plans to do and how that jibs with what he’s done in the past. Trudeau got a big laugh for his “stop me before I appoint again” line, but ultimately, Mulcair won the round.

10:01 – The debate is over. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Trudeau exceeded expectations, and in the last round he was only one to mention veterans, and that’s got to be some kind of plus. Mulcair certainly sounded prime ministerial in the way he talked about foreign affairs cooly and confidently, and Harper, in what should have been his strongest area, remained on defense even when attention turned to Trudeau’s confused stance on Bill C-51.

That’s all for now. The next debate is on September 17 and it’s the Google/Globe and Mail debate. Stay tuned for more election coverage on Open Sources.

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