Thursday, September 17, 2015

Election 2015: Debate #2

The second debate of the 2015 election was about the economy, and each of the leaders had their own challenges coming  into it. Stephen Harper came into the debate with some good news behind him. There was a small surplus last year, and Harper is hoping to leverage that news as he attacks the others on their plans. But he is weak on the economy on a number of fronts, so it was interesting to see how he defended his record of low growth and deficits while attacking the others. Mulcair has put himself into a difficult spot by promising to balance the budget even when the economy looks to be headed to a rough patch. He had to convince Canadians that he could actually deliver all he is promising without cutting significantly or keeping Harper's cuts in place. Trudeau had the easier job in this debate compared to Mulcair as he would be able to clearly place himself in opposition to the plans of the other two. His plan is also much more tangible and realistic, and he would come out on top if he could convince Canadians of that.

My first impression was that the debate lacked some clarity and at times the moderator really needed to step in to reign them in and there were several exchanges to devolve into shouting matches. That being said, I think all the leaders came out unscathed. Harper held his own with his base, and kept up his usual talking points that will please the people who were planning to vote for him anyway. He has not won any new voters over.

Tom Mulcair was the weakest of the three in this debate. Because of the way he has positioned himself as in the middle of the road, it was difficult for him to carve out a space for himself. Mulcair is going to have a hard time convincing Canadians that he is going to be different than Harper on the economy, because he seems to be using Harper's numbers and is committed to a surplus even if he has to keep Harper cuts to get there. He was also weak on explaining where he is going to get the money for his promises. I think he was very calm and definitely had a better performance than last time. He could well improve further in the rest of the debates. What he needs to work on connecting with Canadians, and really proposing a vision for the future. He appears to be struggling to push past the other leaders into the territory he needs to be in to win clearly. He really needed to show to progressives to move over to the NDP and he failed to do that. But he hasn't hurt himself with this debate.

Justin Trudeau was by far the most passionate, and more confident in his plan than Mulcair. Although he at times got a bit tongue tied, he was the most effective at differentiating himself from the other two, which was probably his main goal in this debate. I do think that at times he came off as if he is less comfortable with the facts, but I think the fact that he is proposing a very different vision is going to benefit him, and might well attract more voters. He was also trying to get the message across that he is telling Canadians the truth about the economy, and on that I think he might be successful. He didn't leave any good attack ad soundbites, but he still did not do enough to convince Canadians that he is competent enough to run the country. If Canadians vote Liberal it will be because of the plan, and more in spite of Justin Trudeau's personal competency.

All this debate has done is reiterated the fact that this is a three way race, and that benefits Stephen Harper. I think that this debate hurts both the NDP and the Liberals because neither of the leaders were able to make a break, and that will lead to the Conservatives winning yet again, and perhaps even a majority if the splits go in their favour. We still have lots of time left in this election, and if undecideds cannot decide between the progressive choices, things will play into Harper's hands.

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