Canadians Deserve Another Debate: Featuring ONLY the Top Two Contenders

Canadians should watch Political Debates as if they are job interviews.

After all, what we’re really doing is deciding who will manage our funds, our future and even the laws that will govern our lives for up to the next five years.

Canada’s federal annual Budget, due to the Covid pandemic, now tops $650 BILLION! The deficit is running over $350 BILLION; the total debt is more than $1 TRILLION!

And the Leader and party elected Sept. 20 will decide how/where all that will be spent and how WE are going to pay for it.

They will also what new laws, rules, regulations, restrictions should be imposed on us … and, hopefully, what new benefits we may see as well.

Make no mistake about it: elections are about hiring those who will have great impact on our lives.

Thursday’s English Language debate (and Wednesday’s French language debate) had five applicants for the top job: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau; Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole; NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh; Green Leader Annamie Paul; and, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.

Having watched both these interview sessions in their entirety, plus another French language more limited debate last week, I still came away with no clear decision, on who would singularly be best for the Prime Minister’s job.

BUT I did evaluate only two candidates as realistically being up to the task of FILLING the top job: Trudeau and O’Toole.

Singh offered everything to everyone: a platform that proposes a “vision”, but that lacks details of exactly what/how the NDP would provide national pharmacare; daycare; dental care; 500,000 affordable housing units; comprehensive new environmental controls; and, a huge increase in First Nations’ programs and spending.

You name it, the NDP Leader promised it. Christmas in September!

BUT as other candidates pointed out, Singh and the NDP have not fully costed out their platform! That is, they haven’t said exactly how all their promises would be paid for … other than “make the billionaires and Amazon pay their fair share”.

Sorry, in 2021, that’s just not a good enough job performance for any Leader or party that wants to take over governing the country. Surprising that they thought they could even get away with that!

Singh personally came across well as caring, compassionate, highly sympathetic to the plight of so many Canadians … a nice guy to sit down and talk political philosophy, life experiences.

Not ready for the top job!

Blanchet was interesting, sometimes amusing … a man in search of a divisive issue to bolster his campaign in Quebec.

But for most of the country, irrelevant.

Paul impressed: she was articulate, well prepared, personable … and no doubt benefitted from Canadians being able to hear her on Green policies, her background, beliefs, struggles … instead of the ongoing turmoil engulfing her executive team and party supporters.

Not a serious contender for Prime Minister’s job.

So we’re down to two serious candidates to lead the country.

Trudeau, in my view, was not at his best: he seemed nervous, even harried … but he was fast and effective on his feet and also had some pretty good pre-scripted lines aimed at O’Toole.

And he did get a number of chances to remind Canadians how he/Liberals “had their back” and doled out lots of support/programs during the pandemic, is committed to fighting climate change and funding $10 daycare right across the country.

On more than one occasion, Trudeau flashed some passion … a strong point of his, as he chastised O’Toole for promising to get 90% of Canadians vaccinated, but hasn’t even been able to get 90% of his own candidates vaccinated.

Effective? Sept. 20 will tell.

Because O’Toole also did well: considering he was largely unknown by most voters before the campaign.

Overall impression: he did fit the casting call as a Prime Minister … and that helped establish his credibility for filling the job. Seemed confident, competent and credible too … and, although very accountant-like, lacking much passion … at least he was not as cold, scary as some previous Conservative leaders.

O’Toole was also successful in rubbing Trudeau’s nose in the early election call, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the failure to obtain the release of the two Michaels, and his weak dealing with China’s aggression, Uighur genocide and Hong Kong suppression.

But I doubt either of the top two candidates impressed enough independent-minded Canadians to be guaranteed the top job.

What Canada really should have, after the all-candidate debates, is one more: a RUNOFF final debate … bilingual … featuring ONLY the two leaders who lead the national public opinion polls one week before Election Day.

That be interesting and even allow for a decent exchange of policies/ideas … not just sound bites

Harv Oberfeld

(Reminder: Follow @harveyoberfeld on Twitter for FREE First Alerts of new postings on this Blog. No spam, just alerts to new topics up for discussion.)

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14 Responses to Canadians Deserve Another Debate: Featuring ONLY the Top Two Contenders

  1. Laurence Bowe says:

    For a good portion of the debate (?) I thought Shachi Kurl (moderator??) was running for the Angus Reid Party! Then the CBC control freak Rosemary Barton (no Peter Mansbridge!) took over (tried to control as she always does!) and then the other one-track (single issue reporter) came along! Who set this thing up? The only English Language debate manipulated such a fashion…I am no fan of Blanchet but he had every right to be peed-off! Our broadcasters (or whoever set this thing up) must do a lot better!!

    (Response: I thought Shachi did a very good job: asking tough questions on uncomfortable topics is what real journalists do. Any government of any province should be subject to tough questions, especially on radical policies that confer second class status on English speakers and deny government/public service jobs to religious people REQUIRED by their faith to wear a turban, skullcap, headscarf etc. As for Barton, she is very, very bright but she often “steps” on other people when she is program host covering a press conference and they start talking, including the Prime Minister, even when given a two-minute warning. Unprofessional. Besides, I have written before how I see the CBC (especially Newsworld) as “the unofficial voice of the NDP”… so I was not surprised by the way Barton handled herself in dealing with O’Toole. But he will get the last laugh on the CBC if the Tories become government! h.o)

  2. Not Sure says:

    I agree Harvey.

    Personally, I lose focus when there are more than three on stage. I watched the Democratic primary debates because I was interested in Andrew Yang and with 10 speakers it took me a while to realize he wasn’t on that particular night.

    My only problem would be fairness to the minor parties so how about.

    1. Trudeau vs O’Toole
    2. The leaders of parties with members of Parliament
    3. A separate debate with just the three minor party leaders and maybe including any other party with some kind of significant support like the PPC. Might give them a chance to separate themselves from the crowd although I imagine Singh and Blanchet would be insulted.

    Side problem: how do we accommodate both official languages.

    As well, maybe some of the news channels/shows could include mini debates with cabinet and shadow cabinet members on the topic of their portfolio. 30 minutes. Give us a chance to see people other than the party leader.

    (Response: We hold “playoffs” in sports, where the two best-scoring teams end up in a Finals playoff. Some may argue politics is a sport or even more important, so why not a playoff between the two leading contenders, based on polling done after the multi-party debates …or even numbers of seats in the Commons…ie government vs official opposition. Then we could watch some very good real debates/discussions on ISSUES. Bilingualism would be no problem: they already hold press conferences with questions in both official languages, along with simultaneous translation. It’s too late for any changes like this now, but I believe the debate organizers should look at the runoff concept next election: it certainly would be more informative than what we get now. h.o.)

  3. E. Johnson says:

    I watched the debate that isn’t really a debate at all. It did not make any impact on how I will vote. All parties will spend us into oblivion so it comes down choosing the least of the worst. When you run candidates in only one province and care about just one “nation”, you are not a contender for PM. I thought Anamie Paul was impressive. She talked a lot about parties working together to accomplish the big goals. Too bad her party won’t work with her. If she was leading a centrist party I would give her my vote. I admired how she called out PM Trudeau on his feminist credentials or lack thereof.

    (Response: Last election, I voted for Jody Wilson Raybould because it really bothered me how Trudeau had treated her … for just doing her job with integrity. So I enjoyed hearing Annamie Paul paying tribute to her … and if she was more centrist in her party affiliation, I too could see myself voting for her. But it really bothers me how minor a status Trudeau has given BC in his Cabinet, and the only way to send ethically-challenged Trudeau packing is if the Tories get in: a vote for the Greens or NDP is a vote to keep Trudeau! That’s why I’m hoping for a Conservative minority government. h.o)

  4. D. M. Johnston says:

    As Screaming Lord Sutch of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party is not running, I have reevaluated my thoughts after the debate and will again vote Green.

    I just cannot vote Liberal, nor can I vote Conservative, though I am warming to O’Toole, the rest of the party leaves me as cold as a corpse.

    The following quote from Bob Mackin’s blog, the Breaker News ……….

    …………. scares the hell out of me.

    Quote: “While the U.S. and U.K. governments worked with big pharma to develop vaccines domestically in spring 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose to collaborate with a company related to China’s People’s Liberation Army.

    Canada’s deal with CanSino collapsed shortly after its May 2020 announcement when top Chinese Communist Party officials blocked CanSino shipments to Canada. The Liberal government scrambled to buy imports from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, but has kept the costs and contracts secret.”

    What the hell was Trudeau thinking?????

    (Response: I get it: a lot of people are not impressed with Trudeau for a number of reasons and want him out of there. But the only way that will happen is if O’Toole/Tories win: voting Green or NDP is, in a way, a vote to keep Trudeau/Liberals. Right? h.o)

  5. nonconfidencevote says:

    As I watched the third and final debate last night I wondered, ” THIS is the best Canada has to offer?”

    My God.

    Pabulum , wrapped in Vanilla , washed down with warm milk.

    Did anyone go off script?
    Every time one of the candidates started to get worked up… the moderator shut them down.
    I tuned in to hear candidates talk, argue and insult not a moderator constantly telling them to shut up.

    I started channel surfing.

    (Response: The formula was not very good: not enough opportunity for the two main protagonists to really debate policies. It would really be better to have a debate between the two TOP contenders …based on polls taken after the general debates. h.o.)

  6. Gilbert says:

    I don’t think the Bloc Quebecois leader should be in a federal debate. His party has no seats outside of Quebec, so why is he represented? Of course, if seats in the House of Commons are all that one needs to be in the debate, he satisfies the criteria, but how would people feel about having the separatist leader of Prince Edward Island in such a debate? I doubt they would agree with that.

    I agree that we need a debate with the top two candidates, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. O’Toole. This is normal in many countries, so why not in Canada? I doubt Mr. Trudeau wants that, though, because it gives Mr. O’Toole a greater opportunity to show he’s far more qualified than the incompetent Liberal leader.

    I like Annamie Paul more than Elizabeth May. However, her party doesn’t accept her, and I doubt she’ll survive much longer as the leader. In any case, the Green Party is not a party I could ever support.

    Mr. O’Toole is a centrist, and absolutely not a true blue conservative. For those who are not really conservative, they should find him a better choice than than Mr. Scheer or Mr. Harper. I, on the other hand, prefer leaders who are more to the right, but I accept that many voters today just want free money and bigger government.

    I find Mr. Trudeau scary. He’s a person who doesn’t think about monetary policy, undoubtedly doesn’t understand it, who has no plans to balance the budget, who wants the government in every aspect of people’s lives, and who is obviously very corrupt and unethical. He’s also very insincere, and he lacks the wisdom to see that he’s in no way fit to lead our magnificent country.

    The polls indicate a very tight race. However, they also predicted the Liberals in Nova Scotia would win a majority. My hope is that many on the left will vote for the NDP or the Green Party, and that many centrists will vote for the Conservatives. Another important factor is turnout. Many are highly motivated to vote against Justin Trudeau. Liberals, on the other hand, may not be so motivated to vote for their leader. Even Sheila Copps recognizes that Justin Trudeau is no longer so popular, and has criticized the Liberal leader.

    The reality is that there was no need to call an early election. Many voters are upset. I hope they’ll punish Justin Trudeau in the same way they punished previous leaders who called early elections.

    (Response: I have said on this Blog that I voted for Trudeau the first time he ran … and won. And I wasn’t particularly turned off by his government’s various policies for quite some time, although his ethical violations bothered me, I didn’t like his pandering to the UN’s dictatorships, his turning a blind eye to Quebec’s ever-increasing disrespect for the Canadian Constitution and Charter, and I hated it when, like so many politicians, he would not answer questions … just respond with bafflegab, taking us for fools. But what really soured me on him was his treatment/lies surrounding Jody Wilson Raybould, who I felt was treated very shabbily because she tried to do her job with honesty and integrity. Once a politician loses me on something like that, it’s very hard to get my vote …even years later! Time to go … BUT let’s keep it real: the ONLY party that can defeat Trudeau/Liberals this election is O’Toole/Conservatives. Voting NDP or Green will help him stay another term!!! So although it’s been a long time since my last Tory vote, I will give it to them this time… and I hope others realize that’s the ONLY way to go …. if they want Trudeau out. h.o)

  7. frozentundra says:

    I agree with most of the posters that the debate was a sure cure for insomnia! It was bland with no personality whatsoever.O Toole looked like he didnt want to offend anyone or say a word that could be construed as unPC. Paul had some good speaking points and I thought she was a much better speaker than Elizabeth May but the jackals in her party have made it impossible to take the Greens seriously. As for Mr. Blanchett, if they are going to have a seperatist party with no national ambitions in a debate, why not put the Maverick Party in as well. Finally, all I heard last night was a whole bunch of things to placate special, mainly urban, interest groups in Ontario and Quebec. I would love to see regional debates talking about issues in the West, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. That way people could determine if the party leaders had any knowledge of Canada. Last night, I would have hated to be a natural resource worker with how all the leaders savaged natural resource production

    (Response: Former Tory Leader ..and briefly PM … Kim Campbell once candidly said leaders debates are no place to talk policy. They are designed for TV/audio clips … and that’s why I believe it would be useful nd productive to have a FULL length debate between ONLY the top two poll leaders , who have a realistic chance of actually forming the next government. Plus, remember BC has 42 Commons seats; Quebec has 78 and Ontario 121 …so national debates are primarily directed to them by Central Canada/Quebec media bosses … and under the current setup, BC and Western issues will always get only passing references. A longer one on one debate would change that. h.o)

  8. HARRY LAWSON says:


    I share your frustrations.

    I would have like to hear Trudeau justify senior assistance at age 75 instead of age of recipient. I would have loved to hear his excuse for the poor treatment of seniors during the pandemic.

    The debate had a crappy format ,we truly deserve better,the leaders deserve better,our democracy deserves better,the electorate deserves better

    (Response: With 45 seconds or so to respond to each question …leaders can’t really debate real issues or real policy. One on one…between the PM and the Official Opposition Leader at dissolution…or the PM and whoever is running second in national polls one week before the vote, would be really enlightening. h.o)

  9. e.a.f. says:

    Another debate??? That is just cruel. It would be another hour or two of my life lost forever. Yes, debates are necessary but omg, they are boring. I’m not in favour of just the top two getting all the extra air time free of charge. Its all or nothing.

    Ms. Paul came across well. Too bad she is with the Greens. Too bad for the Greens they don’t see a good leader when they have one. What was that line they used to have for Ed Broadbent, right leader, wrong party or something along that line.
    As to is this the best on offer, not really. There are a lot of other good people out there, but they don’t want to run.

    These “debates” aren’t a true reflection of how a leader will run the country. It may give an e.g. of how they are up on their pins in Parliament, but how they’d work as P.M. is totally different, in my opinion. Look at the “support team”, they type of people who would be cabinet ministers, who are the other candidates running for the party, what is their track record in the past. Of course this is usually just for the Cons. and Libs, but their party track record might want to be taken into consideration. Large organizations don’t change much, even if the C.E.O. does. That is where we might want to look at the rest of the team and what they are up to.

    (Response: Yes, another debate along the formula we’ve seen until now would be boring. BUT I think a one-on-one full debate between the top two forerunners … like a runoff competition … with much more time to go at it with real discussions of the issues would be beneficial …and even exciting. h.o)

  10. Keith says:

    I was voting for the candidate not the leader or party thus I didn’t watch any of the debates, so I don’t have an opinion on the candidates or moderators performance. Although debates do have their impacts, remember Gordon Wilson in B.C. when the liberal party was just that before it got hijacked, or Brian Mulroney / John Turner.?

    Having a debate between the two front runners only I believe has merit, after the nationally aired French and English debates with all leaders that meet the criteria, based on poll standings. The elimination process is already in place as Maxime Bernier didn’t meet the poll number levels to be included, just have to whittle it down one more time..

    Could an alternative to the usual reporter/political show host/opinion contributor moderators be esteemed political science professors from Western, Eastern, French universities.?

    (Response: The broadcasters can do better: better format; better interaction between leaders; better choice of topics, rather than pandering to political correctness; and, MORE tough questions like the moderator Shachi Kurl bravely and quite correctly put forward … without fear or favour! h.o)

  11. RIsaak says:

    The debate was comical to me. The very relevant topic of the non-inclusive Province of Quebec was long overdue, stagnated under the carpet of confederation’s most hypocritical stewards, good for to finally see the light of day.

    My takes on the 5 participants follows.
    Trudeau looked a tad haggard, was spoiling to confront Singh & O’Toole at every opportunity, came off as a petulant whiner with no real justinification for why we are voting now with all the serious events of the day. His attempt to consolidate power is/will backfire in 8 more days. The We, SNC, Aga vacation and many other items are no doubt still in the conscious minds of many.

    O’Toole was very measured, he was a tad more statesman worthy than any of the others, he seemed to enjoy the Singh/Trudeau conversation, no doubt relishing the open split by the progressive’s. Still has to be concerned about Mad Max’s efforts to split the right wing, not that it was mentioned.

    Monsieur Blanchett, very sketchy command of English, very sketchy adherence to denials of Quebec’s lack of minority tolerance (hard to fathom given the language minority card trotted out by Quebecois for decades), leaves me to ascertain the hypocritical are still trotting out their well worn, divisive rhetoric. He could not have appeared more out of place.

    Singh was spoiling for a battle with Trudeau (they are chasing the same 5% who swing between the 2 parties) avoided solid budget questions and generally tried to avoid the historical organized labor talking points of NDP leaders past. His attempts to curry favour of FN people is noted, the absence of similar from his big labor boardroom cronies (save Charlie Angus) is eclipsing his efforts. Good communicator, still never will be held to account for his concepts, due to the simple fact he’ll never ascend to even second place.

    Ms. Paul, much improved presence compared to Ms.May, exceptional rebuke of Trudeau’s feminist claims, sadly the anti-semites in the green party have tossed her under the bus, they’ll languish for decades to come due to such boorish internal scraps. Too bad, I thought she exceeded expectations, unlike some of the others.

    The spectacle of debates is further muddied by the questions from media & citizens during the broadcast, 10 questions (2 by each of the 5 participants) would be better, and 90 seconds for each to address the queries (with no advance notice of what queries were from other participants) could be better than what we saw.

    Already voted, had trouble not laughing at Trudeau & Blanchett, who I thought both looked uncomfortable, albeit for different reasons.

    (Response: Very perceptive! My only disagreements: I think Blanchet’s English is actually quite good; and although O’Toole was indeed measured, he seems to lack/show passion. Yes, Annamie Paul impressed me … hope she wins her riding. It’s too bad the Greens have been wallowing in divisions based on extremism, racism and anti-Semitism … things I wrote about years ago, before it all erupted so publicly. h.o)

  12. HARRY LAWSON says:

    I would have truly loved to here about the plight of the homeless.

    I for a bit a time will be living in a homeless shelter , I have a roof over my head and 3 meals a day. This is temporarily due to a rental rip off. I cannot believe the amount of seniors 60 plus here . I am truly lucky to have a roof over my head . The staff are wonderful. Perhaps a weekly debate on key issues make sense

  13. e.a.f. says:

    I like Harry Lawson’s suggestion of weekly debates on key issues. It would enable people to see how some of the leaders “truly” feel about an issue. 90 seconds or a couple of minutes doesn’t really get people into the “deep” part of a debate. Now a good hour or an hour and a half on one topic might be fun.

    Harry, sorry to hear about your current situation. there is truly a lack of housing for seniors, well affordable housing. Politicians and the general public forget people who do not have savings, paid for homes, are in receipt of approx. $1400 per month and that doesn’t even pay rent, if you can find a place. In the current enviornment, housing is such a tight market, its hard to see how some people are making it.

    I’m not surprised at the number of people over 60 who are homeless. They never made enough money to save. they were raising families, etc. One of the inequities in this country is the cutting of pensions to 50% once a partner dies. It takes many from a home to homeless because they can’t afford the rent. Many aging baby boomers took early retirement thinking their pensions were large enough, travelled for a few years, came back to buy a home and couldn’t. At the rate things are going for seniors in this country, they may by pass young people when it comes to homelessness.

    (Response: Politicians would never agree to weekly debates: it would expose them too much to possible gaffes or being pressed on the issues and it would take up too much time from visiting/travelling across the country to as many ridings as possible. Plus, the media would HATE to miss so much money-making prime time programming. h.o)

  14. Gilbert says:

    I’d love a debate in which Justin Trudeau and Erin O’Toole answered questions about the budget, about the independence of the attorney-general, our relationship with China and the United States, and the security of our viral laboratory in Winnipeg. The leaders should also answer questions about the independence of the media, and the ethics of giving the media taxpayer dollars. A question about the need for a functional parliament, and also about the necessity of daily briefings would also be great.

    (Response: Yes, first an all party national debate …and then, a one on one debate of the two leading contenders for the top job would be a great way to get into serious policy questions/issues… and the national media bosses should work on that for next election. Of course, the smaller parties won’t like that, and probably neither would the two biggest parties …because it exposes their leaders to too much scrutiny and possible errors or real policy plans. But elections should be what’s best for the people not the parties, so the media should really pursue the one on one idea. h.o)

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