Did you miss #MunkDebate? Watch our six key moments.

Six key moments in the Munk Debate

Three feisty leaders unleashed zingers, told each other off, and even talked foreign policy

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair take part in the Munk Debate on foreign affairs, in Toronto, on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair take part in the Munk Debate on foreign affairs, in Toronto, on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

You just knew that three federal leaders told to talk about foreign policy in a leaders debate would try to find spots, here and there, to talk about domestic issues where they want to score points with viewers at home. But Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau stuck largely to the terms of the Munk Debate, moderated by Rudyard Griffiths, and Roy Thomson Hall heard an earful of foreign policy.

We won’t declare winners and losers here, but instead shine a light on six moments worth watching. Each helped shape what was a meaty two-hour debate.

TRUDEAU: Proud to be Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s son

Early on, Trudeau took a minute to passionately defend his father’s reputation and legacy as prime minister. The elder Trudeau died 15 years ago to the night, and his son saw fit to remind the crowd at Roy Thomson Hall of Pierre’s finer accomplishments. “Both of these gentlemen have, at various points, attacked my father,” said Justin, referring to the other leaders on stage. “Let me be clear: I am incredibly proud to be Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s son.” He credited his father with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a policy of multiculturalism, and the pursuit of bilingualism—”which means, Mr. Mulcair,” he said, throwing a glance the NDP leader’s way, “saying the same thing in French as you say in English.” That’s a swipe at Mulcair’s alleged propensity for crafting separate—and arguably opposing—talking points in Quebec and the rest of Canada. The crowd applauded, not for the last time.

From our tweets

MULCAIR: The NDP is a party of courage

Mulcair got the first chance to respond to Trudeau’s reflections. “Sorry to hear that Mr. Trudeau thinks we’re talking about his father in a negative way. I’m talking about historical fact,” said the NDP leader. “The only Canadian party that stood up in 1970 to defend Canadians’ rights and freedoms was the NDP.” Viewers left wondering about the reference should know that Mulcair was recalling the NDP’s famous opposition to the former Trudeau government’s invocation of the War Measures Act in response to the October Crisis in 1970. It’s a time-honoured tradition among New Democrats to differentiate themselves from their opponents by way of their parliamentary voting record in decades past.

From our tweets

HARPER: ‘The threat we face today is not CSIS. It’s ISIS.’

As our Michael Petrou tweeted, Harper must have enjoyed his place between the two left-of-centre leaders vying for the “change” vote and arguing each other straight into the ground in the process. The Conservative leader, sounding comfortable on a security file where his critics sense weakness, unleashed a zinger after arguing with both opponents that his goal with Bill C-51—now the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015—was to balance individual rights and national security. The goal: remind viewers of Canada’s foreign enemies. Fortuitous, then, that Canada’s spy agency and the heinous Islamic State allowed for a little wordplay.

From our tweets

TRUDEAU: Liberals oppose two-tier citizenship

If fierceness of debate is defined by most sustained cross-talk, Trudeau and Harper won the Fierceness Award when they talked at each other about government’s appropriate approach to citizenship for terrorists. The last Parliament’s Bill C-24 granted the feds the right to strip Canadian citizenship from convicted terrorists who remain citizens of another country. Trudeau dismissed the law as creating two tiers of citizenship: those who can’t have it taken away, and others who can. Harper sounded incredulous. “Are you seriously saying that you’d never be able to revoke citizenship from somebody? Because we revoke the citizenship, already, of war criminals.” The crowd applauded. A few seconds later, Trudeau returned fire. “We have the rule of law in this country, and you can’t take away citizenship because you don’t like what someone does.” His own round of applause, proof the room was split, followed.

From our tweets

MULCAIR: ‘If you can’t stand up to Putin…’

When the debate turned to Russia’s aggression in eastern Europe, Mulcair attempted a sucker punch on Trudeau, who’d just finished outlining his own criticism of Vladimir Putin’s regime. “It’s interesting to hear Mr. Trudeau say what he’s going to do with Mr. Putin. Mr. Trudeau, you can’t even stand up to Stephen Harper on C-51. How are you going to stand up to Putin?” The crowd sounded shocked more than impressed at what sounded like a forced attack. Mulcair seemed taken aback by the audience’s reaction as he launched into a lengthy indictment, stumbling at times, of Harper’s anti-Putin sanctions policy.

From our tweets

HARPER: ‘I have a great relationship with President Obama.’

Harper seemed to turn the crowd over the course of a 45-second defence of his “great” relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration. As he reassured the crowd that the White House doesn’t have a hate-on for 24 Sussex, nor vice versa, the crowd chuckled. But when he denounced his opponents’ plans to withdraw from the bombing campaign against Islamic State—”If you really want to poison the relationship [with the U.S.], that would be the way to do it”—the crowd put its hands together. Harper found a way to turn jeers into cheers.

From our tweets


Six key moments in the Munk Debate

  1. If lil Justy had to go face to face with Putin he s##t himself. This little trust fund boy will be eaten alive on the very real world stage. Canada has been voted the best country in the world to live in (six times) hardly what the two lefties proclaim that Canada has lost it’s position in the world as a leader.

    • Do you not understand how ridiculous you sound speaking like that? That tough guy talk sounds infantile at the best of times, but here it just makes you appear uneducated and crass.

      Or more succinctly, it makes clear that you have nothing to say, so you lace your comment with bile to cover it up. LOL

      • The crowd noticeably laughed at the thought of Justin going toe to toe with Putin.

        Not sure what you are laughing at Phil. Justin is not ready for the job. The crowd agreed.

    • Justin Trudeau may be many things, but the guy who stepped into the ring with the Conservative’s wife-beating goon, is willing to take unlimited questions and meet with unscreened crowds is clearly not a closet-cringing coward – in stark contrast with the current PM.

  2. Another rigged debate by Big Business this is shameful and an affront to democracy.All so they can make sure to receive corporate welfare and leave the 99% crumbs.I see the trolls are out trying to talk the rest of us into being the turkey at the thanksgiving dinner.

  3. You missed the fact that Mulcair unnecessarily attacked Trudeau senior with a dirty cheap shot, 45 years out of date, concerning his actions during the FLQ crisis.

  4. Macleans has been one of the few mainstream media outlets that have been consistently fair to the coverage it gives the NDP. Otherwise pretty dismal on the other channels. His Putin reference was quite good and effective.

  5. I thought the spectators of the Munk debates were a completely rude and an ignorant audience, and for one reason to start, when they laughed, when the moderator ask Trudeau how he would deal with Putin if he was to become PM. That just showed me just how classy that audience was, the intelligence of a green pea . But Trudeau knocked out of the park with his answer, whether you liked it or not. I think the Munk institute is an institute of ignorance, this wasn’t a comedy show, it was a debate, but you would never say it with the amount of laughter from the crowd when it came to all the leaders of the debate. Personally, I thought Paul Wells did a much a better job as moderator than the Munks moderator, and what was that guys name again.

  6. This is a great summary of some of the key points of the debate, but I think you missed a fairly large section on the environment where some good barbs were traded regarding the environmental credentials of the various parties and whether or not Mr. Harper was trying to take credit for Provincial Programs he had in fact opposed.

    This was also where Mulcair and Trudeau sparred over deficits with Trudeau challenging that by running a deficit he could address climate change quicker, and Mulcair replying that Provincial NDP governments had better records without deficits (and, of course, got in the dig on Bob Rae that sparked some response on Twitter).

  7. I wish there was more serious discussion on the secret police bill and the citizenship bill.
    These measures, perhaps slightly tweaked, could be used against Occupy, environmental, and Aboriginal groups who trespass and use civil disobedience involving trespassing and other minor crimes resulting in charges. Extreme leftists, libertarians, or anti abortion activists could also be attacked under these two bills by future PMs of the opposite persuasion.
    I wish Trudeau and Mulcair would say to Harper “who’s next”?
    Canadians don’t seem to realize that we have something new in this country, domestic secret police.

    Even for the base who worships Harper, what happens if we get a future PM of the extreme left

    • I wonder how many times people must be educated in the knowledge that all resident immigrants must sign an immigration application that states that, should an immigrant be given a criminal record, they may be deported (even when eventually becoming a Canadian citizen). Of course, such actions are not automatic … but it’s there … and it’s been there for years. Bill C.24 just makes it more probable, i.e., an appeal should be more difficult … fortunately.

      Naturally, a Canadian-born terrorist can’t be deported … they could be given ‘life without-parole’.

      • Wrong; a Canadian-born (and raised) terrorist can be stripped of citizenship if they are eligible (not possess, but are simply eligible) for citizenship in another country, under C-24.

        Another problem with C-24: the decision is left in the hands of bureaucrats and politicians – not the courts. So it’s very susceptible to political manipulation; witness the timing of the first round.

    • Today’s Huff Post September 30 has quote from Harper confirming the above is true.