Highlights from the Maclean's National Leaders Debate - Macleans.ca

Highlights from the Maclean’s National Leaders Debate

Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May faced off at Maclean’s debate, including a hot argument over separatism


OTTAWA – Stephen Harper’s record on the economy and the environment faced an all-out assault from three different fronts, but the long-dormant issue of Quebec separatism generated a heated exchange in the second half of Thursday’s televised leaders’ debate.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the Green party’s Elizabeth May set their sights on multiple aspects of the Conservative government’s program of tax cuts and balanced budget pledges.

Harper was repeatedly forced on to the defensive, “clarifying” economic statistics flung at him by his opponents.

But, he later stood back as Trudeau, running in third place in public opinion polls, turned his sights on Mulcair with attacks over the NDP leader’s pledge for special status for Quebec.

Mulcair said in June that his party supports the so-called Sherbrooke Declaration of 2005, which endorses the principle of recognizing a referendum victory by the sovereigntist Yes side even by a majority of just 50 per cent plus one.

“In doing so, he is actually disagreeing with the Supreme Court judgment that says one vote is not enough to break up the country,” said Trudeau, who was taunted by Mulcair to provide a percentage he would find acceptable.

“You want a number, Mr. Mulcair? I’ll give you a number. My number is nine,” Trudeau retorted.

“Nine Supreme Court justices said one vote is not enough to break up this country. Yet that is Mr. Mulcair’s position. He wants to be prime minister of this country and he’s choosing to side with the separatist movement in Quebec and not with the Supreme Court of Canada.”


Harper piled on and accused Mulcair of placating separatists.

The exchange took some of the heat off the Conservative leader, who endured a series of sustained attacks throughout the debate’s first hour.+

Harper blamed low oil prices for the slumping economy, but both Mulcair and Trudeau argued the malaise runs deeper and blamed Harper’s policies —particularly the Conservative plan to allow income-splitting for families with children under 18.

The NDP leader reminded Harper that in the 2008 election, he denied the country had slid into recession when in fact it was on the verge of the economic crisis and run eight deficits.

“He’s added $150 billion to Canada’s debt in the last 10 years,” Mulcair said, also noting a flurry of government spending announcements just prior to the election call. “Honestly, Mr. Harper, we cannot afford another four years of you.”

Trudeau and May went after the Conservative leader on the government’s gutting of environment regulations — something Harper described as “streamlining.”

The Maclean’s magazine was moderated by political editor Paul Wells, and could very well turn out to be the only English-language debate of the campaign involving all four leaders.


Highlights from the Maclean’s National Leaders Debate

  1. When and where can we find all the poll results listed? Will they be on Facebook? Will you put them on the Maclean’s website?

    • Good question. I’m surprised the results are not prominently displayed yet.

      • I doubt whether they will show the results as herr harper was by far the loser on all subjects.

    • Yes, I think this needs to be displayed and discussed! I would also like to know how many participated, age groups, and regions.

  2. Wow, for coverage you failed to mention the highlights of anyone by Trudeau. You failed to mention that all three other leaders criticized Trudeau for bringing up the Quebec separation question in a brazen attempt to score political points, when a majority in Quebec actually have no interest in discussing the matter any more. Elizabeth May was on point for her accuracy of information, countering Harper’s misleading statements. Mulcair did an excellent job challenging Harper on the Senate, and both May and Mulcair strongly reprimanded Harper for being the first PM ever to mandate the Senate to vote against the will of the Commons. That was juicy stuff.

    And Harper, … well, no, he didn’t really have any highlights.

    If this is your debate and you post an article suggesting that you are covering the highlights, please make a serious attempt to do so.

    • It remains an interesting insight into Mr. Mulcair’s character to know that his actions would be dictated by a resolution adopted by a small group of party members in 2005 rather than a SCC decision.

      • I agree with you. He should stop plying games and double talk. We have enough of that from Harper and we do not need or want another PM like him ever.

  3. This was a Toronto debate masquerading as a national debate. What the heck is CityNews? How dumb to hold a so-called national leaders’ debate on a Toronto TV channel most Canadians have never heard of let alone watch. What a great way to ensure Voters remain indifferent to the whole business. I live in Canmore, AB.

  4. This was a Toronto debate masquerading as a national debate. What the heck is CityNews? How dumb to stage a national leaders’ debate on a Toronto TV channel most Canadians have never heard of let alone watch. What a great way to ensure voters remain indifferent to the whole business, I live in Canmore, AB.

    • Yeah, we can tell where you live.

      • Ah, good ole emilyone, nothing to add as usual.

        • I talk to intelligent civil people…..not the ignoranti.

    • It was the Conservatives who refused to agree to participate in the real debate hosted by the consortium of broadcasters. That’s why it is possible that this debate was the only debate of the whole election and why it was done in a format and at a time when most Canadians wouldn’t watch it – the Conservatives want as few people to see this kind of debate as possible. They much rather you watched attack ads.

  5. Harper – B+ Wasn’t convincing anyone who hates him to change their mind. Didn’t need to do that. Played solid defence and scored points by shutting Justin down on the

    Mulcair – B+ Very nervous for the first 30 seconds of the debate then he got over it. That was impressive. Angry Tom came out a little over the referendum exchange. Rest of the night was solid. No big scores. No major knocks against.

    Trudeau – B+ Only due to incredibly low expectations. He showed up and wore pants which earned him at least a B-. His lines were trite, and at times unprofessional. “Canada is what it is.” Was that line actually scripted? Still not quite at the grown-up table.

    May – B+ Hand the best understanding of her issues. Didn’t connect when making her arguments. Outside environmental stuff the Greens are just plain whacky.

    • ““Canada is what it is.” Was that line actually scripted?”

      Uh, no. And it wasn’t delivered either.
      Although I did hear, “Canada is what it is because…”

      • This was the line:
        “We are who we are, and Canada is what it is, because in our hearts we’ve always known that better is always possible.”

  6. I don’t really think there was a winner tonight. Trudeau did okay but could I really picture him running the country? No. Mulcair I could.. until the debate. There was something about his speaking style that was just.. creepy. Like an old man who was a little too friendly. May was great as usual but her party just doesn’t matter. Harper was Harper. The real fight remains on the left and I saw little to show that the three way split on that side is any closer to being resolved. Most likely outcome: a Harper minority.

  7. The real debate is access.

    I drove from Toronto to Kingston with a truck load of supplies scanning the radio dial and could not find the debate.

    I got home from my travels and spent twenty minutes finding the right internet feed to watch.

    I nearly gave up.

    I played some new guitar riffs with my son he learned today.

    I nearly got distracted.

    Finally I got my satellite internet to steam and my twelve year old son and I watched the debate together.

    Many hours later i can comment.

    Truly, its the first national candidates debate he has watched and been able to grasp some of the subtleties of the candidates, the issues, and meaning of party. If I had not persisted; if I was not willing to let him stay up late streaming; and if I did not have enough bandwidth/data to stream this event he would have likely missed a crucial moment in his political development.

    These moments are crucial in developing a young citizens need to become a politically conscious voter. Learning to watch/read/listen to an entire debate/article/party platform and judge the candidates/parties.

    How can Maclean’s take pride in hosting what to date is the only English debate when it can not be heard on the radio or seen without cable and/or streaming quality video outside major cities. I live 12 minutes from a city centre of 110 000 and spend close to 100 dollars a month for internet that can barely handle live streaming. Many did not and will not see this debate.

    Anything that impedes access to the discourse breeds ignorance and voter apathy.

    No matter how well run a debate may be, no matter how more balanced Maclean’s editors feel they are, by hosting this debate or any future debates Macleans/Globe/TVA/ are complicit in the Conservatives political mandate of controlling the public’s access to political discourse.

    Unless it can be accessed free of internet/cable charges, on both radio and television nationally it is not accessible. Period.

    And to further control the amount of time any other media outlet can rebroadcast (as suggested by Peter Mansbridge tonight on At Issue) is simply undemocratic.

    • What a lovely text Enoch. I too looked for a radio feed simply because I like to listen to the radio. I understand your frustration.

      The quality of tonight’s debate was undeniably better than what we had seen more recently, mostly because of Paul Wells’ excellent presentation and questions. I remember the debate between Stanfield, Douglas and PE Trudeau, so I go back quite a bit! I used to visit every party office, pick up their programs and leave them on the coffee table to help the family in our political discussions. My children learned to join in at a very young age.

      I note a full transcript has been posted on Macleans, as well as rerun. I think that’s very valuable, an improvement from the old format.