Aaron Wherry’s formerly live blog of the Liberal leadership debate

One blog, nine candidates, two hours, 23 entries


From left to right, federal Liberal leadership candidates Justin Trudeau, Martin Cauchon, Karen McCrimmon, Joyce Murray, Martha Hall Findlay, George Takach, Deborah Coyne, David Bertschi and Marc Garne after the party's first leadership debate in Vancouver, B.C., on January 20, 2013. (Darryl Dyck, THE CANADIAN PRESS)


Welcome to live coverage of the first Liberal leadership debate. The debate begins at 4 p.m. EST and can be streamed at CPAC.ca, Liberal.ca and CBC.ca. CPAC and CBC News Network are also carrying the proceedings on television.

We’ll commence the live blog shortly. Hit refresh for the latest updates.

3:49pm. The theme of this debate is “Can anyone here pierce the aura of invincibility that surrounds Justin Trudeau?” The first round will focus on hair care. Officially, there will be opening statement, then two questions for all nine candidates, then 12 mini-debates among groups of three candidates and then closing statements.

3:52pm. Despite the fact that there are nine candidates, the Liberal party has apparently declined to use a Hollywood Squares setup.

3:56pm. Here are your official themes for the afternoon: aboriginal issues, the environment, social housing, Pacific Rim Trade and electoral cooperation and reform.

4:05pm. Legalized weed obviously gets the first applause of the afternoon.

4:10pm. Marc Garneau goes with a Kim Campbell joke. (The one about how she said an election wasn’t the time to discuss policy serious issues.) Probably gets his point across: He’s about policy, not nice hair. But Kim Campbell said that 20 years ago. Most of the NDP caucus wasn’t even in grade school when she made that gaffe. It’s time to get a new punchline.

4:15pm. Justin Trudeau does his Trudeau thing: staring into the nation’s soul, enthusing about the possibility of greatness and so forth.

4:19pm. There are four people on stage who ran for the Liberals in 2011 and lost. If you ran for the Liberals in 2011 and lost, there’s a 1.5 per cent chance that you’re a leadership candidate now.

4:24pm. Opening statements give way to a discussion of aboriginal issues. Time for collaboration and discussion and cooperation and leadership, everyone seems to agree. Martha Hall Findlay is really mad that Thomas Mulcair suggested that some progress had been made with last week’s meeting between the Prime Minister and First Nations. “The gaul!” she says. For that matter, if the NDP hadn’t helped defeat the Liberal government in 2004, the Kelowna Accord would’ve been implemented. Liberals love talking about the Kelowna Accord. New Democrats and Conservatives would probably love to talk about why the Liberal government fell in 2004.

4:37pm. Nobody but Joyce Murray wants to work with the NDP. She is the Liberal party’s Nathan Cullen. Well-positioned for a strong third-place finish. Karen McCrimmon argues that the best countries in the world have more than two parties. Risky move to openly disparage the United States and China like that.

4:42pm. Marc Garneau notes his ranked ballot proposal. Martha Hall Findlay endorses the idea. How about a coalition? Are any of these candidates willing to say they’d entertain the possibility of forming a coalition—either as the junior or senior partner—after the 2015 election?

4:46pm. With everyone but Ms. Murray having dismissed electoral cooperation with the New Democrats, an audience member asks how the Liberals might cooperate with the New Democrats in 2015 (because Mackenzie King did it once, apparently). Deborah Coyne allows for the possibility of post-election cooperation.

4:51pm. Martha Hall Findlay raises the example of Liberals voting for Joe Clark in Calgary in 2000 as an example of… something. The Liberals need their Joe Clark? Liberals need to be willing to vote for other parties?

4:53pm. On the issue of energy development and sustainability, Marc Garneau notes that he was an astronaut. David Bertschi and George Takach make fun of him. Mr. Takach refers to himself as “the tech candidate.” Mr. Garneau says he is also a tech candidate. Mr. Takach suggests that Mr. Garneau cannot be both the astronat and the tech candidate. That’s about the extent of the disagreement so far.

5:00pm. Joyce Murray shouts out a “price on carbon.”

5:06pm. A mini-debate on scrapping first-past-the-post. Karen McCrimmon wants to circulate petitions to determine what people want. I suspect this would result in the people demanding a Death Star.

5:09pm. Justin Trudeau wants a ranked ballot. Joyce Murray wants to cooperate with the NDP. Mr. Trudeau happily takes the opportunity to champion a principled Liberal party. Ms. Murray challenges him to demonstrate he has a plan to defeat Stephen Harper. Mr. Trudeau happily takes the opportunity to champion the Liberal party. Here’s my question: How do you cooperate with the NDP if the NDP doesn’t want to cooperate? Are you hoping that NDP riding associations will go maverick and dare Thomas Mulcair to stop them from cooperating with Liberals?

5:16pm. I think David Bertschi just took another shot at the fact that Marc Garneau was in space while Bertschi was doing stuff on earth. How big is the anti-space vote in the Liberal party? Is this an attempt to repeat the Conservative campaign against Michael Ignatieff?

5:24pm. Mr. Takach loves the Internet. He needs to go further with this. Replace the House of Commons with gchat. Reorient our military to cyber-warfare. Give every citizen an iPhone. Turn Manitoba into a cyberworld like Tron.

5:34pm. A three-person debate about living conditions for First Nations and social housing gives Marc Garneau, Justin Trudeau and Martha Hall Findlay a chance to perform directly beside each other. All three probably come away feeling fairly good about their 90 seconds. Give those three an hour on stage together and you might get a real debate (or the sort that could shake this race up a bit).

5:44pm. There’s obviously a good reason to avoid a divisive leadership race: you want to avoid splitting the party, you don’t want to give the Conservatives or New Democrats any fodder for future attacks (remember those Conservative ads with Michael Ignatieff telling Stephane Dion that the Liberals didn’t get it done?). But the conventional wisdom here is that there’s an obvious and clear frontrunner (Mr. Trudeau). So can the other candidates resist the urge to attack him? Can they afford to (if they truly think they have a chance of winning)? Do they just hope he self destructs with his own gaffes? One possible caveat: if, say, the Garneau campaign has some sense that on the ground Mr. Trudeau’s advantage isn’t as great as the conventional wisdom assumes and that, as a result, they can win without having to tear him down.

5:54pm. Joyce Murray shouts out marijuana. More applause. How does the Marijuana Party respond to this? Their central agenda has been completely hijacked by the Liberals. Do they move on to harder drugs? Do they present the Liberals with a proposal to run joint nomination meetings ahead of 2015?

5:57pm. A question about putting a price on carbon. Deborah Coyne says “carbon tax.” Justin Trudeau says a lot of nice words about the unfortunate tenor of political discourse, notes that the Conservatives have acknowledged the need to put a price on carbon, but he doesn’t commit to how he’d put a price on carbon. George Takach says lots of nice words about political centrism and says there are “at least five ways” to put a price on carbon, one of which presumably the Liberals would go with if he was leader. I dare say the Conservatives have successfully scared the crap out of some of their rivals on this file.

6:06pm. Closing statements and that’s that. All in all, it was… fine. Nine candidates squeezed into two hours doesn’t allow for much of a debate. Probably a good day for Justin Trudeau, who showed again what he has to offer as a public figure and wasn’t obviously taken down a peg by any of the other candidates, and Marc Garneau, who made a concerted effort to set himself up as the anti-Trudeau and might’ve succeeded. See this tweet and this tweet from John Geddes. (And then this tweet from Alice Funke.) Not sure the conventional wisdom on this race changes much after this, but Mr. Garneau has to hope that, at the very least, the narrative now makes him the obvious (if still distant) second place.


Aaron Wherry’s formerly live blog of the Liberal leadership debate

  1. LOL left-over Xmas nog Mr Wherry?

    • Story looks OK to me Emily. Must be into a little something yourself.
      How were things at the inauguration? LOL Did you blow a little kissy to Barry when he drove by?

  2. Hey! Sun News Network has it live too!

    • My apologies. Apparently CTV had it to. Next time I’ll just say “check your local listings.”

  3. The most boring bunch I have ever witnessed .Harper’s job is safe.

    • When you are deciding who you would prefer to be our PM, what criteria do you use?

  4. What we need here is a combo of all these positions…..however, it’s way too early for anyone to be laying out a complete platform

  5. David Bertschi ad:
    “Marc Garneau—he didn’t come back to earth for you.”

  6. I’ve said it before, and it remains true that Aaron Wherry’s writing talents are almost wasted in the arena of politics. You truly embody the essence of Leacock, Twain and the like. I seem to recall that you were contemplating a book of some form, Aaron. Please do so sooner than later.

    • Wherry is totally underrated as a humorist. His jokes are genuinely funny. I wish HE were running.

  7. The LPC is simply toast. It’s over. It’s done.

  8. Gomery had good reason to say of the LPoC, “they are criminally organized”.

  9. MHF derides Mulcair’s comments about there being progress between the government and IDM reps., saying, “the gaul!” Sly raillery for sure, singling out Mulcair’s dual citizenship like that, but grammar didacts would insist you capitalize ‘Gaul’.

    • Gall.

      • What a stupid comment, can’t you read? It was a “sly” pun.
        Everyone picked up on it but pathetic old you.

      • He was making a funny.

        • I know….but Cons have no sense of humour. And like most functionally illiterate people they take every word literally.

          • I’m slumming now…but you acknowledge Sean’s correct observation that I was “making a funny,” modest and strained though it was, ” while also claiming, “…Cons have no sense of humour.” This, in addition to declaring that “…functionally illiterate people…take every word literally,” marks you as another leading light among Canada’s proud, ‘progressive’ posting cohort. Carry on.

          • Cons don’t have a sense of humour, and they take every word literally. They would be quite likely to believe Mulcair is the ‘Gaul’ in question.

            Now you can explain why you’re anti-progress.

          • Yes, all Conservatives are illiterate. All Liberals, New Democrats and Greens are extremely intelligent and erudite.

          • “Not all conservatives are stupid people, but most stupid people are conservatives.” John Stuart Mill

          • Cat fight! “Love it”

          • ‘Cat’ stopped posting here long ago, and the rest of us are humans.

  10. Nothing except the quest for an absent mandate and false majority has to be jettisoned. The answer to the Liberal bravado about principle and policies is simply more of the b.s. that got them to third party status, because they simply did not honour them. The first Trudeau came to power at 48 on a wave of support from young voters by promising a ‘just
    society’ and ‘participatory democracy’ along with a whiff of ‘marijuana decriminalization’, none of which came to pass. He followed up winning a majority by beginning the concentration of power in the PM’s office, when he said in 1969 about MPs, “When they are 50 yards from Parliament Hill, they are no longer honourable members, they are just nobodies.” Then he perfected the campaign practice of promising one thing in an
    election and doing the opposite when elected by ridiculing P.C. Leader Robert Stanfield’s honest proposal to introduce wage and price controls and after winning doing exactly that.

    Brian Mulroney won two majority governments but his record of honesty and integrity just while in office, resulted in the evisceration of the conservative party, and its eventual merger with the Reform/Alliance parties. But in the decade before the unite the right vote was herded back together in sufficient numbers to elect the new Conservative party,
    there was the matter of three Chretien Liberal majorities which followed a similar pattern of breaking promises, including a promise to repeal the GST that was not kept and Paul Martin’s musing about a democratic deficit that went nowhere, even in the face of Harper’s
    Conservatives winning a majority.

    Things have not gotten better since. In a January 15, 2009 Canwest News Service article “WITHERING OF PARLIAMENT – Power and prestige of MPs wanes” By Richard Foot, he wrote Conservative Senator Hugh Segal says the situation has “emasculated the core role of Parliament.” “If public money is wasted or used for purposes never approved, or if
    federal spending programs aren’t working efficiently, MPs may not know about it until the Auditor General tells them, at which point the fiscal year is over and the money has already been spent.” “Parliament has not had a meaningful impact on how the government is going to be spending money since the early 1970s,” he says. “There’s no forum any more for
    MPs to discuss the future priorities of the country, and how Parliament’s control over spending can impact that, which is after all what Parliament is really all about.” Cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats routinely make billion-dollar spending decisions without the consent of Parliament. Only last month the Supreme Court of Canada said the cabinet had illegally set employment insurance rates without parliamentary approval.

    Indeed, in the few years since then, things have gotten worse and Prime Minister Harper has taken things to a whole new level, with virtually everything being filtered through or manipulated by the PMO, party insiders and consultants. Research show that government spending is completely based on partisan considerations and policy considerations
    are based on corporate or special interests. The Conservative Speaker of the House has even had to rule against his governments attempts to simply ignore opposition mendments and other House rules violations.

    The opposition now complains about how undemocratic it is for the Conservatives to claim to have a mandate without effective opposition with less than 40% of the vote, but the Liberals and NDP have had three chances in the last few years to fix things, when there were minority governments elected in 2004, 2006 and 2008, and their Leaders chose not
    to, in spite if instances where party policy called for it. They simply refused to share power, make substantial changes and work together in any way because of selfish self interest. Representative government is contained nowhere in our Parliament and Legislatures, we basically have taxation without representation for the majority and the only vote that the citizens have is feckless and cast for an elected dictator.

    So here we are, its kind of like Déjà vu, except instead of the Trudeau running to become Liberal Prime Minister, he is running for his parties life and his chances of success are limited, because his brain trust from the McGuinty Ontario Liberal leadership victory and early government and the old guard has him, along with all the other candidate except Joyce Murray, singing a familiar tune about renewal and opening up to the youth and new voices. The same old tune that that six candidates in the Ontario provincial Leadership race are singing. The more you look at it, the more likely it is the twitter hashags #RecycledTrudeauPromises and #RecycledLiberalPolicies will become popular with partisans and hacks bent on keeping things just the way they are.

    It is likely that the next Ontario Premier and Liberal party leader will not make any bold moves toward election, legislative or democratic reforms and neither will the opposition parties in Ontario. After all, both the Tim Hudak lead Opposition P.C. Party and Andrea Horwath lead NDP third party believe they can win the next election and win a majority of their own. And that goal, above all else, will mean they will not take any positions or chances that may result in them having to do anything but focus on winning at all costs. But to what ends.

    This is the first chance in history that ordinary Canadians have had to vote directly for a leader of a party that has a reasonable chance to lead a major political party and become Prime Minister of Canada, even though the rules for supporters have been slightly weighted to favour the leading candidates. It is also the first chance they have had to vote on mass for a candidate that can give them some of the democratic, parliamentary and political changes sought by large numbers of voters who want a more direct say in who and how they are governed.

    I suggest non-partisans and pundits in the media and social media tell Canadians who want to have a vote directly for a Leader of the federal Liberal party and a Prime Minister who will not be willing to jettison any kind of phantom party values in a blind quest for power,
    but who will stand up for democracy, equity in the election of our representatives and political accountability to constituents and party members within the party and House of Commons, simply register as supporters of the Liberal Party for Joyce Murray.

    After the deadline passes in early March, and these secret lists are released, the shock will cause a stampede of Candidates trying to outrun each other with proposals and promises to attract what will have quickly become a goldmine of votes that will also attract the Liberal
    Party leadership in other provinces and governments. After all, the elected members of all political parties have abdicated all responsibility for anything but toeing the party line and voting like zombies.

    “It’s not enough to replace Stephen Harper with someone else. We need to replace him with a very, very clear vision of where we’re going forward,” said Montreal MP and presumptive front-runner Justin Trudeau. “What would electoral co-operation imply? What kind of values are we willing to jettison?” The vision is a ‘just society’, ‘participatory
    democracy’, an electoral system that is fair, representative and based on putting constituent and public interests before partisan considerations, and maybe promising to give Canadians tools to be more involved in their governance so they will more readily accept that the difficult decisions that have to be made in by our politicians are made honestly.

    If the old guard in the Liberal parties in Canada were really wise, they would move quickly to reform their parties to share and delegate power, otherwise, they risk losing it forever as the so called “powerful option in the middle” shrinks into irrelevance and extinction.

    • I agree,very good, concise,a little long but correct,you are very knowlegeable,goodluck!

  11. Canadians are not smart enough to elect a Priminister,we have to elect representives who know better than us to elect the head of the party,GET THAT THROUGH YOUR HEADS!

  12. Justin Trudeau for the head of the liberal Party,who next Justin Beaver!

  13. Thumbs up for Aaron Wherry whos not afraid to ask the real questions.

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