Federal Liberal leadership debate recap: Garneau et al. vs. Trudeau - Macleans.ca

Federal Liberal leadership debate recap: Garneau et al. vs. Trudeau

Let’s get ready to sort of rumble: Aaron Wherry’s formerly live blog


Welcome to live coverage of the third Liberal leadership debate. You can stream the proceedings here.

Here is the format: a series of one-on-one debates, then a series of three-person debates.

First up: Marc Garneau vs. Justin Trudeau.

1 p.m. The Liberals were ready before CPAC was, so Marc Garneau filled the time by singing happy birthday to his mother. True story.

1:02 p.m. And we begin. Mr. Garneau’s question for Mr. Trudeau, “What in your resume qualifies you to be leader of the Liberal party?” After Mr. Trudeau talks about the need for the Liberal party to connect with the public, Mr. Garneau restates his question. Mr. Trudeau refers to his successful electoral history. Mr. Garneau: “It’s about much more than being a good speaker.” I believe Mr. Trudeau responded with something like, “It’s about winning.” That was fun. But it was over way too quickly.

1:09 p.m. And now, finally, the David Bertschi/George Takach showdown we’ve all been waiting for.

1:15 p.m. Deborah Coyne asks Mr. Garneau to support her plan for a referendum on electoral reform. Mr. Garneau expresses his support for a preferential ballot. Ms. Coyne insists a referendum would be a lovely exercise for the country.

1:25 p.m. George Takach tries to challenge Joyce Murray’s electoral co-operation plan on the grounds of the NDP’s attitude toward free trade. Ms. Murray turns this around into a discussion of a price on carbon and then manages to accuse Mr. Takach of using his business career to ship jobs overseas to China. That was fun. But probably of no bearing whatsoever on who will be the next Liberal leader.

1:33 p.m. I believe Mr. Bertschi just accused Thomas Mulcair of tearing the country apart with loose talk of Dutch elm disease.

1:35 p.m. Where is the Liberal plan to vaccinate Canadian trees against Dutch elm disease?

1:36 p.m. Deborah Coyne and Justin Trudeau debate each other. This isn’t weird at all.

1:37 p.m. Actually, they have a fairly interesting difference of opinion over immigration policy and where immigrants settle in Canada.

1:51 p.m. Martha Hall Findlay attempts to disagree with Mr. Trudeau’s approach to immigration as too welcoming.

1:56 p.m. Now a series of three-person debates. First, Martin Cauchon, Justin Trudeau and Joyce Murray, asked to identify which of the Harper government’s immigration policies they’d continue and which they’d abandon. Justin Trudeau says the Conservatives are unduly “commodifying” immigrants. (He opens with a comment about First Nations not being immigrants. Not sure if that was meant as a response to something someone else said.) Then he manages to get in the last word with a salute to the path to citizenship that Canada offers.

2:11 p.m. A group including David Bertschi, Marc Garneau and Deborah Coyne is asked about reaching out to China. Mr. Garneau is in favour of trade with Asia, but stresses the need to make sure we’re “not Boy Scouts” around the negotiating table.

2:17 p.m. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Garneau on stage together to discuss youth employment. Mr. Trudeau talks about entrepreneurship. Mr. Garneau chides Mr. Trudeau for following his lead on student debt. Mr. Trudeau agrees it’s a good idea. George Takach questions Mr. Garneau’s math. Mr. Trudeau throws an arm around Mr. Garneau to suggest he’s got his back. Mr. Garneau and Mr. Trudeau then get into it over tax credits.

2:22 p.m. Question from the audience: Stephen Harper is a big meany, how can we bring integrity back to our politics? Tees up Mr. Trudeau to enthuse about ideals: openness, transparency, trust, working together.

2:26 p.m. Discussion of a funding for municipalities. Mr. Garneau stresses the need for stable, predictable and long-term funding and Ms. Murray zings him with the charge that he’s being theoretical: basically the same complaint he has about Mr. Trudeau. She says she’d double the gas tax transfer. Martha Hall Findlay insists it’s a matter of tax reform.

2:37 p.m. George Takach gets booed for talking down tree-planting jobs for young people (a shot at Ms. Murray, it seems).

2:42 p.m. Ms. Murray challenges Mr. Takach to come plant trees and see if he can keep up with the young people who do it.

2:43 p.m. Mr. Takach invites Ms. Murray to come paint a house like he did when he was a student. I’m enjoying this completely unnecessary and pointless conflict.

2:46 p.m. Mr. Trudeau criticizes the Harper government’s fondness for boutique tax credits. Martha Hall Findlay explains her objection to the language around “the middle class” and wonders aloud how Mr. Trudeau can understand the average citizen given his wealth. Mr. Trudeau turns this into a rousing rejoinder about using all of his advantages for service to this country, winning a sustained ovation. Mr. Trudeau seemed quite pleased with how that went.

2:52 p.m. In the next group, Mr. Garneau takes a moment before speaking to the question at hand to address the previous panel. Says Liberals shouldn’t be “petty” and that no one running for leader should have their financial situation held against them.

2:56 p.m. And that’s that. That was unquestionably an odd move by Ms. Hall Findlay: first to attempt a rather esoteric argument about the political language of the “the middle class” and then to attempt a fairly personal attack on Mr. Trudeau’s financial situation. Even if Mr. Trudeau hadn’t responded as well as he did, I’m not sure how much Ms. Hall Findlay stood to gain from such an attack.

Mr. Garneau got in a couple better-placed shots and maybe raised a question or two about Mr. Trudeau, but the frontrunner come away looking pretty good. Mr. Garneau’s argument is that he has more ideas and a better resume. Mr. Trudeau’s argument is that he has everything else.

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