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.

Filed under:

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

  1. What is it with singing astronauts?

    • they know how to hit the high notes?

      • LOL

  2. A much better debate overall. It’s too bad there are 9 candidates. Many times they had to stop the discussion when it was becoming interesting. There should be 2 steps in those races. For example, a vote could take place say after 2 months and only the top 3 or 4 could continue the race. But that will never happen.

  3. “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.”

    Yes, it would be lovely for First-Past-the-Post supporters. Proportional Representation has already crashed and burned 4 times in provincial referendums. (The media despises PR.) No doubt PR ideologues are the “if at first you don’t succeed” types. Unfortunately, their banging their heads against a wall is doing absolutely nothing for electoral reform in Canada.

    I’m glad the Liberals are finally tackling this issue with Preferential Voting. Ranked ballots will stop vote-splitting and make our existing system democratic.

    • The NDP antipathy killed it in BC

      • Yes, political parties are inherently corrupt and prefer easy fake majorities without realizing that it’s a zero-sum game: they lose as much from it as they gain.

        I prefer PR to PV, but I think the best course of action is to put out the fire first by fixing our existing system with PV. It’s the easiest reform to legislate. Once voters become familiar with electoral reform they should become more receptive to PR.

        • Forget it. You just have to look at Europe to see the mess that PV has caused. Too many cooks in the kitchen and nothing gets done.

          • For one, the most popular voting system in Europe is PR, not PV. Preferential Voting makes our existing system democratic by requiring that MPs *earn* their seats with a majority of the vote. It’s the same system all federal parties use to elected their leaders. (If FPTP is not good enough for party leadership conventions, it sure isn’t good enough to found our entire democracy on.)

            Second, northern European economies (like Sweden and Germany) are doing much better than North American ones. The US is just as bankrupt as the euro PIIGS.

    • The only politicians who care about reforming the electoral system are the ones who lose. They have to win to be in a position to change it, and that’s when their interest in the subject wanes.

  4. “Mr. Trudeau criticizes the Harper government’s fondness for boutique tax credits.”

    This is very smart policy. The Liberals need to own the economy to defeat Harper. They also have to appeal to moderate conservatives to split the conservative vote and keep Harper away from majority territory. (Better plan than flaky electoral cooperation.) Plus boutique tax cuts (that comprise most of Harper’s $44.4B/yr in tax cuts) are a blowing a huge hole in the budget. (From $14B surplus to $30B deficit…)

    • “The Liberals need to own the economy to defeat Harper. They also have to appeal to moderate conservatives to split the conservative vote…”

      Not going to happen with Trudeau at the helm.

      Garneau has some solid ideas on economy (like re-orienting to emphasize trade with China), and could siphon off small ‘c’ conservative and center-right votes of those who become disillusioned with the Tories.

      But Trudeau? Instead of planks he gives us platitudes.

      • If Trudeau follows through on his criticism of Harper’s useless and expensive boutique tax cuts and promises to clean up the tax code that will most certainly be a plank that would appeal to right-leaning voters.

        Trudeau is not making many major policy commitments at this time. For one, it is not the job of the leader to dictate policy. His job is to represent Liberals and Canadians and come up with a platform that is appealing to voters. (After all, democracy is founded on the will of the people. Something Canadians tend to forget after 7 years of Harper.)

        • Trudeau can promise whatever he likes, the problem is the credibility to deliver on it, or at least make the attempt. He doesn’t have it. He flip flops faster than any pol I can remember. As soon as someone whispers in his ear that some Liberal constituent (be they photogenic low-income families or corporate donors to the war chest) will be negatively effected by a cleaned up tax code, he’ll drop it like a hot potato.

  5. Followed on the liberal feed. But that’s pretty well how I saw it too Aaron. Garneau was more savvy about the way he went after Trudeau … What’s in your résumé is a question JT had better shy away from. But later on JT effectively blunted MG’s line of attack being good humoured. Overall Garneau was a little too eager to pull JT down, but he was a gent about it.
    MHF on the other hand was a disaster IMO. Her attack was personal and frankly opportunistically dumb… She’s hardly m/c herself. She came over as elitist and arrogant. I don’t know if she helped herself in the scrum either? Basically said it wasn’t personal then went on to say that JT was too stupid to sit down with Merkel. She did herself a lot of no good in the liberal membership IMO, judging by the reaction to JTs spirited rebuttal. It’s her right to call him stupid. But there’s a smart way and a dumb way to do that – she chose dumb.
    Murray continues to impress. She made a monkey out of Takech. But cooperation isn’t going anywhere. Pity. I think she’d make a better choice than Martha, for sure now.

    • she is the attack dog for someone else; just a guess, but perhaps she attacks Jr, brings his resume and elitist background more into the open, then joins the ranks of someone else a bit later. funny that Jr and his buddy Dominci, another Jr (son of former Gov Gen Romeo LeBlanc sat, had a drink and decided who should be PM, not elitist at all.

      • I think she’s in the running until a first place candidate guarantees her a judgeship. IIRC correctly she published a sour grapes letter years ago after she was passed over claiming it was an old boys club who excluded her because she was a woman – it could be true but it looked really bad.

    • I dunno, surely “I’m just a regular guy schoolteacher” may not be astronaut but it’s better than “masters degree in economics, ran a website for an extremist “think tank”, then lifetime politician”

      • The National Citizens Coalition was not an extremist think tank. It was no worse than Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen organization.

        • Good Sir, I fear you mistook.

        • It’s a lobby group.

        • The accepted definition of ‘extremist’ is ‘someone who disagrees with me’

  6. Clumsy of Findlay…..class is something Canadians never discuss….never even admit to.

    Theoretically we’re ‘all’ middle-class’ in this country. To say otherwise is ‘unCanadian’.

    • Some of us have no class look in the mirror

      • True….you have none.

        But I never would have told you that.

      • Pot meet kettle.

        • We are discussing socio-economic levels, not bar-room definitions.

  7. Mr. Trudeau’s argument is that he has everything else. Does he?

    • No. He’s just a ‘name’.

    • Trudeau has rock star charisma. He has the ability to connect with people. People tend to associate popularity with leadership.

      It’s also a good thing that he is not a policy wonk. Good leadership means delegating responsibilities and being receptive to other people’s ideas. The worst kind of leadership example is Harper who thinks because he’s the leader he gets to “make all the rules” micromanaging the entire government. Dion and Iggy also stunk things up with pet project platforms instead of listening to others to develop winning strategies and platforms.

      Whoever becomes leader will have to defeat Harper’s Republican attack machine. Whoever defeats it will prove to Canadians he or she is a leader.

      • Harper’s “Republican attack machine” as opposed to Trudeau’s loaned “Chicago machine” from the US Democrats.

        • Yes, well the Liberals have to figure out they don’t need to reinvent wheel when it comes to dealing with Republican personal-attack sleaze. The Democrats have been handling this nonsense for decades.

          Rule #1: respond to every attack no matter how puerile or utterly disgusting.

          Rule #2: hit them back just as hard. (Of course, criticize their failed policies, broken promises and flaky ideology instead of resorting school-yard slander.)

      • I don’t want to have warm and fuzzy feelings for my Prime Minister. I don’t want a rock star, who’s at home on stage in front of cheering crowds, feeding his ego. I want an office manager who’s there to do the boring and tedious job of running the country efficiently and effectively, without showboating at every opportunity like he’s the star of the hit new reality TV series, Canada’s Next Top Politician.

        There’s being receptive to other people’s ideas, and then there’s bending to every breeze. Trudeau panders to whoever he’s in front of. He tells Quebecers they are Canada’s true heirs, not those Philistines in Calgary. Then he goes to stump for the party in Calgary and praises them for being the economic engine of the country. Well, all pols do that, but the experienced ones at least know how to kiss @$$ without having to apologize to the next set of buttocks they lock lips to.

        • Actually a good office manager delegates responsibilities and makes decisions based on evidence, not ideology. Trudeau is offering Canadians this kind of leadership. (Harper is not only a crass manipulator Canadians neither like or trust, he is an uber-micromanager and ideologue who plays politics instead of bringing in effective legislation.)

  8. Martha Hall Findlay looks like the Senator Brazeau of the Liberal leadership fight with Justin Trudeau.

  9. 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.

    Martha Hall Findlay must be really disappointed with you Aaron. She must have gotten the impression that vicious personal attacks against politicians for being wealthy was totally fair game, and that you media guys would back her up. I wonder where she would have gotten that impression? There must have been a recent election somewhere where the media helped destroy a politician for being rich and out of touch. Seems so familiar, like maybe just a few months ago. What changed? When did it become OK for politicians to be rich again?

    • a) Justin isn’t wealthy, he’s just upper middle class….no different than huge numbers of Canadians

      b) Being an out-of-touch billionaire Mormon in the US is a totally different ballgame.

      c) Wtf does Wherry have to do with any of that?

      • Um, he might have been talking about Ignatieff.

        • Ignatieff was never rich. Anymore than Justin.

          • So, he could have been talking about Ignatieff. Yes, rich is a relative term of course. They could both be considered elites, but I happen to think there isn’t anything wrong with that per se, if they can genuinely relate to the 99%. I happen to think Justin can, even though he is not my choice for Leader.

          • He wasn’t talking about Ignatieff.

          • It’s true, Justin can relate to anyone. It’s called ‘acting sympathetic’. Politicians have been known to do this.

      • Hilarious. I can’t believe you just said that. “Justin isn’t wealthy, he’s just upper middle class…” Canada doesn’t have extremely wealthy people. In Canada, Justin is the 1%. He’s just as out of touch as Romney. What middle class kid has a dad who was PM of Canada, calls Castro “uncle” and whose mom ran off with the Rolling Stones? What middle class kid has an ongoing audience for his speeches willing to pay $20,000 plus expenses despite his total lack of experience?

        • Canada has numerous millionaires and billionaires. Where have YOU been?

          Justin is just upper middle class…..not rich at all.

          • Actually Canada doesn’t have numerous billionaires and Trudeau is a millionaire. We are a very poor country compared to the US. Activist groups try to tell you we have this heavy band of fat cats just ripe for the plucking but we don’t. In 2010 we had 280,000 millionaires compared to the US which had ten times and more of that amount. As for billionaires – we have just 13 out of 482 world wide and only one in the top 20. Trudeau is a millionaire is one of the.80%. Canada doesn’t have a 1%.

          • Actually Canada is a very wealthy country, and we have very few poor. Lots of people are millionaires here….hell, lot’s of people’s houses are worth that much.

            We’ve worked very hard to ensure that the bulk of the population is well off, and we don’t have that dangerous gap that the US does.

            I don’t know why you want to pretend we’re Somalia, but we’re not.

          • I’m not pretending we’re Somalia but good try. You were trying to claim Justin is upper middle class. I said he was part of the 1%. You countered with Canada having lots of millionaires and billionaires. I pointed out we don’t compared to the US. The US has over 3M millionaires. We have 280,000 of which Justin Trudeau is one. They constitute .8% of the population ergo the 1%. Justin is one of the 1%.

          • Justin is only upper middle class. Canada has 35M people in a country bigger than the US, and you can’t figure out the difference in numbers! 90% of this country is empty ya know.

            You said Canada doesn’t have a 1%, then you try to make Justin one of
            them. ….mostly you’re just talking with no point in mind.

          • That’s right. Canada doesn’t have a 1%, it has a .8% because we don’t have a lot of millionaires and billionaires like the US. However that still makes Justin one of the .8% which is the Canadian equivalent of the 1%. Keep trying.

          • Keep trying on what?

            Do you even know what you’re trying to prove….or why?

            Justin is small potatoes financially, no matter how jealous you are. And I have no idea why you’d be jealous anyway.

          • I must be winning. You are now throwing ad hominems at me. I couldn’t care less how much Justin has in his bank account nor am I jealous about it. I am pointing out the inconsistencies in the argument that Justin is just “small potatoes”. Justin is not small potatoes. He represents the 1% in this country. His father worked for Power Corp in his post PM career as does Jean Chretien (his daughter is married to a Demarais). The owner of Power Corp is Paul Demarais and he is worth $4.3-billion dollars. Power Corp. owns the Liberal Party of Canada and they are the ones pushing Justin. Maurice Strong, Mr. Environment is also part of the Power Corp family and Bob Rae’s brother is on their executive. So tell me how Justin is just small potatoes?

          • LOL I have no idea what your argument even is….and I doubt you do either.

            Seems to be the usual plot/conspiracies thing again.

            Justin is indeed small potatoes…..maybe you’re a rube, and those figures wow you….but if so, you live in a very small world.

            Typical leftie Canadian to hate success though.

          • Well my argument was to counteract your argument that Justin is upper middle class and small potatoes. Given you would rather stay in your blinkered world, there is no point in continuing. As a parting shot though, may I point out to you former board members of the Pierre E. Trudeau Foundation – Paul G. Desmarais, Paul Desmarais Jr., Bob Rae, Jacques Hebert, Peter Lougheed. Justin was one of the founders along with his brother Alexandre. I repeat he is no small potatoes.

          • Why is it remarkable that all those people know each other?

            Not my problem if you don’t know a small potato from a big one…..although why you think it matters anyway, I don’t know.

          • If the US has “ten times” as many millionaires, then we have the exact same number of milionaires per capita.
            If we have 13 of 482 billionaires, then a country with less than a percent of the world’s population has 2.7% of its billionaires?
            And that constitutes poor to you???? ROTFLMAO

    • Yeah cuz the two guys are so similar. Romney playing free market swashbuckling robber baron, and JT doing much the same. Nailed that one JG.

    • Ironically, who were the first folks to suggest that Romney was rich and out of touch with Americans? Why, his fellow republicans, who were seeking the nomination over him.

    • An absolutely clear example of media bias refusing to create any difference between the wealth and business practices of Justin Trudeau (schoolteacher from well off family) and Mitt Romney (M & A multibillionaire).

      • The media is biased against Justin Trudeau? What the hell news channel / newspaper have you been watching / reading?

  10. the more the righties attack JT,the more the country will embrace him(JT)(the cons can use all the adds they want).harper and mulcair will have there hands full,just trying to handle JT with kid gloves because JT is a fresh young energetic politcal candidate who will bring excitment back to this country.ill bet JT will even drive up the tv ratings during question period.this guy(JT)is canada,his street creds just went up even more today.

    • Yes, I think Harper’s disgusting and puerile personal attacks will backfire on Justin. He doesn’t seem the type who will just sit back and take it (like Iggy and Dion.) Then what will the sleazy Con men do?

  11. I was fan of Hall Findlay a few years ago but lately not so much. With her time at the UofC and subsequently her attack on Supply Management I fear she has embraced the economic perspective that prevails there, unfortunately.

    *And i’m not saying Supply Management is bad or good, I was just unimpressed with the how it was delivered.