Here we are at Day 30 of the 40 day 43rd General Election and tonight we’ll see the last big showdown of this campaign, the French language Leaders Debate. While the audience tonight will be different, as will the stakes, there’s still a lot that can come from this last encounter in Gatineau. But going into tonight, there is a big story out from the Journal de Montreal that will surely play a big role in the debate tonight:
With Quebec’s Bill 21 a big part of the debate in this campaign and the Bloc Quebecois rising in the polls as they try to ride the coattails of François Legault’s CAQ government, this story has the potential to cause some interesting problems for Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet. 4 Bloc candidates were found by the Journal de Montreal to have shared anti-Islam content on their social media and some of it is quite ugly. One shared a video saying that “Islam is a disease”, another said that the Muslim community has lower IQ’s and another share messages supportive of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Needless to say, these views are ugly, racist and the kind of crap that can really hurt a party that claims to be progressive and such. But it’s not the first such incident for the Bloc, as on late Monday TVA News found another Bloc candidate doing this kind of thing, sharing a propaganda video from the far-right group “La Meute”. She denied there was anything wrong with that, saying that this was only just the Conservatives taking shots at the Bloc and nothing more. Well with the news out this morning, it looks like there is a lot more to see here than just one party trying to stir things up.
And I think we should expect that story and many others to be aimed at the Bloc leader, as they rise in the polls and are now a threat to all of the other parties. That will be a big change in the dynamic tonight, as will how the other parties’ approach Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. The wildcard in this debate could very well be NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. The Orange team has started to rise in the polls as Singh’s personal approval numbers continue to rise faster. Momentum is starting to build behind Singh and tonight while he probably won’t be the main target of people on the stage, he will draw some fire. The question will be how he is able to affect the other parties on that stage and if he is able to land some more blows and continue his assent. He’s had three good debates so far, getting stronger each time. Tonight needs to be the capper for him, and with the extra attention to be paid to Blanchet, he is in a good position to do that.
The final interesting thing to watch tonight will be Maxime Bernier and what he does. He was a bit all over the map Monday and night was far from disciplined, but that didn’t shock anyone. But tonight he’ll be operating in his first language and that will make a striking contrast between him and Mr. Scheer, who really struggled in the last French debate on TVA. Scheer already took a big hit coming out of Monday night and the question is if Bernier will be able to make things even worse for them. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see who Bernier spends more time going after; Scheer, Trudeau or Blanchet? Who he spends more time on will give us a good indication of how he feels things are going for him and his team.
Tonight will be the last time we get all of these leaders in one place, for better or worse. Over the first three quarters of this campaign it’s been very static and it’s only been over the past couple of days that things have started to move. Will that continue after tonight or will it fall back into the pattern we’ve seen for a month? It’s hard to say but tonight will have some say in what comes in the last 10 days of this race.