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The Good and the Bad: A Day on the Campaign Trail

As we enter the last two weeks of the 43rd General Election, we’ve reached a point where you have a good idea about how the parties are doing, who has some momentum and who is having a rougher go. While the polling numbers continue to stay relatively static, there are many other indicators out there that we can look at to see how the parties are doing.

Sometimes a single day can give you an interesting glimpse into how things are going. Watching my social media feed over the past 24 hours, I couldn’t help but notice how one party was having a very good day and another was having a rough one. Let’s start with the example of the good day, had by New Democrat Jagmeet Singh:

If you are a political leader, days like these can feel so amazing. Crowds rushing to meet you, selfies galore, exchanging DMs with Rihanna, the most money raised on any day this entire year; these are all amazing things to happen to any politician, let alone in the middle of a campaign. And to see everyone’s reactions to all of this, to see people wanting to be seen with Jagmeet, giving lots of money, these are all good signs of momentum, especially this far into the race.

If the Liberals had thought they could wedge progressives into the Red Door/Blue Door argument of old, this is not a good development for them. And for them, the day didn’t get any better. In fact, they are the ones who had the bad day, and as these posts and clips shows, it was pretty bad:

Wow folks, wow. Having any one of those things come out on any single day would be bad enough, but all of them, that is devasting stuff. Between those young children questioning Mr. Trudeau on the blackface and brownface incidents and Judy Sgro’s stunning comments about the same, it makes for a contrast that just slaps you upside the head and screams bad things. And then you add the Liberal anti-abortion candidate in Northern BC, as the Liberals have been going after the Conservatives and Andrew Scheer for just this, it’s all very, very bad.

Despite this good day for the NDP and the bad one for the Liberals, the open question that still sits out there is “will this move the numbers?”. Over four weeks, it really hasn’t but I can’t help but think that at some point something has to break here, right? I mean how many of these bad things can pile up for the Liberals before  things finally let loose. And for the NDP, how many good campaign days can you keep stringing together before the party numbers actually start to move in a big way? We are going to find out by election day but at this point that is the open question and I think that most Canadians are eager to see what the answer to that will be.

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The Morning After: #LeadersDebate2019

Last nights English Leaders Commission Debate was a night that so many people had circled on their calendar for a long time now. In a campaign that has seen static polls, lots of mud slinging and policy taking a back seat for the most part, many people were wondering if last nights debate could help to change that trajectory in any way. We’ll see over the next few days if that happens, but for sure last nights debate could have that effect:

One of my biggest take aways from last night is that after this election is over and the results are in, we’ll have a great case study before us about how much debates really matter any more in campaigns. New Democrat Jagmeet Singh had the best performance of the night and he rose above the crowd. He connected with people, he was genuine and he stuck to the issues. He continued to show the Jagmeet that many of us saw when we elected him leader back in 2017 and proved that many people underestimated him and wrote him off too soon.

Basically at this point in the campaign, Singh has had three strong debates, each one stronger than the last. So far that’s helped to seriously improve him personal approval numbers, but it hasn’t moved the party’s polling numbers to the same degree. It’s an open question if last nights performance will be enough to break the dam and move the party numbers in line with Singh’s own, but it can honestly be said that so far, he has done everything he can do make that happen. It just remains to be seen if it will.

When it comes to the big moments of the night, there are two that really jumped out at me for different reasons. The first came in the section on Bill 21 in Quebec, when Mr. Trudeau went after Mr. Singh. Mr. Trudeau tried to attack Mr. Singh for his response to this issue, saying that he didn’t have the courage to do more and insinuating that Mr. Singh wasn’t going to do enough to fight racism. That moment was one of the first moments in this campaign where we saw the different dynamic of having a leader of colour in the debate. In the past, if Mr. Trudeau had put that same question to someone like Tom Mulcair, it probably would have worked. But putting that same question to Mr. Singh came off as very tone deaf for obvious reasons. It came off as attacking a person of colour who faces racism on a regular basis for not doing enough about it, in the estimation of someone who never actually has to face it themselves. That alone would have been bad enough, but when you add to that equation the fact that Mr. Trudeau is just a couple weeks away from being caught for wearing brown and black face, an act that he himself admitted showed a serious blindness to his own privilege, it was that much worse. Simply put, Mr. Trudeau was in no position to attack Mr. Singh for how he would deal with something that Mr. Trudeau never would, and it was that privilege he quoted a couple of weeks ago that blinded him to that fact. It was very tone deaf and it was quite “un-woke” for the supposedly woke PM.

The other big moment that jumped out at me last night came in the section of the debate on Indigenous issues. It was one of the rare moments in a leaders debate where Indigenous rights and issues were given solid time and a chance to be discussed on the national stage like this, a precious 20 minutes that could have been a chance to give everyone a better view of where the parties stood on these issues. But instead of getting that time, Green Leader Elizabeth May took the chance to essentially change the topic of the section, focusing on Climate Change, despite the fact there would be an entire other 20 minute block on the environment. She did this to try to pivot to a better area of strength for her, but in doing so, it plowed under any chance for so many other issues that deserved to be raised to be discussed. That was very disrespectful in my view, and that was a prime example about how a leaders attempt to control the debate could blow up in their faces. The result was a truncated discussion on issues that deserved so much more time, something that was frustratingly common for us to see.

On the whole, Mr. Singh did come away from last night having not only done what he needed to do but having continued to build momentum towards the end of this race. He continues to impress, to show the kind of leader that he is and what he is capable of. For the Orange Team, it’s hard to say what more could have been asked for but it’s clear that in the toughest of circumstances, Mr. Singh has continued to deliver time after time. We’ll see if it starts to move peoples voting intentions but New Democrats can be comforted in knowing that Jagmeet Singh is holding up his end of the bargain and doing everything he can to bring them closer to government.

Talking #LeadersDebate2019 with iPolitics.ca

Tonight I had the chance to join the folks at iPolitics.ca to take part in their live English Leaders Debate coverage. Along with Quitto Maggi, Yaroslav Baran, Sheamus Murphy, Nasha Brownridge, Jolson Lim and host Heather Bakken we did a pre-debate preview and a post-debate round up of everything we saw tonight. You can watch the video of both events embedded below. Enjoy!

Talking #LeadersDebate2019 with Evan Solomon

This afternoon I had the chance to join Evan Solomon on his nationwide “The Evan Solomon Show” with Jenny Byrne and Gabriella Gonzalez. We previewed tonight’s big English Leaders Debate, what to expect from each leader, what they needed to avoid and the peculiarity of having six candidates on the stage. You can listen to the audio below, starting right at around the 21-minute mark. Enjoy!

Experience Review

As we go into the upcoming English Leaders Debate, there are many things that we will be looking for. But one of the things that I will be looking for will be the approach taken by Green leader Elizabeth May, who she will go after and the tone of her comments. Ms. May has tried to pitch herself as this leader who is above politics and beyond making personal attacks on her opponents.

She’s tried to put this idea out there that she is somehow above the fray and as a result better. And honestly, if that was actually the case, I’d find it rather admirable because who wouldn’t want to see that, right? It would be refreshing if it was the case. But time after time Ms. May manages to show that she is not above it all, doing so with her own words. Tonight I came across a clear example of this hypocrisy from her, one that is as insulting as it is easy to disprove:

Well, lets look at those comments from Ms. May about NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the ones that she says she makes without trying to be condescending. She says that Mr. Singh “doesn’t have a lot of Parliamentary experience” and that “it may not have occurred to him” to talk to the Conservatives. Let’s start with the most basic of facts here. Firstly, Ms. May was elected for the first time in May of 2011, giving her two terms as an MP in Ottawa. But Mr. Singh was elected for the first time in October of 2011, to the Ontario Legislature, where he served most of two terms, and then got elected into the House of Commons in February of this year. So on that score, Ms. May and Mr. Singh have at least equal experience.

But there is another level to this that Ms. May conveniently ignores. Ms. May was elected in two majority governments and has never, ever served in a minority government. But when Mr. Singh was elected for the first time to the Ontario Legislature, it was as a part of a minority government in which the party of which Mr. Singh was a part of, the Ontario NDP, held the balance of power. In that situation, the NDP was able to extract policies out of the Ontario Liberals, ensuring that the 40th Legislative Assembly of Ontario actually lasted more than two and a half years, much longer than the normal 18 months that minority governments survive. So when you look at it on that metric, Mr. Singh has a greater deal of actual experience than Ms. May on these matters, while hers all seem rather theoretical as she has never actually served in a minority government.

Personally I like Ms. May, and my interactions with her have always been pleasant. During my last three years on Parliament Hill, her office was right across the hall from mine and she would pop into our office from time to time to say hello. But that history doesn’t change the condescension that came flowing from her backhanded comments about Mr. Singh. She not only tried to completely dismiss the man has having no experience, she actually has as much legislative experience as him and far less experience working in a minority government. It’s one thing to have an approach and a belief about how you should conduct yourself in such a situation, but to try to run down someone who disagrees with your approach as inexperienced and naïve is just wrong, ugly and something that is unbecoming of any leader, especially one who likes try to be above the fray and better than that. I’d like to say I am surprised by this but Ms. May has had a habit of doing this towards Mr. Singh in this campaign so far, not to mention others. Heck, she just said this on Twitter about all of the other leaders who will be on the stage with her tomorrow night:

Yeah, that’s really being better now, isn’t it? Wow. Of course she said it was a joke afterwards, but it’s pretty clear she didn’t see just how that wouldn’t be funny. Anyway we’ll see if she tries taking this same approach again with Mr. Singh or any of the other leaders on Monday night. It will be one of the things to watch during this big debate.