Con­ser­va­tive leader fi­nally de­liv­ers some of the pas­sion vot­ers have been look­ing for in English-lan­guage de­bate

Edmonton Sun - - FRONT PAGE - Brian LILLEY blil­[email protected] @bri­anlil­ley

There they stood: Six po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers shar­ing the stage with five de­bate mod­er­a­tors. It had the po­ten­tial to be noth­ing but a food fight, a dis­as­ter of epic pro­por­tions.

Thank­fully the De­bate Com­mis­sion didn’t put all of them on stage at the same time and mod­er­a­tors took turns putting ques­tions to the lead­ers.

One at a time, they put ques­tions to the lead­ers who stood with a full au­di­ence be­hind them and a few dozen vot­ers fac­ing them.

While Trudeau was mostly ab­sent in the first 15 min­utes, mostly al­low­ing other lead­ers to at­tack each other, Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer did jump in to at­tack Trudeau early.

“Justin Trudeau only pre­tends to stand up for Canada,” Scheer said. “You know, he’s very good at pre­tend­ing things. He can’t even re­mem­ber how many times he put black­face on be­cause the fact of the mat­ter is he’s al­ways wear­ing a mask.”

Scheer said that Trudeau wears all kinds of masks on mat­ters such as In­dige­nous rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, fem­i­nism and his con­cern for mid­dle-class Cana­di­ans.

Time and again, Scheer re­turned to his at­tack on Trudeau for fir­ing Jody Wil­son-ray­bould, the first In­dige­nous woman to serve as at­tor­ney gen­eral be­cause she stood up to him over Snc-lavalin.

NDP Leader Jag­meet Singh, who seemed the most re­laxed and at ease of the lead­ers, also took Trudeau to task on In­dige­nous is­sues for mock­ing a pro­tester ask­ing for clean wa­ter by say­ing, “Thank you for your do­na­tion.”

“What kind of a leader does that?” Singh asked. “A phoney,” replied Scheer.

Scheer brought up a num­ber of the prob­lems that Trudeau has faced over the last year to ask why he thinks the rules don’t ap­ply to him.

All the lead­ers got in their digs at Trudeau.

“You bought a pipe­line,” Green Party Leader El­iz­a­beth May said to Trudeau as the topic turned to the en­vi­ron­ment. Trudeau replied that a slo­gan does not equal a plan. As Trudeau and Scheer scrapped over car­bon emis­sions, Singh got in his best line of the night.

“You do not need to choose be­tween Mr. De­lay and Mr. Deny,” Singh said.

While Singh of­ten got in some good lines, his party is still in third place in the polls and he has lim­ited time to turn it around. That saw Singh ap­peal to vot­ers at­tracted by Trudeau’s “nice words” but who want real ac­tion.

Bloc Leader Yves-françois Blanchet stood on the stage to stand up for Que­bec at every turn with­out speak­ing to the rest of the coun­try.

Peo­ple’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier could have taken the de­bate as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plain his poli­cies in depth, which he did at times, but at other times got caught up in ar­gu­ing with other lead­ers in­stead of sell­ing his plat­form.

For his part, Trudeau at­tempted to stave off his main chal­lenger by try­ing to link Scheer to for­mer prime min­is­ter Ste­pe­hen Harper and On­tario’s Doug Ford.

“There is a va­cancy for the On­tario Lib­eral lead­er­ship and if you are fo­cused on pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics go and run for the lead­er­ship of that party,” Scheer said as Trudeau in­voked Ford to­wards the end of the de­bate.

It’s hard to say there was a clear win­ner but let’s be blunt, it wasn’t May, Blanchet or Bernier. None of them have any chance of be­com­ing prime min­is­ter on Oct. 21 and Blanchet isn’t even vy­ing for that ti­tle.

Singh may have seemed the most con­fi­dent in putting for­ward his plans and pro­pos­als but he isn’t likely to get a chance to im­ple­ment.

Trudeau ben­e­fited from the lead­ers at­tack­ing each other in­stead of him, yet when they did turn to Trudeau, it was a com­mon theme. He’s not the guy he claimed to be last elec­tion.

That could stick.

That leaves Scheer. Did he do enough to con­vince the re­main­ing swing vot­ers to come to his camp? Vot­ers saw a Scheer they hadn’t seen be­fore, one will­ing to come out swing­ing.

Scheer’s ag­gres­sive stance to­wards Trudeau may have been the fire in the belly that vot­ers have been look­ing for.

SEAN kilpatrick/pool via REUTERS

JUSTIN Tang/pool via REUTERS

Lib­eral leader Justin Trudeau, left, trades barbs with Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer dur­ing last night’s English-lan­gage de­bate on Gatineau, Que., last night.

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