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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will have to wait a while longer to directly confront Justin Trudeau.
However, in their first prime time introductions to the Canadian People, Scheer and Singh both put in a solid performance.
Scheer, despite being under constant attack by Elizabeth May and Jagmeet Singh, who repeatedly threw out falsehoods against the Conservative Leader, was able to calmly get his point across, explain his policies, and contrast himself from Justin Trudeau.
Notably, Justin Trudeau was too cowardly to attend the debate, leaving an empty podium in his place.
That didn’t stop Scheer from pointing out Trudeau’s failings, many of which relates to how the Liberal government has repeatedly shown weakness at the hands of Communist China.
Scheer slammed Trudeau for praising China’s “basic dictatorship,” and pushed back against the idea of a ‘free trade’ deal with the Communist nation, due to the role of state-owned enterprises in China.
Scheer’s performance was effective because he didn’t pretend to be something he’s not. Scheer will never be an energetic, loud politician, but he is measured, careful, and reasonable, and he stuck to his strengths.
Jagmeet Singh also performed well, and while many of his ideas may be pie-in-the-sky, he had some strong moments when it came to dealing with China, as he ripped the Liberals for allowing Chinese steel to be used in two massive LNG projects.
Singh also stuck to his campaign message well, and he will have likely have some success with attacking Trudeau from the left when the Liberal leader deigns to grace the debate stage with his presence.
Elizabeth May’s performance was somewhat unsteady, as she seems caught between trying to appear above the political fray, while also being a relatively left-wing partisan with some extreme policies.
One of the subtexts of the debate was that both May and Singh are proposing things that simply aren’t workable. To spend many more tens of billions every year, while massively increasing taxes and regulations on businesses, would be economically disastrous. Our debt would explode, job creating businesses would flee the country, and the economy would implode.
Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer’s proposals appeared far more realistic, and while they likely contain the usual “wishful thinking” of every political policy platform, he is at least within the realm of reality.
Justin Trudeau’s empty podium was instructive, showing his cowardice, refusal to be accountable, and cynical disregard for his previous statements that “more debates” were more democratic.
Finally, there is a strategic consideration here, that the Liberals may end up regretting. Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh were in their first debates as party leaders, while Trudeau is in his second election campaign.
By failing to attend the debate, Trudeau has given Scheer and Singh a chance to get critical debate experience, in a slightly less pressured situation. That may come back to bite Trudeau if Scheer and Singh learn from this performance and use that knowledge to fine-tune their performances next time.