Debate Highlights

The English leaders’ debate took place on Monday night, the first and only debate in English that included Justin Trudeau. Here’s our take on how each of the leaders performed:

  • Jagmeet Singh likely gained the most by coming across as likeable and relatable with his strong performance. Taking advantage of several sustained arguments between Trudeau and Scheer, Singh was able to insert himself as the option for voters tired of bickering about “who is worse for Canada.”
  • As the incumbent Prime Minister, Trudeau took many blows from all of the leaders, but managed to hold his own on cost of living against Scheer and climate issues against May and Singh. He pitched voters on the contrast between himself and Andrew Scheer, and didn’t suffer a knock-out punch.
  • Andrew Scheer was aggressive out of the gate, labelling Trudeau a “phony and a fraud” in a planned attack that was widely clipped in the media. Like in the recent TVA debate however, he took his fair share of attacks on climate and social issues.
  • Elizabeth May was on the attack as she pressed the other leaders mostly on environmental policy issues throughout the night. She made a direct pitch to voters to elect a minority government to keep Justin Trudeau in check.
  • Yves-François Blanchet, as leader of the Bloc Quebecois, had little to gain or lose in the debate, and was the most relaxed of the six leaders. His performance kept much of the debate focused on Quebec including defending SNC Lavalin and directed his attacks on Scheer, who is his main competition in Quebec.
  • Maxime Bernier’s presence in the debate was a massive win for the newly formed People’s Party, a feat that took Elizabeth May several electoral cycles to achieve. Bernier was a target of derision from the other leaders, and he focused on appealing to dissatisfied far-right members of the Conservative base.

Many criticized the debate format as messy, with six leaders on the stage and numerous instances of leaders talking over each other. However, the debate made history with five female moderators, who did not hesitate to cut off the leaders.

Last week, the first of two French language debates took place on Quebec network TVA. Surprisingly, Singh and Blanchet spent most of the night attacking Andrew Scheer, leaving Justin Trudeau relatively unscathed. Scheer’s positions on social issues, pipelines and climate change were the main points of contention, however he did land a prepared attack on Trudeau, labelling him as a climate change hypocrite for having two campaign planes. Trudeau immediately responded that the Liberal campaign has purchased carbon offsets, unlike the Conservatives.

The media consensus, echoed in subsequent public opinion polling by Abacus Data, is that Scheer lost the debate, while Blanchet likely gained the most, prompting a Bloc Quebecois surge at the expense of the Conservatives. While Singh also performed well, Trudeau’s confident performance will help him to retain his current position atop Quebec’s polls. The second French debate will take place on Thursday, October 10.


Notable Debate Quotes

“Mr. Bernier, your role on this stage tonight seems to be to say publicly what Mr. Scheer thinks privately.”

– Justin Trudeau

“You don’t have to choose between Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny.”

– Jagmeet Singh (referring to Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer)

“You are a phony and you are a fraud and you do not deserve to govern this country.”

– Andrew Scheer (to Justin Trudeau)

“You could have done so much more in the last four years. Please God, you don’t get a majority this time around because you won’t keep your promises.”

– Elizabeth May (to Justin Trudeau)

“When you’re facing a powerful foe like China, you don’t try to show biceps if you have only tiny biceps.”

– Yves-François Blanchet

Campaign Highlights


Andrew Scheer had a challenging week after it was revealed that he had finished only one of the four courses required to be an insurance broker in Saskatchewan, despite his official biography and public statements where he claimed to an insurance broker prior to being elected.

To make matters worse, late last week it was revealed that Scheer holds dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. The Conservative Party responded that he began the process of renouncing his US citizenship in August, however, the opposition pointed out his past criticism of former Governor General Michaëlle Jean’s dual citizenship status.

On the policy front, Andrew Scheer began October with a promise to cut foreign aid by 25 per cent, withholding international assistance to what the Conservatives call “middle- and upper-income countries as well as hostile regimes.” They would also redirect $700 million in foreign aid to the countries that they believe need it the most. Some of this funding is provided through institutions such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

In Atlantic Canada, the Conservatives held four events to announce that they would consult with local communities on the Marine Protected Areas and committed $250 million to the Small Craft Harbours program and also create a “modern aquaculture act.” These promises are aimed at rebuilding fish stocks and cleaning up abandoned fishing gear.

The Conservative Party also announced that its costed platform will be released after the debates but before advance polls open.

Scheer also lost a candidate in Burnaby North Seymour after video emerged of her making controversial statements about LGBTQ2 Canadians, including support for conversion therapy. This was considered to be a competitive riding for the Conservatives in a three-way race with the Liberals and NDP.


With Trudeau focused on debate prep this week, Montreal MP Pablo Rodriguez announced the Liberal plan for Arts and Culture, with an emphasis on Quebec. The announcement includes a $200 credit for children when they turn 12 to access Canadian arts and culture venues and services like museums, theatres, galleries and workshops. Media coverage focused on the Liberals’ plan to tax Internet platforms, including Netflix, three per cent of their Canadian revenue, and to require them to contribute to Canadian cultural content via legislation.

On Sunday, Justin Trudeau appeared on the widely viewed Quebec TV show “Tout le Monde en Parle” (translation: Everyone is Talking About It). Trudeau took questions about his botched French campaign theme song, the Trans Mountain pipeline, his participation in the climate strike march, his two campaign planes, taxing Netflix and Internet platforms, cultural investments, his blackface incident, SNC Lavalin, “fake feminism,” his position on abortion, worsening foreign relations and being judged against his record.

Finally, the Liberals faced pressure to drop Sydney-Victoria candidate Jaime Battiste after controversial racist and sexist past statements on social media emerged. This riding has been held by the Liberals for nearly 20 consecutive years, so it was not surprising when Trudeau stood by his candidate, accepting his apology while deeming the past comments unacceptable.


Following several viral moments, including Singh’s deft handling of an encounter in Montreal’s Atwater Market where an older voter advised him to remove his turban to “look more like a Canadian,” and gaining Instagram followers from celebrities like Drake and Rihanna, Singh enters the third week with growing personal popularity.

Over the weekend, Jagmeet Singh campaigned in Northwest Ontario, where he highlighted the NDP’s commitment to build a treatment centre for Grassy Narrows residents affected by long-term mercury exposure. He also highlighted the NDP plan to lift boil water advisories on reserves by 2021, with a widely-clipped response where he rebuked reporters for questioning the cost when no one would think twice about funding clean water in urban centres.

The day prior, Singh attacked Trudeau for the government’s decision to order a judicial review of a Human Rights Tribunal ruling that ordered compensation for Indigenous children and their families harmed by an underfunded child welfare system.

Singh started this week in BC, where he announced that the NDP would allow parents to receive full EI benefits over a shortened leave time. This would be an additional option compared to the current 33 per cent of their salaries for the 18-month period.

He also announced a $10 billion investment over four years to create more than 500,000 new licensed child care spaces in partnership with provinces, territories and Indigenous governments.

Green Party

Elizabeth May spent the week in BC, Ontario and Quebec where she provided more details on a number of measures in her platform:

  • Free post-secondary tuition, forgive federal student debt and remove the two per cent cap on increases in funding for Indigenous students.
  • Promoting the development of local, small scale bio-diesel production, primarily relying on used vegetable fat from restaurants and wood and agricultural waste. Switching to bio-diesel will be required for agricultural, fishing and forestry equipment.
  • Focusing on seniors, the Greens would gradually increase Canada Pension Plan benefits from 25 to 50 per cent of pre-retirement income, boost pensioners’ bankruptcy rights, create a national dementia strategy, and support changes to Canada’s medically assisted dying law.
  • Plans to plant 10 billion new trees over 30 years to pull carbon out of the atmosphere.
  • A costed platform commitment in 2020-21 of $26.8 billion to introduce pharmacare for everyone.

The Green Party also resubmitted their platform with new costing assumptions to the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy. After receiving an overall failing grade the first time, the new plan was given a passing grade, although still failing on the principle of responsible fiscal management.

Finally, May was forced to turf her candidate in Glengarry–Prescott–Russell over recent social media posts regarding abortion.


Leaders’ Interviews on CBC

Each day last week the main national party leaders sat down with five undecided voters at the CBC. Their exchanges can be seen below.

September 30th – Justin Trudeau
October 1st – Andrew Scheer
October 2nd – Elizabeth May
October 3rd – Jagmeet Singh


Relevant Polls

All current poll results reported below are pre-debate. It will be fascinating to see what shifts occur over the coming days, if any, as voters reflect on what they heard in the debate as well as commentary from friends and media.

Both major aggregators, CBC’s Poll Tracker and, continue to indicate that the Liberal/Conservative popular vote race is neck-and-neck with minor daily swings. Given regional concentrations, both now give the Liberals about a two-thirds chance of winning the most seats and a 25-35 per cent chance of getting a majority. The aggregators also show the NDP opening a five-point lead over the Green Party.

The latest Nanos daily tracking poll (October 5-7) shows similar trend lines to the poll aggregators but has the race for preferred Prime Minister tightening back up before the debate. It also indicates 14 per cent of the electorate is undecided at this stage of the campaign. CTV also published a story on the Nanos age breakdowns, showing a close race in all age segments although progressive parties fare better among younger voters.

Abacus Data released a poll indicating the Liberals had a slight lead on the Conservatives going into Monday night’s English leaders debate. They indicate that six per cent more of the undecided voters have made up their minds over the past two weeks, bringing the total to 69 per cent – leaving nearly a third of voters still open to changing their vote.

Innovative Research updated its seat cluster analysis which includes regional breakdowns, showing the Liberals with leads in the Eastern provinces, Conservatives dominating the Prairies, and a close race in BC. Since the last cluster analysis, this polling shows the Liberals expanded their lead in the 905/GTA, the Conservatives taking the lead in the Lower Mainland of BC, and the Liberals performing well in ridings where the Bloc are competitive.