Notes from the campaign trail: Final debate Friday night
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair reacts to the applause as he arrives at a campaign stop in Montreal on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)
George Hoff, CP24.com
Published Thursday, October 1, 2015 8:17PM EDT
Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair left their ties at home today. They didn’t quite roll up their sleeves but their language was sharper and the political attacks were tougher. With the last French leaders’ debate - the last debate of the campaign - fast approaching, they got to practice their lines before friendly crowds in Montreal.
The two stepped into their carefully-prepared photo ops simultaneously. That forced the news channels to pick one or the other to air live. For a second straight day Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was off the political playing field - out of sight from the public but in the sights of both his challengers.
Trudeau was in the Liberal-held riding of Lac-St-Louis. In 2011, Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia, won it by less than 2,000 votes and the Liberal vote dropped by 12 per cent. The party needs to hold the seats it has in Quebec and gain a few to move up from third place nationally. To woo Quebec voters back to the Liberal banner, Trudeau made a series of promises this morning to help Montrealers get around their city. Throughout the campaign Trudeau has travelled from city to city promising new rapid transit lines again and again and today it was Montreal’s turn.
In each city he uses the big number - $60 billion over 20 years. For example, today he promised a toll-free Champlain Bridge with a rapid transit line but there was no specific commitment of how much of that $60 billion will go to his Montreal promises.
Trudeau accused Mulcair of making the wrong choice by putting off immediate investments and accepting Harper’s balanced budget approach. He said, “There are three different visions for Canada. Harper’s vision is that everything is fine and dandy.” Turning on Mulcair, Trudeau said the NDP vision is to make change down the road sometime in the future. He then committed that only “the Liberals have put out a concrete plan to invest and grow the economy.”
Mulcair’s event was in the Montreal riding of Laurier-Sainte- Marie. Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe owned the riding for 30 years before being tossed out by the NDP in 2011. Duceppe is back and needs to win back the riding as part of his party’s comeback bid. Mulcair was in a roomful of NDP supporters talking again about the importance of climate change and the need to make it a central part of economic decision making in Canada. The he took a series of town hall-style questions from his fans.
At one point Mulcair clenched his fist, pumped it up and down as he called on voters to remember “how important change is.”
Mulcair didn’t mention Trudeau but to win both leaders have to win the support of Canadians tired of Stephen Harper and in the mood to elect a new leader. Trudeau repeatedly says a vote for Mulcair is not a vote for real change and that Mulcair will get nothing done for years. Today, Mulcair answered back and said, “Over our first term we will make a series of crucial investments.” Mulcair will use the last two weeks to make the case that only the NDP can defeat Harper.
The lines against Harper were sharp and direct this morning. Mulcair said, “Four more years of Harper means four more years of inaction.” He said Harper’s Canada is a “warlike, hawkish nation that pollutes.” He then added that under Harper “Canadian families come second to the oil companies.”
The NDP support in Quebec appears to be softening. Mulcair needs to have a strong night at the debate tomorrow night. Then, on Sunday night, Mulcair will appear on the popular TV talk show “Tout le monde en parle.” Many Quebec observers say in 2011 Jack Layton, on that same talk show, got the orange wave started for the NDP.
A national poll released today by Forum Research has the Conservatives ahead nationally with 34 per cent support. The NDP at 28 per cent and the Liberal party at 27 per cent are in a statistical tie. But in Quebec there has been a significant shift in support. Three weeks ago the NDP stood at 45 per cent in Quebec with the Conservatives at 24 per cent, the Liberals at 21 per cent and the Bloc Quebecois at 10 per cent. Now the NDP is down a full 13 points to 32 per cent. The Conservative Party is up a couple of points at 24 per cent and the Liberals are holding at 21 per cent. The movement in this poll is to the party Mulcair and Trudeau tried so hard not to mention today - the Bloc Quebeois. Gilles Duceppe’s party jumped nine points to 19 per cent. Duceppe is a skilled TV debater and he will be looking to add points on Friday night.