At Issue panel weighs in on French-language leaders' debate

The National's At Issue panel weighs in on a heated debate between the leaders and how each of the candidates fared.

The National's At Issue panel weighed in on Thursday's heated French-language debate between the party leaders and how each of the candidates fared.

Toronto Star national affairs columnist Chantal Hébert said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair headed into the debate with the most to lose as the front-runner in Quebec.

Mulcair, she said, "probably did as best as he could to shelter his Quebec foundation."

Postmedia/National Post columnist Andrew Coyne said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau performed much better than in last week's Globe and Mail economic debate in Calgary, and may have closed the "stature gap" with Mulcair.

"He was much cooler, didn't shout as much, more composed," Coyne said of Trudeau. "I think he did his cause some good tonight."

Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper appeared "nicer and a lot less aggressive than the image Quebecers have against him," Hébert said.

But Coyne said while Harper came off as cool and avuncular in the debate, neither he nor Green Party Leader Elizabeth May were much of a factor.

Pollster Bruce Anderson of Abacus Data said voters who may just be starting to tune in to the campaign would get a clearer picture of what the candidates stood for tonight.

"I don't know if it will change anything, it just may take some time to soak in," Anderson said.

Watch the full segment above, and find more stories and features from The National here.