The House

Debate preview panel - Which leader has the most to lose?

Thursday's leaders debate will be the first significance event of the federal election campaign. We get our debate prep from David McLaughlin, former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, Scott Reid, former deputy chief of staff to Paul Martin and director of communications for the 2005-2006 Liberal campaign, and Kathleen Monk, former director of strategic communications for Jack Layton who served as spokesperson for the NDP campaign in 2011.
NDP Leader Jack Layton, left to right, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff debate during the French language federal election debate in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 13, 2011. (Chris Wattie/Canadian Press/Pool)

Thursday's leaders debate will be the first significance event of the federal election campaign.

We get our debate prep from David McLaughlin, former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, Scott Reid, former deputy chief of staff to Paul Martin and director of communications for the 2005-2006 Liberal campaign, and Kathleen Monk, former director of strategic communications for Jack Layton who served as spokesperson for the NDP campaign in 2011

"The difference I think in this long, long campaign is that there's no one debate that looks to be the one that will set the stage or dramatically pivot the campaign," said David McLaughlin. "There's no focal point that debates used to provide."

That may be true, but Kathleen Monk argues there's more to debates than the just, well, the debates.

"It's the coverage that matters, the clips, the singers, how the media portrays it," Monk said. 

In terms of what's at stake for the four leaders taking part in Thursday's debates, all eyes seem to be on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

"I think he survives if he doesn't face-plant," said Scott Reid. "But I guess if I'm the Trudeau campaign I want to do better than survive, don't I? I'm in third place, I want to rehabilitate, I want to reinvigorate the campaign I'm set to run for eleven weeks."

All three also expect the current front-runner, NDP leader Tom Mulcair, and the incumbent, Conservative leader Stephen Harper, to be attacked on all sides. 

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