The House

The economic debate review is in!

Our debate reviewers David McLaughlin, Scott Reid and Kathleen Monk dissect the performances of Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau on Thursday night's economic debate.
From left to right, NDP Leader Tom Muclair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper are seen at various points during the Globe and Mail leaders' debate. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The 'Debate Season' of the campaign is here, and it kicked off this week with a free-for-all over the economy. 

With the party leaders set to face off three more times over the next two weeks, we reconvened our debate panel of experts to discuss what worked, what didn't, and what the leaders need to accomplish next.

David McLaughlin is the former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney. Scott Reid is the former deputy chief of staff to Paul Martin and Kathleen Monk is the former director of strategic communications for Jack Layton.

Who made a connection with viewers on Thursday?

SR: I think they all did to some extent, but if I was going to signal out one person in particular, it would probably be Trudeau, because I think he had more success in bringing his message back over and over, and also being street-level. I also thought Harper, for his constituency, was crystal-clear in connecting. And Mulcair's technical performance was far superior than it was in August.

DM: What stood out for me was the debate about the narrative around the economy. Each of these leaders have an audience for their particular economic narrative, and I think they're trying to find that connection with voters about where they are.

KM: Most of the debate happened between Trudeau and Mulcair, and that really outlines where this fight is going in the next 30 days of this election. We have these two progressive leaders battling it out for the anti-Harper vote. Maybe Harper is actually potentially OK with this three-way, because if he sees that continuing and neither of these progressive leaders surge, he'll gain advantage. 

Did Elizabeth May crash the party and win the social media vote?

SR: Maybe, and who cares would be my answer. I don't know what it's going to matter. Everybody involved in this debate is struggling to actually get attention. I think she was talking to journalists and hard-cores.

DM: I agree. I think she won her seat in the first debate, when she was actually invited. But in terms of a real choice, a viable choice for who's going to win, the three right leaders were on the stage [Thursday].

Is this the beginning of the 'real campaign'?

SR: I think I'm in the minority but I genuinely do think it is. This is a deadlocked race, and even if there weren't that many people watching [the debate], I still think there are people consuming. I think we're going to look back a week from now and say, 'it didn't look like it at the time, but things are moving.'

KM: I think the parties are going to move into the next phase of this election really targeting their messages to specific voters. This is going to be fought region by region, riding by riding. 

DM: I think this debate is meaningful in part because we're running out of time. There's not that many more events left in the campaign that can shift things.


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