Stephen Harper nonetheless standing after debate assaults from three adversaries

downloadStephen Harper knew what was coming.

On this, the primary debate of a protracted election marketing campaign, he must fend off assaults from three adversaries standing actually, however not ideologically, to his proper on a Toronto stage Thursday night time.

He needed to deal with the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair, the Opposition chief, who remained calm and expertly picked his spots throughout the two-hour debate, a Inexperienced chief in Elizabeth Might who, once more, punched above her celebration’s weight when given the prospect, and an keen, energized and at occasions hyperaggressive Justin Trudeau who carried out properly, however acted as if he was getting paid by the phrase.

All through, Harper tried to stay cool, however his bid to seem statesmanlike usually got here off too passive.

Harper — essentially the most skilled debater on the stage — was within the hardest spot, however the unhealthy information for him was that he was weakest when pushed on the financial system, one other signal file which was as soon as his robust go well with is step by step eroding as a powerful card for a authorities searching for one other time period.

For Trudeau, this was an opportunity to point out Canadians he had the gravitas to make this election a real three-way race and he handed, though there was no query he had the benefit of exceedingly low expectations.

If Conservatives had been on the lookout for materials for an assault advert, Trudeau didn’t give it to them and he scored greatest when he went at Harper for lack of management, whether or not it was refusing to satisfy with premiers, his incapability to get sources to market or calling on the provinces to assist him with the Senate “before I appoint again.”

However that doesn’t imply he supplanted Mulcair because the strongest different to Harper, even when the NDP chief began proceedings slowly.

He surprisingly pulled his punches on the atmosphere, retreating into the cocoon of “study” when pushed on pipelines (primarily by Might who was in her candy spot) and didn’t correctly problem Harper on democratic reform. However he hit his stride on international coverage and the anti-terror act, C-51, and was capable of clearly make his factors because the night wore on earlier than stumbling in his closing remarks.

Mulcair was nonetheless introducing himself to many Canadians Thursday night time, and there was nothing within the introduction to provide pause to those that could also be him as a possible prime minister.

The Conservative chief tried to reassure Canadians that each one was positive with the financial system aside from an power sector being battered by issues out of Canadian management.

He rattled off the requisite numbers but it surely received misplaced within the din, and Mulcair might have gotten off the road of the night time when he stated Harper was the one prime minister who, when requested concerning the recession, may reply, “which one?”

However a few of Harper’s greatest moments got here when passivity labored to his benefit when his opponents wrangled with one another, significantly a weird interlude when Trudeau and Mulcair fenced over the NDP’s place that Quebec may separate on a vote of 50 per cent plus one.

Mulcair turned to Trudeau and requested for his quantity, repeatedly badgering him with “What’s your number, Justin? What’s your number?”

Trudeau gave him a quantity — “nine” — as within the variety of Supreme Court docket of Canada justices who sat in judgment of the Readability Act, however as the 2 males slagged one another, Harper merely bided his time earlier than accusing Mulcair of “trying to throw gasoline on a fire that’s not burning.”

Mulcair’s place on the Readability Act is unlikely to change into a poll query in October, but it surely does play to a notion stoked by Trudeau that the NDP is simply too cosy with the waning separatist motion in Quebec.

This debate was distinctive in some ways. It was not televised by the normal broadcasting consortium and viewership numbers for a midsummer occasion in a marketing campaign that had not but taken form can be anticipated to be down.

Those that missed the controversy missed a freewheeling discussion board expertly moderated by Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells.

Harper most likely didn’t push again as laborious as he may. However he didn’t precisely emerge battered and, given his vulnerabilities over nearly a decade, there was a way that given the three-to-one tilt on that stage, the Conservative chief was respiratory pretty simple after this night.
Tim Harper is a nationwide affairs author. His column seems Monday, Wednesday and Friday. tharper@thestar.ca Twitter:@nutgraf1

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    next March 11, 2016

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