The winner of last night’s Liberal party leadership debate was MP Justin Trudeau. Anyway, that’s the way I saw it. Trudeau entered the Mississauga debate as the front-runner, took on all eight rivals and emerged as the winner—and gave former MP Martha Hall Finlay a severe verbal mauling in the process.
Hall Finlay seemed to be trying to make some spurious point about Canada not being a class society. This in response to several mentions of Canada’s middle class.
Don’t most of us, however, know what we mean by middle class in the context of these political discussions? Her rivals weren’t referring to “middle class” as it might be meant in a country like the United Kingdom with its privileged aristocracy. Rather, I—and I think most of the audience—took the reference as meaning “middle income,” and Canada certainly has a substantial number of these.
But Hall Finlay was determined to paint Trudeau as out-of-touch with ordinary Canadians, and being too privileged to understand middle-class issues.
Follow this exchange:
You yourself have admitted that you do not belong to the middle class. I find it a little challenging to understand how you would understand the challenges facing middle Canadians,” Hall Findlay said.
“What is important for me is to put everything that I’ve received—like each of us wants to—in service of my community,” Trudeau retorted to much cheering in the audience.
Hall Finlay, like a rookie, dropped her guard, stock her chin out and Justin Trudeau swung. A knockout? Maybe not quite, but at least a strong, staggering blow. About 20 seconds of her life Martha Hall Finlay would like to have back, I think.
MP Marc Garneau—probably in second place currently—also took on Trudeau directly, challenging him to match résumés. The former astronaut, retired military officer and engineer, former president of the Canadian Space Agency and the former Chancellor of Carleton University in Ottawa, Garneau asked Trudeau, “What is it in your résumé that qualifies you to be the future prime minister of Canada?” Ouch!
Trudeau’s easy manner and obvious charm got him through the moment, though, and his quick response seemed to resonate well with the audience. He shot back at Garneau, “You can’t lead from a podium and a press conference, you can’t win over Canadians with a five-point plan. You have to connect with them.”
So Garneau really never laid a glove on his younger rival and did little to support himself with what—I thought—was a lack lustre performance and a missed opportunity.
I must add this.
In the middle of the debate, Justin Trudeau made a gratuitous remark about First Nations not being immigrants. No one had said they were, by the way, so the remark was unnecessary and, at least from my point of view, not factual.
I have relatives through marriage whose ancestors arrived in what is now Canada before the ancestors of many of the First Nations living in my part of Ontario. The British government resettled these First Nations people in Canada and provided them with compensation for properties they had lost in the United States following the American revolution. Just saying.
The rest of the debate was inconsequential, but with a few entertaining moments such as George Takach getting booed for taking a shot at Joyce Murray’s tree-planting, and Takach’s questioning of Garneau’s math, at which point Mr. Trudeau spontaneously throws an arm round Garneau’s shoulder as if to suggest he’s protecting him. Best moment of the night, and it belonged to Justin Trudeau.