August 6, 2015 11:32 pm
Updated: August 7, 2015 8:17 am

4 highlights from the first federal leaders debate

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WATCH ABOVE: The four party leaders squared off on topics ranging from the economy to national unity in the first debate. Eric Sorensen reports. .

Still getting caught up on Thursday’s two-hour verbal joust between four party leaders vying to become Prime Minister?

Here are the highlights:

So, are we in a recession?

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You say “recession,” I say “the contraction is almost exclusively in the energy sector.”

But even Stephen Harper conceded that economists agree Canada’s economy is in a recession, even as he argued most of the economic shrinkage is restricted to Canada’s recently beleaguered energy industry.

Mulcair jumped on that admission.

“Stephen Harper is the only prime minister in Canadian history that, when asked about the recession during his mandate, gets to say ‘Which one?’”

Maybe a bit naïve?

Justin Trudeau has been criticized heavily for his support of Harper’s anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51. The bill faces a Charter challenge.

He defended his decision to vote in favour of the bill during Thursday’s debate, saying parts of it “immediately and concretely protect Canadian society” and he’s committed to “repealing the problematic elements.”

But, he added, it was perhaps “naïve” to support the bill and suggest changes “at a time of politics of attack and division.”

WATCH: The economy, environment and the budget were some of the main talking points.

Sober second Senate thoughts

Harper’s opponents accused him of breaking his promise not to appoint unelected senators, by appointing 59 of them.

Harper argued he only appointed senators when he absolutely had to, and now he never would again – effectively allowing the scandal-ridden Upper Chamber to atrophy until provinces play ball with him on reform.

(Scholars have argued both Harper and Mulcair’s proposals for the Senate’s starvation or abolition are unconstitutional.)

The Conservative leader was also put on the defensive when it comes to the senators he appointed – most notably Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau.

“First of all, I certainly did not name all of the senators that are in trouble,” he said.

“The senate has been an institution that has had these kind of problems for 150 years.”

What’s your number?

You know it’s a quintessentially Canadian debate when someone brings up the constitutional underpinnings of secession.

The Clarity Act became a topic of heated discussion when Trudeau accused Mulcair of pandering to Quebec separatists by advocating a simple majority in any future referendum.

Mulcair shot back by repeatedly saying “what’s your number?” asking Trudeau to name the specific size of majority he’d need to allow Quebec to separate.

“You want a number, Mr. Mulcair? I’ll give you a number. My number is nine,” Trudeau shot back.

“Nine Supreme Court justices said one vote is not enough to break up this country. Yet that is Mr. Mulcair’s position. He wants to be prime minister of this country and he’s choosing to side with the separatist movement in Quebec and not with the Supreme Court of Canada.”

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