Debate results aren’t just about the morning after.
What voters end up thinking about who won or lost a debate doesn’t happen in real-time. Most tend to wait for the curated highlights before they settle on the victor.
So, whatever hot-takes you hear about how a leader changed their electoral prospects because of how they performed in the debate — wait a bit. We will know by early next week which leader or leaders met their debate goals.
Canadians still don’t want the election — and they’re not getting over it.
There are less than two weeks to go in the campaign to elect Canada’s 44th Parliament. The Liberals decided to trigger this election when they believed it would be overshadowed by late summer vacations and kids returning to school. This timing was designed as a sprint to a majority leaving their opponents in the dust.
What the Liberals forgot is that Canadians might have a different point of view about the reasoning behind the election. That’s exactly what we are seeing in our polling for Global News. The number of Canadians saying it is inappropriate to have an election during the pandemic has gone up to 68 per cent this week. Usually, when Canadians are unhappy with an election call, they get over it. Not this time. This is unprecedented in my experience.
With the Liberals’ initial campaign strategy in tatters, as we have seen over the last week, Justin Trudeau will come out from behind his teleprompter, scripted answers and sunny ways. His usual relentless message has been replaced by off-the-cuff answers delivered with sincere emotion.
Yes, Trudeau still follows a script — mostly that the Tories are scary — but his delivery has changed dramatically. This is what a leader does when he or she is fighting for their political life. It’s a let “Justin be Justin” moment. This new approach could be just the tonic the Liberal campaign needs to get back on track. Expect it to turn up to 11 for the rest of the campaign.
Liberals are boxed in
The most important voters in this campaign are Liberal-NDP switchers. They are previous Liberal voters who are so turned off by the why and when of this campaign that they have switched their vote to the NDP. They will decide the outcome of this election.
Liberal-NDP switchers are the target of Liberal Party messaging and advertising attacking Erin O’Toole and his Conservatives. Yes, the Liberals would be happy if some Conservatives decide to vote Liberal because of what they see in a Liberal attack ad. But what they are really hoping for is to motivate switchers to come back home. The strategy is simply this: demonize the Tories to marginalize the NDP.
Let’s not forget the NDP in all of this. New Democrats also have a say. There’s an opportunity here for Jagmeet Singh to convince progressive voters that he is the true heir of Jack Layton. That means holding the balance of power in the next Parliament and then grabbing the progressive standard away from the Liberal party in the next election.
He will respond to Liberal attacks on the Tories by agreeing with them. It’s true, the Tories are scary, he will say. But then Singh will pivot to say that Trudeau and the Liberals can’t be trusted to protect Canadians from what the Tories might do if they win.
For ammunition, he’s got six years of what he and other progressives feel are broken promises from the Trudeau government. There’s a chance then that Liberal attacks on the Tories might help the NDP more than the Liberals.
This is the box Grits now find themselves in.
Darrell Bricker is the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs and the author of Next: Where to Live, What to Buy, and Who Will Lead Canada’s Future (Harper Collins, 2020).