, 10.03.2019 06:51 AM

Who won and lost the French-language debate

Who won? The separatist guy, Yves-Francois Blanchet. He was calm, he was cool and he was collected. He totally dominated.

Who lost? Justin Trudeau. He needed to remind everyone that that hopey-changey guy from 2015 is still around. He didn’t, because he isn’t.  (And he was clobbered on one key point.  More on that in a minute.)

Who won a silver? Jagmeet Singh. His French was better than expected, and he played the class-warfare card expertly.

Who barely won a French-language bronze – but seized an English-language gold? Andrew Scheer, with a caveat, which is also discussed below. Because, while he may not have won the French debate in French Canada – his equivocation on abortion was pretty bad – Scheer definitely won a French-language debate in English Canada.  (I will explain.)

Anyway. Here’s my caveat about Scheer, who as I say won the debate outside Quebec, partly because no one watched it outside Quebec.

In a leaders’ debate, you need to make certain that your story that dominates. Here’s why: no matter how nice your opponent looks — no matter how articulate, no matter how charming — he or she can’t win if your message is the dominant theme of the night.

Like Andrew Scheer’s attack on Justin Trudeau’s two campaign planes. Because it (a) exposed Trudeau to be a hypocrite (b) it made him look vain (because he uses the second plane for his “canoes and costumes,” as Scheer quipped) and (c) it was the dominant theme in all the subsequent coverage in English Canada, and the Tories had graphics and ads ready to go to ensure that it dominated.  It reminded me of what Jack Layton did to Michael Ignatieff in another debate, with devastating results.

Televised leaders’ debates show us all why having the dominant narrative is so crucial. TV debates give candidates a chance to stress basic campaign themes, and in front of what is usually the biggest audience of the campaign. They also let candidates depict their opponents’ campaign message in an unflattering way. But contrary to what some media pundits claim, debates are not about defining moments.

Debates are about ratifying your side’s issues — and the issues in the campaign — and looking good at the same time. They’re not about defeating the opposition’s claims, proving something, or answering reporters’ questions, either. They’re about getting your story — your spin, your message — heard by as many people as possible. Full stop.

Now, keep in mind that last night’s debate is not going to change voters’ minds about the key issues. Most of them have their minds made up by now. But in a tight race, like this one, debates can make a huge difference.

The most successful presidential and prime ministerial performers enter debates with a single clear message they wish to get across — and they use questions and interruptions to return to, or highlight, their single key message. As Dick Morris told me once, a simple way to measure success is to count the number of debate minutes devoted to your key messages (eg. for a progressive, health or the environment) and not the opposition’s (eg. for a conservative, tax cuts or “getting tough on crime”). You win when your story has taken up the greatest number of minutes. Before they head off to bed, you want the people who tuned in to conclude that your guy or gal is humble, energetic, trustworthy, passionate, positive — and that he or she is “fighting for me.”

Losing, on the other hand, is easy. If a liberal guy or gal performs well on an issue like “getting tough on crime,” and the other side doesn’t, it doesn’t matter that the liberal did a fabulous job presenting his or her case and sounded like the best debater in the history of planet Earth. The “getting tough on crime” issue is their issue. The other side will always sound more credible when the subject matter is their issue.

Anyway: facts tell, stories sell. And when you’ve got a winning story, stick to it. Don’t talk about the other guy’s story.

The plane thing is a winning story. It hurt Trudeau, big time.


  1. John says:

    That smug look on Trudeau all during the debate speaks volumes for me. He looked and acted like other people’s opinions are below him. I didn’t get the impression that real concerns of Canadians were discussed. Although the NDP leader explained his usual mantra that everything should be free. The whole abortion and gay rights rants were pure politics. Those issues were settled by the courts and parliament years ago. And Trudeau’s rants about Nazis, Harper, Ford, and Kenney are getting really tiresome.

  2. Fergus Nicoll says:

    Really you think the prime minister using a plane is a worthy attack? Or a childish lie about costumes gets a gold? I mean probably to those that are already conservative, they believe anything they are told.

    • Joseph Taylor says:

      You misunderstand what his point is. Conservatives almost unanimously despise Trudeau so this plane thing is not going to move the dial much for them. People who are already fair weather supporters of Trudeau and care about environmental issues (a large part of his previous electoral coalition) may just be demotivated enough to either vote for another party or stay home. If you have been following polling the Liberals support is surprisingly resilient but it is under girded by a significant segment of flighty voters who aren’t terribly committed to the Liberals or even voting at all.

      • TJ says:

        I can’t see anyone being “demotivated to vote for another party or stay home” with the risk of Scheer as PM.

        • Chad Falkenberg says:

          And this sustained sentiment is what gets me. The risk of Scheer as PM? Why? Because he holds the exact same position on abortion as all the other leaders? Because he will do the exact same amount for the environment as Justin Trudeau? How is Justin continuing to govern as King Canada not scarier for the future of our country than happy go lucky Andrew Scheer? The current Liberal government has been more scandalous over the last 4 years than the previous conservative government had been the previous 10. Our country is FAR more polarized than it was 4 years ago. The BQ had almost dissapeared under the conservatives but seem to be making a huge comeback under Trudeau.

          • “Because he will do the exact same amount for the environment as Justin Trudeau?”

            No he won’t. While Trudeau may fail to meet Canada’s inadequate emission goals, there is every reason to believe Scheer will fail by a far greater margin. Based on his promises so far, emissions will go up.

            There will also have to be large cuts to meet Scheer’s goal of cutting the deficit.

          • Vancouverois says:

            There are going to have to be large cuts eventually; and the longer we take to get a handle on the country’s runaway debt, the bigger those cuts will be.

            It’s inevitable, and those who pretend we can continue running up the national debt without consequences are being foolish. Debt that will lead to the gutting of all social programs. Politicians like Trudeau merely pretend to be supporting our social safety net, while actually undercutting it.

          • The Federal government’s debt to GDP ratio is low and will remain low under the Liberal platform. Interest rates are incredibly low.

            Those terrible consequences to running up the debt the right claims will happen (and forget about when they are in power) almost never occur, especially for countries that have thier own currency.

        • Harry Belafonte says:

          I know a few hardcore libs that cannot stomach voting for JT, even if that means Scheer becoming PM.

          Many now understand that the lib party is being run by activists and that’s not what most people want.

    • Joe says:

      Furgus. Using a plane is not the issue. Two planes? Really?

      It’s the old “I am entitled to my entitlements” act all over again.

      Let’s look at Trudeau’s actions not words (cause he lies a lot).
      – He gets a vacation home at tax payer expense. Yet he insists on vacationing all over the planet at tax payer expense.
      – At said vacation home Trudeau bought eight new boats/canoes, and charged them to the tax payer.
      – and now two planes? Admittedly not at direct tax payer expense, but it goes to the sense of entitlement of this spoiled child, and a morally bankrupt Liberal party that won’t reign in Justin’s excesses.

  3. Joe says:

    Two planes? Re-elect Justin and he’ll buy one plane. An Airbus A380.

    So he can fly…Justin style!

    • Liz says:

      He said that he needed 2 planes to cover more ground to meet with Canadians. Last time I looked, we only have one PM. Does, he have an identical twin that we don’t know about. Totally illogical. You media people need to do your job and find out what that other plane is for

  4. Douglas W says:

    It’s the wood shed for Justin if the Conservatives can ensure this story has oxygen until the end of the campaign.

  5. the real Sean says:

    I’m seeing that DOFO is cancelling cuts today. There can be no doubt that a Federal Election calculation played a role. Ontario Conservatives cancelling cuts to help elect AS. This entire campaign is indeed a trip to crazy town.

  6. If I was a Liberal strategist, I would try to spin the plane thing as part of my PM security detail narrative. It would be nice for them if it was standard operating RCMP security procedure but unless they can pull that rabbit credibly out of the hat, it’s a devastating blow.

  7. Sharon Deason says:

    Indeed, High-Carbon Hypocrite was the theme running through my mind as the day ended. But not only because Trudeau was, once again, made to look hypocritical and vain, but because of the subsequent awakening over this thing called CARBON OFFSETS. Blame can be assigned to CBC twitterers who leapt to the defence of Trudeau and in doing so got a lot of us looking at the fine print. I got to wondering what this carbon offset/credit thing really was–if it was a thing at all–and I started to dig. I read and I watched (videos). And I fell to sleep more revolted than ever, convinced that carbon offsets are the biggest scam since the church sold indulgences. So Scheer got way more than a few chuckles. He got us thinking. BTW, the best information I got was from an MIT PhD who does a great white-board explanation of who profits by the Climate Change Hoax. https://mobile.twitter.com/va_shiva/status/1176506786414825473

    • Collin says:

      Thanks for your input and info regarding Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva_Ayyadurai ).

    • Not Justy Please says:

      Sharon, the offsets are the creation of wealthy Hollywood types who want their private jets AND feel good about it. Little wonder Justy has jumped aboard. He is the way I see it. Plants differentially consume CO2 and emit O2 while photosynthesizing, however the process reverses when a plant dies. Unless that ‘captured carbon’ is preserved – say as a coffee table – it will be degraded by fungi and bacteria – which will emit CO2 as a by-product.

      All of this assumes the trees are ever planted in the first place. I am sure a few of the lads in Africa and Central America have grabbed the money and run. So, Gore, DeCaprio and our own climate criminal – Justy – feel good jetting on private planes while throwing a few nickels to Africans to plant trees.

  8. Dawn Mills says:

    I read your words Warren, and have no doubt you are correct. I guess I am a bit of a dreamer as I have always thought debates were events where ideas were discussed, discarded or embraced. Your narrative, Warren, makes me want to take a shower and escape from this world of advertising, logos, brands and other shallow inch-deep slogans that dominate our political landscape.
    I find it insulting that the best this country can come up with is a pissing match about the number of planes the PM uses. I have no use for Mr Dress Up but this story is lame. It is all gotcha journalism and the inept media laps it all up. Andrew Scheer seems like an empty suit to me, Singh is out of his depth but at least believes what he says. May? who cares…however her party could well surprise.

    When do the grown ups really begin discussing the huge budget deficit? How to pay for re-arming our armed forces? Dealing with the obscene number of homeless in our big cities? Does anyone have a vision for energy development in this country for the next 20, 30 , 40 years? More windmills and solar panels ain’t gonna cut it…not in this climate. There are lots of smart people in Alberta and the market for the oilsands is going to get smaller unless they can figure out how to deal with emissions. Any ideas? I’d love to hear them, but blackface pics and old abortion stories are all that tickle my ears.
    Enough. Please excuse the rant.

    • Fred J Pertanson says:

      Well, Dawn, you are entitled to your rant.

      The pissing match about the number of plance the PM uses is hardly the main issue. It is just icing on the cake. Consider:

      China, Norman, SNC Lavalin, open border, Bombardier, banning handguns and assault rifles to combat Toronto gang/gun crime. Aga Khan Foundation. Butts, Wernick, Omar Khadr, Hillary Cliton Foudation, India, Pipelines, Venezuela, Carbon Tax, Irving Shipyards, Jody Wilson-Raybould, “peoplekind”, Canada has no ‘core identity’, She experienced it differently, “What villa in France?”, , $594 million MSM payoff , adds another $500 million to CBC’s annual budget as soon as he is elected snubs Tori Stafford’s dad Rodney, but welcomed alleged wife abuser and self described “hostage” Joshua Boyle to his office; first Canadian PM guilty of not one, but two ethics violations, Bill M-103 and Islamophobia, Maryam Monsef who lied on her immigration papers about her birthplace, “How does 50 million sound? Let’s do it!”

      These are but a small fraction of the idiocies foisted upon us – even before they announced their platform. Now he promises another $100 billion in borrowing, not to mention camping trips for all teh poor people.

      Now go read Scheer’s promises – balanced budget year 5, Facilitating global solutions to climate change via innovation / research. Controlling Roxham Road. etc. etc.


    • Liz says:

      You are right! You are a dreamer

  9. Joseph Taylor says:

    Warren, why do you think this is a story that hurts him big time? The guy still has an uncanny ability for people to project their own ideals on him instead of judging him based on what he actually says and does.

    • Joseph,

      What’s working the most against Trudeau is the Do As I Say, Not As I Do narrative. That’s hurting the Liberals big-time as it’s been ever steadily sinking into committed voters’ minds.

  10. Fred from BC says:

    One typo:

    Like Andrew Scheer’s attack (one) Justin Trudeau’s two campaign planes.

  11. Nick M. says:

    From what I am reading, the second plane is a 737-200. 737 is on its 4th generation, the 200 is of the original generation.

    It’s a fuel guzzler, the design is 45 years old. It’s very noisy, and has no turbo fans. Sounds like a fighter plane when taking off.

    This plane is still used by companies flying charter to remote locations like the Yukon and such. It probably is illegal to fly at some of the airports in Canada because of the noise it makes.

  12. Jeff says:

    Excellent analysis! Thank you!!

  13. Leo Fleming says:

    Abortion is not going to sway voters. People who love abortion generally don’t vote Conservative. And after Harper did nothing and ran from the issue at every opportunity, nobody actually thinks that Scheer is going to do anything either. The more Trudeau talks about abortion, the more I assume his internal numbers are tanking. It reminds me of Paul Martin huffing and puffing about Harper outlawing abortions in the final days of his 2006 campaign. It was sort of demeaning to see him go on like that.

    • The Doctor says:

      Actually, stupid people think Scheer is going to do something on abortion. And the Liberals (and Dippers and Greens) obviously think that there are a lot of stupid people in Canada. Because they keep bringing this abortion thing up constantly.

      • Steve T says:

        Bingo. I know pro-life people who say they vote Conservative because of this issue. I keep wondering why?? There isn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades that anti-abortion legislation will be enacted in this country, by any party. And the Conservative leaders are telling you that, to your face. There isn’t any secret handshake or private meeting in which another story is being told. I know, as I have been on the Conservative electoral district association board in my area for many years. Yet the myth persists in the mind of pro-lifers.

        • The Doctor says:

          True story: a few years back during a federal election campaign, at a party a Liberal friend of mine was beaking off about how Harper was going to criminalize abortion etc. A Conservative friend of mine immediately challenged my Liberal friend to a bet: I bet you $10,000 that Harper will not touch abortion. After much hemming and hawing, my Liberal friend refused to take the bet. That to me says it all.

          I now do the same thing whenever anyone claims the CPC is going to criminalize abortion. They never accept the bet.

          • Fred from BC says:

            “I now do the same thing whenever anyone claims the CPC is going to criminalize abortion. They never accept the bet.”

            That one’s too good not to steal, Doc…sorry…

    • Joseph Taylor says:

      The old hidden agenda scare tactic. Hell it didn’t work in 2006, 2008 or 2011 but maybe the fourth time is a charm with that campaign strategy.

  14. Doron Berger says:

    And now the Liberals are calling the plane thing a “far right tactic.” Laughable.

  15. Find me any strategist who in her or his gut does not already believe that the Liberals have lost this and I’ll drop dead in astonishment. This thing is over — unless Scheer blows the English-language debate.

    But he should come clean about his personal Catholic -based theological position against abortion. However, he has to do it while AT THE SAME TIME pointing out that Trudeau also is/was personally against abortion until at least 2011.

    Maybe Trudeau is personally pro-abortion now but how is that different from Scheer practically swearing on the bible that he won’t touch the issue with a ten-foot pole, if elected? Surely, voters can take all the leaders at their word on this most sensitive issue? Why the double-standard affecting only Scheer?

    • Fred J Pertanson says:

      He finally did, last night.

      “I am personally pro-life but I’ve also made the commitment that as leader of this party, it is my responsibility to ensure that we do not reopen this debate: that we focus on issues that unite our party and unite Canadians, and that’s exactly what I’ll do and why I’ll vote against measures that attempt to reopen this debate.”

      • Vancouverois says:

        I haven’t seen him point out Trudeau’s hypocrisy on this issue yet, though.

      • Terence says:

        But the rest of his caucus will vote for it. We don’t elect PMs we elect parliaments…and the Conservative party is not aligned with 70% of Canadians. The only people in Canada who get to vote for Trudeau live in Papeneau. And I will vote any way I have to so that the misguided policies of the Conservative party are never rammed down our throats. For me that means voting for my local Liberal candidate, not Trudeau.

        • Terence,

          That’s why this is a democracy still. You will move heaven and earth to prevent one guy from getting in and I will do the same to get another guy out, just as I did in 2015. Will I be 2 for 2? We’ll see soon enough.

        • Fred from BC says:

          “We don’t elect PMs we elect parliaments…and the Conservative party is not aligned with 70% of Canadians.”

          Neither is the Liberal Party, then, since they always get a similar percentage of the vote. The last Canadian Prime Minister to actually win the popular vote (over 50%) was Brian Mulroney.

  16. Harry Belafonte says:

    Personally I think the Scheer campaign has been on point almost the whole time. Two Plane Trudeau is going to stick, and the timing was impeccable. It can even be boiled down to emojis easily. Marketers dream.

    One mistake was them sending the blackface video to the news media too soon. They should have waited a few days, as it ended up being lumped in with the so called brownface. I think that was a big error. But I’m hoping that just before the english debate the racist nickname comes out. Also would be interesting if the media was able to find someone to talk about what a creep JT is. Or whats up with Melanie Joly.

    And finally, no matter what happens now, this election has truly been a joy. Seeing this smug, entitled, narcissist be shown for what he truly is can never be taken away. Now not only can they not call everyone else racists, which they loved to do, but they can’t talk about the environment either. An old gas guzzling massive jet, I mean you can’t even make that up. Thank you JT. You’ve set back the woke movement a decade in this country and I love it.

    • Terence says:

      I think “Andy the American” will stick harder. And if you don’t want to be a con hypocrite you won’t say anything about how you questioned Dion and Mulcair. Canadians don’t mind the French. An American Republican PM? Good luck with that.

      • Terence,

        This is too little, too late. Amazed you can’t see that…

        What’s next? Scheer a “member” in good standing of both Masonry and Opus Dei???

      • Pedant says:

        Canadians of sound mind don’t “mind” Americans either, and anyone whose brain has been warped by silly anti-American propaganda was never going to vote Conservative anyway.

        • Fred from BC says:

          “Canadians of sound mind don’t “mind” Americans either”

          For sure. We’re not all so keen on the French, though, especially when they encourage the separatists in Quebec.

  17. Bill says:

    “You Sir had a choice”

    Trudeau had a choice to fly his entourage complete with luggage etc in one plane – just like the other leaders! Trudeau and Butts decided that was not good enough for Trudeau’s ego tour of Canada. He travels like a Rock Star with flashing lights, banners and his now indispensable costume changes. Hypocritical Trudeau suggests he pays carbon offsets – big deal I say. If you want to save the planet, just don’t do it, Sir!

    “You Sir had a Choice”


  18. Derek Pearce says:

    Lol love it good one on Scheer’s part. However, voters are savvy and will still likely take a fake environmentalist over a what they see as an anti-environmentalist. My prediction is still a Lib minority. Enough people will be spooked by the thought of a Con govt to roll their eyes and disgustedly vote Lib anyway. How inspiring!

  19. Dave Fuller says:

    London West campaign getting desperate. Now Kate Young (L) mentions being your trusted TV news reader back in the day on her new radio spot. That’s why small town celebs get crushed in a swing election. After 4 years being a bobble-head behind Trudeau , voters want a refund.

  20. Rick says:

    this commercial needs to be created…..” baggage being loaded onto a plane, each bag shows a Trudeau Scandal. tag line ” with this much baggage, no wonder Trudeau and the Liberals needs 2 planes!”

  21. Susan Wilson says:

    Justin Trudeau, said during a CBC interview on November 3 2011 that ” he is personally very opposed to abortion, but still believes nobody can tell a woman what she should do with her body.” Same as Andrew Sheer.

    • Pedant says:

      I don’t understand why NOBODY is bringing this up! Nobody in the Conservative party. Nobody in the media, not even the Sun or the Post, has yet mentioned this. Are they all simply unaware? Is there a strategic reason that the Tories don’t want to neutrealize this issue by bringing up Trudeau’s very words only 8 years ago?

      I feel like shaking the entire country and yelling “Earth to Canada! Trudeau has the EXACT same position on abortion as Scheer!”.

      • Fred from BC says:

        “I feel like shaking the entire country and yelling “Earth to Canada! Trudeau has the EXACT same position on abortion as Scheer!”.”

        The problem seems to be that they just can’t bully him into saying his views have “evolved”. They really, REALLY want Andrew Scheer to use that word as if it has some kind of magical power or something.

  22. Philip Hauser says:

    It is simple, you brag about your environmental record and you are made to look a fool. (You brag about racial harmony and are made to look like a fool, you brag about feminism and are made to look like a fool. )

    Scheer hit a moment on the planes – that is all Warren is saying he took an issue the Libs like to think they own and made them look miserably hypocritical.

    If this had been during the English language debate it would be a huge game changer. Time will tell how it sticks.

    Bottom line Trudeau failed whereas times when Harper was beaten up in debates he didn’t fail he just took shots.

    Don’t know how many more failures need be exploited before the cant trust him factor goes off the dial

  23. Deborah says:

    All I have to say is Touche’ Andrew Scheer and I for one don’t believe you have to say how you actually feel about abortion if you absolutely have no intentions of rehashing it in parliament

  24. Fred J Pertanson says:

    Any of you remember the old Monty Python skit Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson?

    Now we have our own Python skit in the making. Justin ‘Two Jets” Trudeau. Something about costumes, toys, and lots and lots of baggage.

    Cleese, where are you when we need you?


  25. Mark says:

    Thomas Mulcair says Trudeau won the debate because he wasn’t knocked out.

  26. Terence says:

    I think “Andy the American” will stick harder. And if you don’t want to be a con hypocrite you won’t say anything about how you questioned Dion and Mulcair. Canadians don’t mind the French. An American Republican PM? Good luck with that.

    • Not Justy Please says:

      2nd time you posted the same message tonight. Try again….third time is a charm.

      The 2 jets Justin was devastating. Hope to see it again in English. Maybe bring a few model AC jets out on the floor as ‘gifts’ to Justin at the outset.

  27. Gilbert says:

    Andrew Scheer’s French isn’t perfect, but he did fine. I loved the comment about Justin Trudeau’s two planes- costumes and camping gear. That was great. I thought Andrew Scheer had another great line. When the PM again mentioned Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader said Canadians are getting bored of hearing that and added, “You won in 2015. Bravo. It’s now 2019. Check your calendar.”

  28. Fred from BC says:

    Did the leader of the Bloc *really* urge Quebecers to “choose men and women who look like you” in his closing statement?
    And no one noticed?

    (or did this not really happen?)

  29. Christoph Dollis says:

    The plane thing is a winning story. It hurt Trudeau, big time.

    It’s also, as I’m sure didn’t go unnoticed by you or your readers, very similar to Justin Trudeau’s hypocrisy on treating other races with respect.

  30. Pedant says:

    Warren, why don’t any of the “geniuses” in the Conservative war room remind Scheer that Trudeau himself stated he was “personally opposed to abortion” 8 years ago? Wouldn’t that defuse the issue almost immediately? Or would engaging in whataboutery about Trudeau’s own position just make Scheer look even more evasive?

    • Pedant,

      I suspect there’s considerable daylight between his 2011 position and today. But I don’t plan on going in search of said daylight. Life’s too short, etc.

      • Pedant says:

        Is there though? Has even stated his personal views on abortion since 2011? My point is, why is nobody in the media asking Trudeau if he is still personally opposed to abortion, as he claimed to be a mere 8 years ago?

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