10 takeaways from the French-language leaders’ debate

Another debate, another chance for the main party leaders to go mano a mano before voters go to the polls, including the advance polls that open this weekend. It was also the leaders’ last chance in the federal election to be on the same stage and directly distinguish themselves from their rivals.

But it wasn’t just the leaders that voters could judge: the debates themselves — there have been four — were starkly different as well. Here are my observations, a.k.a. 10 Things I Learned Watching the French Language Leaders’ Debate.

1. The French are much better at producing debates. Just as the TVA debate was an improvement on the Maclean’s debate, the French-language debate put on by the Canadian Debate Production Partnership was far more watchable than its English counterpart. There was less screaming and shouting — and when it did break out in the second hour, moderator Patrice Roy mercilessly kept to time and cut off the debaters. Restricting debates to sets of three made sense and allowed the audience to actually hear the leaders. It also discouraged People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier from steamrollering his rivals as he did in the opening segment of the English debate.

2. Bernier is 100 times better in French than English. He took Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to task on the economy, hit back at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, didn’t lose his cool and was lucid and well spoken. He was also the only politician who, in his words, didn’t promise to buy votes with Canadians’ money, even telling a little old widow standing in front of him that he wouldn’t boost her pension until he had balanced the budget. As Andrew Coyne tweeted, he’d be great if he hadn’t drunk the crazy juice on the environment.

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