Over the past three days there have been interviews with each of the main party leaders. I wanted to watch all three interviews before making an analysis so as to give a fair comparison. The first interview was with PM Harper, followed the next day with Justin Trudeau and finally Tom Mulcair. I think these were all very telling interviews and showed a lot of where the leaders are strong and where they are weak, and should give Canadians a good idea of the kind of people each of them are.
Harper's interview was very standoffish. He was quite defensive about his record, and when asked about what he would do on many issues, he seemed unwilling to admit any kind of failure or the need to do things differently. I think the part that will hurt him most was his answers to the questions about the Senate scandal and who he holds responsible. When asked about why more people involved haven't been fired, he was particularly belligerent in his answer to Mansbridge, bringing up disgraced CBC personalities as a comparison, which was just odd, and somewhat inappropriate. When listening to Harper, you can tell that he sees himself as a victim of some kind of smear campaign, and that everyone is against him. The truth is that he has never been particularly well liked by Canadians or even trusted, and this distrust between him and the Canadian people is what seems to drive most of his decisions.He thinks he has to keep his agenda from us, even on simple matters, because he fears backlash. What is clear to me after watching this interview is that this is a man who is finished. He had nothing new to offer to Canadians. Most of his answers were straight from his talking points that he has been saying since the campaign began, and he doesn't appear to believe that changing circumstances should have any impact on policy, particularly in terms of the immigrant crisis. Yet strangely, he seems more jovial and more scrappy than he did at the beginning of the campaign. Maybe knowing that he is likely to lose is firing him up somehow.
Justin Trudeau's interview was a mixed bag. At times he was quite strong, and answered the questions well, particularly on the issue of PMO power. Where he fumbled some was in discussing the refugee crisis, and what he wants to do right away when he comes to office. Trudeau is the kind of person who you can tell what he's getting at but sometimes he just fails to articulate what he wants to say in the best way. But from that you get the sense that he is genuine, and not so comfortable being tightly bound to a script, but the problem comes when he is off script and simply has no answer. I think his position on coalitions is understandable and he made it clear that he will be cooperative in an effort to be rid of Harper, although he left out the possibility of a formal coalition. His understanding of convention was there, although he flopped about a bit before getting there. I do think though that he got across his plan fairly well and came away relatively unscathed, and because he is probably the best campaigner on the hustings of the three leaders, the tiny lead we are seeing develop for his party could well grow. He has the most practical plan and Canadians see that when he talks about it. What is apparent from the interview though is that it is a good thing that Trudeau is a self-professed collaborative leader, because on his own he can come up a bit short.
Tom Mulcair's interview was the strongest. He was clear with his answers to every question, and even if you didn't like his answers, he had them. He is confident and is a very good at articulating his party's platform. Where I think people are going to think him strongest is in his own personal strength when compared to Trudeau. No doubt that Tom Mulcair would be a competent and capable Prime Minister. Where he lacks sometimes is in his policies. The Senate issue particularly will be his weakness. He basically admitted in the interview that if he takes office he will have to rely on the good will of the Senate to get bills passed, and that might worry some Canadians who are considering the NDP instead of the Liberals. I think this issue of the Senate, his position on the Clarity Act, as well as his position on deficits may hurt him. I am not sure Canadians are going to believe, no matter how strongly he says it, that the NDP are not going to run a deficit next year if they want to introduce many new programs. He needs to worry about looking like he is Santa Claus with gifts for all, because the public just won't believe that these things are all possible. He did come away the best of the three leaders, and was the most comfortable talking about the issues. I would not be surprised if we see an uptick for the NDP after this interview.
Overall the interviews were very telling, and I think in many ways they have confirmed the things that are already known about each of the leaders. Harper is tired and his plan to keep doing the same things he's been doing for 10 years is not connecting and this interview won't change that. Trudeau is big on vision but weak on details, and needs to work in a team to reign his ideas in. Mulcair will probably not be able to shake the impression that he is offering more than he can deliver. Nobody crumbled, and at the end of the day these interviews probably won't have as much of an impact as the debate on the 17th.