Justin Trudeau vs. Andrew Scheer Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Liberal Party) will be everyone’s favorite target as the incumbent prime minister. Trudeau, for his part, will focus almost exclusively on Andrew Scheer (Conservative Party) as his main opponent.
Maxime Bernier vs. Andrew Scheer Scheer and Maxime Bernier (People’s Party of Canada) will tussle for right-wing hearts and minds. Jagmeet Singh (New Democratic Party) and Elizabeth May (Green Party) will square off against each other about who’s the best progressive alternative to Trudeau.
What does each candidate need to accomplish during the debate?
Justin Trudeau His top priority will be keeping progressive voters on his side, despite his track record on oil pipelines, blackface and an ongoing corruption scandal. He could raise fears that voting for more left-leaning candidates could allow Scheer and Conservatives to seize the keys to government.
He will also push Scheer on environment, abortion rights, gun control, and marriage equality to cast himself as the more progressive choice of the two leading parties.
Andrew Scheer He will focus on pocketbook issues and on presenting himself as Mr. Clean compared with Trudeau. Scheer will need to appeal to moderate suburban voters not yet convinced of his party’s governing style.
Scheer will also have to figure out how to neutralize Bernier. Scheer defeated Bernier for leadership of the Conservative party in 2017, prompting Bernier to create a splinter party that now polls at 3 percent. Every vote for Bernier is a potential lost vote for Scheer, who can’t afford to lose any votes if he’s to overtake the Liberal Party.
Yves-François Blanchet As leader of Bloc Québécois, he is the debate’s wild card. He has no interest in being prime minister of Canada, and doesn’t even want to be Canadian. His goal is Quebec independence.
His party has one mission: to send MPs to Ottawa and lobby constantly for more powers and more funding for the majority French-speaking province. Expect fireworks, including an effort to read out a list of demands from the premier of Quebec.
Jagmeet Singh He may be the first party leader from a visible minority, but don’t expect him to spend much time on racial issues like Trudeau’s blackface scandal or Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans government employees from wearing religious headwear to work. Singh’s party has suffered in opinion polls this year and he needs to appeal to a broad base to change that momentum.
Elizabeth May She didn’t get an invite to a French-language debate that took place last Wednesday, so this will be her first chance on a national stage to convince voters that a minority government is Canada’s best bet: a fact that would make her Green Party a convenient coalition partner to either the Liberals or Conservatives.
Which audience matters most?
While Quebec’s six million voters have handed victory to a different party in each of the last three federal elections (Bloc Québécois in 2008, NDP in 2011, and Liberals in 2015), many will be waiting to tune into Thursday’s French debate and won’t be watching Monday. That means suburban moderates, particularly in Ontario, are the biggest swing constituency to reach.