Five things to watch for in Monday’s federal leaders’ debate
Monday’s debate between the three federal leaders will include foreign affair issues such as the Syrian migrant crisis, Trans-Pacific trade and ties with Russia.
OTTAWA—The leaders of the three main political parties will be on the same stage tonight to debate foreign affairs. The debate lands as the conflict in Syria, the fight against the so-called Islamic State and a multinational free trade agreement have focused campaign attention on international affairs.
Here are five things to watch for in tonight’s debate:
1. The photo of the lifeless body of Alan Kurdi focused Canadian public interest on the Syrian migrant crisis and the Conservative response. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has cited figures in defence of his government’s response and recent changes to speed up processing of refugee claims. But facts and figures may not be enough. Jonathan Rose, an associate professor in the political studies department at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., wrote earlier this month on his website that “such a powerful image will not be mitigated by logical appeals or statistics.” The public, he wrote, will judge the leaders on their response to the crisis.
2. Voters should pay attention to concrete commitments from the leaders that will give a clearer idea of where they intend to take Canada in the coming years, going beyond the immediate issues of Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says the audience should listen for sustained budget commitments, for example, to the military.
3. Representatives from 12 countries, including Canada, will be in Atlanta this week to try to finalized what’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade pact that could open up doors in Japan, Singapore and Vietnam, among others, to Canadian products. But how much will Canada under a Conservative, NDP or Liberal government relax protections for domestic industries in exchange for more access overseas?
4. Mulcair and Trudeau have been trying to look like they are ready to lead the country, but they also have to look like they can represent Canada on the world stage. Will voters be able to picture them sitting next to President Barack Obama (or a President Donald Trump, perhaps?) at a foreign leaders’ meeting, or dealing with Russian leader Vladimir Putin? Tonight is another chance for Harper’s challengers to look like statesmen.
5. Obama also dealt what could be a wild card in tonight’s debate when he told the United Nations on Monday he was willing to work with Iran and Russia to end the conflict in Syria and defeat the so-called Islamic State. The Conservatives have taken a hard line against working with Russia over its involvement in Ukraine. Robertson says Obama’s olive branch may force Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau to reconsider how they would deal with Russia after Oct. 19, be it in Syria or the Arctic.