"What is the impact of the niqab on the economy? What is the impact of the niqab on climate change? What is the impact of the niqab on the jobless? It is a false debate meant as distraction from the real challenges for Canada." — Green Party Leader Elizabeth May during the French language debate Thursday night.
Yet the niqab was a significant issue for the 5 party leaders in the French language broadcast consortium debate last Thursday. The niqab produced an odd dynamic with Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe agreeing with Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper against wearing a niqab during citizenship ceremonies. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May were on the side of allowing the niqab.
The Bloc Quebecois and Conservative Party have different reasons for their fight on the matter. And not allowing the niqab is a surprising popular view in Quebec as opposed to the rest of Canada. But as May pointed out in the debate, this comes up so rarely that the issue is more of a distraction.
What is also interesting is that the niqab is not likely to come up in an English language debate during the campaign.
The Supreme Court of Canada is going to be the deciding factor in the niqab question. Voting for a party leader based on who they will appoint to the Supreme Court is a significant factor. But even though 8 of the 9 justices have been appointed by the current prime minister, Stephen Harper often loses before this court. If I were to bet, Harper will lose on the niqab before the Supreme Court.
"It's not am I comfortable or not" with women covering their faces, former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien said last week. "Makes no difference at all. It's a question of rights and it will be for the court to decide."
Special thanks to Neil Macdonald for making us aware of the Chretien quote.
If you were able to watch the debates on CBC News Network, you saw in real time other people voice in English what the leaders were saying in French. I would have preferred to hear them speak French and then be able to read what they were saying on the screen. Either way, this gave us anglophones a peek into what the major party leaders were telling French speaking citizens.
Tom Mulcair goes by Thomas Mulcair in Quebec: a intriguing difference. Then again, the NDP becomes the NPD in French.
The debate focused mostly on Quebec since the majority of French speakers live in the province. But the dynamic of the French language debate also extended to New Brunswick, pockets of Ontario, Manitoba, and elsewhere where they are francophone communities.
We got a taste of the 3 major party leaders debating in French during the Munk Debate. Most of the time we got translations. Unfortunately, we often had the same translator talking for more than one party leader, requiring us to make sure we knew who was talking. In the French language debate, each leader had a specific translator.
There were a few points where the translators were not heard so we got the voices of the leaders in French. I could follow some of what they were saying but I still needed the translators.
"I am incredibly proud to be Pierre Elliott Trudeau's son and I'm incredibly lucky to have been raised by those values."
Justin Trudeau took some time to respond to attacks on his father's record. He talked about his father's legacy "first and foremost being the Charter of Rights and Freedoms" to stand up for individual rights, for multiculturalism, and bilingualism, which is saying the same thing in English as you do in French. Trudeau concluded by pointing out the anniversary of his father's death, 15 years to the day, and how he would not want us to fight the battles of the past but focus squarely on the future and responding to Canadians needs.
Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau definitely don't like each other. They do attack Stephen Harper but not in the way they attack each other. They was the last debate in English to go after Harper. If Mulcair agrees to the English language broadcast consortium debate, that would be a great time to debate each other along with Elizabeth May.
If we only had that kind of a discussion over Bill C-51 before the bill was passed. We heard about how the leaders would deal with the United States.
The Keystone XL pipeline discussion was something the U.S. audience really needed to see, and something the U.S. audience can't get in the States.
Let's give credit to these expanded debates: watching Canadian party leaders talk foreign policy for almost 2 hours is a marvelous idea. We learned a lot about the party's positions.
The major drawback is that to learn the Green Party foreign policy positions via Twitter. More debates on different topics, yes. A requirement that all parties with MPs be invited, yes.
I watched the debate on my smartphone streaming the coverage from the Globe and Mail Web site. Other than highly minor glitches at times, the reception was marvelous. Couldn't find this on U.S. television, and it would be nice to go back to some of the points, but those outside Canada could watch if they wanted.
Chantal Hebert on the At Issue panel on "The National" pointed out that watching on the computer was helpful if you didn't understand both languages since TV options didn't give you a translator. Mais oui.
Elections Canada may not have as much power in running the 2015 election, but that has not stopped the group from quietly warning its staff to watch for sophisticated tactics aimed at discouraging — or even stopping — voters from exercising their rights.
Given that Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona was convicted of misdirecting voters in Guelph, ON to the wrong poll locations in 2011, Elections Canada has every reason to be concerned. Diligence also should be high given that MP Dean Del Mastro, former Parliament Secretary under Harper, went to jail for overspending and the coverup in the 2008 campaign.
We have 2 final debates: one in each official language. The TVA debate in French is October 2 while the English language broadcast consortium debate is set for October 8.
We chided the English language debate for running at a very odd hour of 6:30-8 pm. Turns out that the Toronto Blue Jays will play either at 5 pm or 8 pm on October 8. Not that every English language viewer is a Blue Jays fan, but there is enough cross section in the two groups that not having the debate opposite the game is a smart move.
The Blue Jays might play opposite the debate, if there is a debate.
The French language broadcast consortium debate was the only debate with all 5 major party leaders. Harper seems allergic to the English language broadcast consortium debate. We are still waiting to see if the NDP shows up on October 8. Having the Liberals and Green Party debate each other with 2 empty chairs should prove an intriguing if somewhat lacking moment in Canadian political television.
photo credit: Radio-Canada/Broadcast Consortium