How the federal leaders’ debate could impact how Manitobans vote


With just over a week before the federal election, party leaders went head-to-head in the only English-language debate of the 2021 campaign Thursday.

CTV News Winnipeg spoke with pollster Mary Agnes Welch and community organizer Michael Redhead Champagne to gauge their opinions on the debate and potential impacts for Manitobans.

Welsh, a principal with Probe Research and former public policy journalist at the Winnipeg Free Press, says viewers of a political debate format are not looking for big policy discussions.

“It’s not exactly a beauty contest but you kind of have a visceral reaction to somebody watching them in that hot box of a debate set,” said Welsh. “It becomes less of what who said the best policy wonk versus, you know, who attracted your eye, seemed credible, seemed confident and relatable and prime ministerial.”

Michael Redhead Champagne, an award-winning community organizerand public speaker said all of the leaders were able to speak clearly to their followers, but doubted any were able to convince undecided voters.

The best metric for winning a debate is to gain votes, according to Welsh.

She said despite Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau showing a little frustration, he did get some fulsome points across.

“I don’t think Jagmeet Singh was as strong as he had been in past debates. I think he ceded some of that surprise to Annamie Paul, the Green Party leader, who I think in the first-half of the debatewas really strong,” said Welsh.

Champagne agreed, saying he was impressed with the way Paul took Trudeau to task over feminism.

“I appreciated the exchange that happened there, especially cause it’s great to see a black woman as the leader of a federal party and I think it is important to be having that conversation.”

However Champagne was disappointed in the lack of focus on Indigenous issues, especially in light of the unmarked grave discoveries on residential school properties. He said there were many talking points, but little in the way of plans.

“The standout moment was when the 18-year-old young man posing the question around reconciliation and how these leaders are actually going to respond to the needs of Indigenous communities,” said Champagne.

For Manitobans there really isn’t one big election issue, according to Welsh, but a combination of things like post-pandemic recovery, climate change, affordability and other social issues, like long-term care and childcare.

“The issues kind of underpin what elections are really about, which is who do you just instinctively have a bit of faith in to run the country for the next few years and is it time for a new face,” said Welsh.

She said up until the election was called, Canadians were reasonably satisfied with how Justin Trudeau handled the country through the pandemic, but things have started to shift a little bit in the past few days of the campaign towards the Conservative vote.

“Erin O’Toole came off as reasonable, pretty credible, pretty calm, often a little exasperated, but in like a dad-like way,“ said Welsh. “He seems competent and I think that came through in this debate.”

Champagne said there are a lot of unfulfilled promises the party leaders are talking about, but many Manitobans do not believe those promises will be fulfilled.

“As voters actually start to pay attention and start to make tiny little shifts that amount to potentially a riding flipping like in Charleswood, maybe Winnipeg South and maybe a couple of others,” said Welsh.

-With files from CTV’s Katherine Dow and Danton Unger