Nine candidates are leadership hopefuls, hoping to win the party members vote to rebuild the party and challenge the conservative party during the next election. The Liberal party has been moved into third party status, with the New Democratic Party's (NDP) success during the last federal election. During the first two debates, which were more like a love in among candidates, issues and their specifics were seldom discussed. The debates were more akin to conservative bashing. Three of the nine candidates are considered front runners, with Justin Trudeau appearing to be ahead of Marc Garneau and Martha Hall Findlay.
Today's debate, which will be broadcast live on CBC News Network or streamed on CBCNews.ca,
promises to be more combative.
Recent polls have been all over the place, with the liberal party either drawing even with the opposition NDP or making no gains at all. The conservative party has remained steady throughout, garnering between 30-33 per cent support.
The reason the liberal party has not been able to turn the page could be for several reasons. First and foremost it may be the fact that outside the liberal party there has been little interest without the background of an election campaign. Another reason could be that viewers turned off the debate since no real issues were discussed and candidates showered each other with compliments.
The page seems to have turned on the compliments. Marc Garneau, a former astronaut, military pilot and chief of the Canadian space agency has criticized Justin Trudeau during a carefully orchestrated news conference earlier this week. Arguing that the liberal party
would be repeating the mistakes of the past, by crowning a leader without challenging him on policy matters.
“We have to know what we’re voting for, not just who we’re voting for,” Mr. Garneau said in his first set of pointed attacks against Mr. Trudeau. “This is the same as asking Canadians to buy a new car without test-driving it.”
Garneau acknowledged that Trudeau was the obvious front runner, but took issue with the notion that the former prime minister's son had bold ideas without being prepared to elaborate on them. Martha Hall Findlay, another forerunner agreed with Garneau, stating that Canadians are crying out for substance.
Trudeau has stated his position on some issues
, including that he is for the legalization of marijuana, against the Northern Gateway pipeline and against the conservative pension reform that would raise the eligibility for the Canada Pension Plan (similar to Social Security) from 65-67. This is only applicable to those under 55 in 2012. Trudeau would not raise the current 5 per cent rate of the Goods and Services tax (GST).
On the environment Trudeau has been somewhat fuzzy. While he is for placing a price on carbon emissions, he has not stated if he would actually introduce a carbon tax.
In the absence of real substance on any of the issues that seem to occupy Canadians, the candidates have an obligation to inform Canadians were they stand on the environment. Firstly where do they stand on oilsands development, the construction of pipelines in the approval process now, the reversal of a pipeline that would deliver oil to New Brunswick, native issues raised recently by the "Idle no more" movement and a carbon tax. Transportation and the crumbling infrastructure and health care are also important issues.
Funding is often absent from many of the platforms put forth by candidates. Canadians need to know how these proposals will impact their pocket book. At the least they should be expected to lay out a funding formula for their grandiose ideas.
While this debate may be more combative, whether or not it raises the important issues coupled with a funding plan remains to be seen. What is considered a priority by Canadians often crumbles when pocket books are affected.
The liberal party also needs to convince Canadians that they are different from the NDP by outlining a clear delineation from NDP policies.