Debate Zingers: 2021 Vintage

The 2021 federal election generated more heat than light. And several hundred million dollars later, the final results were very similar to what they were before the writ dropped. Namely, a minority led by Justin Trudeau.

Since an election is no time to discuss serious issues, the operative question you might be asking yourself is, “Why did we have an election at all?” Fair question.

Well, at least the English-language debate on September 9th left us with a few choice zingers.

“You called an election, Sir.”

If the Conversative, NDP, Green and Bloc Quebecois leaders had anything in common on debate night, it was their desire to make Trudeau rue the day he called the election.

In his refrain, “You called an election, Sir” Conservative leader Erin O’Toole adopted the same cadence of an iconic five-word zinger from Brian Mulroney, no doubt hoping the memory would grant him the same electoral success.

We can only imagine that many Liberal supporters were singing a similar, regretful tune about election decision as they watched their party plunge in the polls in the early days of the campaign.

“I am not very much interested in leading Canada.”

Leaders in the debate were asked a standard question: why vote for them?

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet – leader of a party with a solitary focus on one province – responded with one of the most honest (and blatantly obvious) lines of the night: “I am not very much interested in leading Canada.” Although the BQ has softened their separatist rhetoric over the years, the comments call to mind Lucien Bouchard’s controversial line: “Canada is not a real country.” The more things change.

“You are not stuck with these two.”

A snippy back and forth between Trudeau and O’Toole led Jagmeet Singh to jump in and speak directly to voters, saying, “You just heard Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Trudeau argue about who’s worse, and honestly, it’s a tough question to answer. Let me tell you, you are not stuck with these two.”

Running as NDP leader in his second federal election, Singh tried heartily to bring back the magic of the Orange Crush led by Jack Layton And while Singh himself is frequently more popular than all other federal leaders, his party’s evergreen pitch that there are more than two viable options for governing parties has yet to land with voters.

“I won’t take lessons on caucus management from you.”

Annamie Paul hit a nerve when she repeated her line that she does not believe that Trudeau is a feminist. The PM offered a sharp rebuke referring to the Green Party’s meltdown after Paul assumed leadership, which culminated in Jenica Atwin crossing the floor to join the Liberal Party. Paul, who came in fourth in her own riding, quit as Leader one week after the election.

We’ll let you to be the judge of whether any of these lines rise to the level of Brian Mulroney’s knockout punch, “You had an option, Sir”. Or, for followers of American politics, to Lloyd Bentsen’s withering line delivered to opponent Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debate, “I knew Jack Kennedy. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Erin O’Toole

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