Up next after the city hall politics panel in the Toronto Star tent at the Word on the Street festival on Sunday was the federal politics panel. On hand were Toronto Star federal politics columnists Chantal Hebert, Tim Harper and Tom Walkom. The topic? "Stephen Harper vs. Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulcair."
The discussion was wide-ranging, but one thing that struck me was that, although the Star was the only paper to endorse the NDP in the last federal election, the columnists on the stage sure don't think much of Tom Mulcair. I'm sure the NDP will react defensively, but they'd also do well to listen to their advice: mainly, that Mulcair has largely failed to define himself, and he should get on that. He let Trudeau beat him to condemning the Quebec secular charter, he's great in question period, but no one watches question period. People have a view of Trudeau and Harper, said Hebert, but ask them about Mulcair and they probably draw a blank. Harper was harsher; he said Mulcair wanders off into intellectual forests when answering questions and is tarting to remind him of Michael Ignatieff. Hebert added he risks becoming the Robert Stanfield of the NDP.
The panel agreed Trudeau has done a pretty good job so far. Hebert was impressed he was able to speak out against the Quebec secular charter in a way that resonated in Ontario without alienating Quebec, adding his "rockstar" persona has proven lasting. Walkom said Trudeau is playing very well in Ontario (which all three agreed will decide the next election), conveys a sense of optimism that resonates with people, and reminds the older generation of his father; and unlike the youth that people often say Trudeau appeals to, seniors actually vote. Asked if Trudeau is the right fit for Quebec, Hebert said she doesn't see anyone else likely to do better, and noted he has brought vote switchers home to the Liberals.
And there was much more; the Storify below has all my live tweets of the panel.