The 2019 federal election campaign was described as many things — nasty, divisive, and messy were some. And then came the final speeches which were, well, nasty, divisive and messy.
In a surprising move, viewers watched as Conservative leader Andrew Scheer took to the podium to begin his concession speech, while NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was still winding down his address. But just as Scheer started on his opening remarks in Regina, out came Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who launched into his victory speech in Papineau.
“It was unprecedented,” said Christopher Cochrane, a political professor at the University of Toronto. “To my knowledge, that has never happened before … at the provincial or federal level.”
It is unclear what the reasons were behind the mix-up, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives responded to requests for comment. While a surprising and not exactly winning move for either political party, according to experts, it will likely be overshadowed by the events to come in the weeks ahead.
Normally, the convention followed is that the smaller parties go first, followed last by the winning party leader. However, while the speeches started out with Maxime Bernier — the only leader to lose in his own riding — the pattern that followed didn’t appear to sync with usual protocol.
“You didn’t hear from Elizabeth May until after all the leaders spoke,” said Christo Aivalis, who teaches Canadian politics at the University of Toronto. “Then you saw the Bloc leader speak, who technically had more seats than the NDP, but way less national support.”
“It was all over the place,” he said.
Time zones, the speed at which results roll in, etc — the ill-timing could be due to a combination of various factors, he said. “When it comes to timing their speeches, it’s a mixture of when they get their results, when they have a general idea of what’s happening in the night and combining it with ‘okay, we’re all in this part of the country, how do we time the speeches’.”
Cochrane, who watched the speeches Monday night, said the NDP leader’s speech was a “longer” speech and was unsure if he would call Scheer coming out during the speech “unusual.
“I noted it certainly,” he said. However, it was another matter altogether when Trudeau stepped out amidst Scheer’s opening remarks, which divided national audience.
“I don’t know if it’s uncoordinated or intentional,” added Cochrane. “If it’s intentional, it’s unfortunate. If the PM went out intentionally to interrupt the concession speech of the opposition leader, then that’s spectacularly petty.”
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The timing, if intentional, could point to the highly contentious nature of the election, particularly between the two candidates, according to Cochrane. “In the debate, Scheer called the PM to his face, a phony and a fraud,” he said. “I don’t remember anything really as hostile in a Canadian election.”
“It’s a case of pox on both their houses,” he said.
Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said it doesn’t paint a good scenario for Canadians. “Especially on people staying up really late, to have them speak at the same time, it’s certainly not the way it’s normally done.”
But while It may not send a good message about how the parties will work in a minority parliament, it’s nothing for people to “make a big fuss about,” he added. “Frankly I think there are more important things that we have to deal with right now, like the rural divide, the policies we could enact going forward, whether the Liberals and NDP can work together, and would that have a negative impact in Alberta where they don’t have much support.”
“Sounds like a tempest in a teapot,” he said.