TORONTO — Here are five keys to success in Thursday's leaders' debate for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau:
1. Look "ready."
Voters have been exposed to relentless Conservative ads depicting Trudeau as "just not ready," so he will need to convince Canadians otherwise. He will need to be image conscious, looking prime ministerial and conveying gravitas. His haircut is a good start, said McMaster University political science professor Henry Jacek, but he needs to show Canadians he is old enough and serious enough for the job.
2. Talk more to Canadians than the other leaders.
Trudeau will be the most inexperienced debater Thursday night, so he needs to speak directly to Canadians about his plan for the middle class, said Liberal pundit Rob Silver. "He can't get sucked into mud and political games," Silver said. Stephen Harper is a veteran at leaders' debates — his first was when the TV show "Friends" was going off the air, Silver noted — and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's debate skills are widely lauded. Trudeau's personality is an asset, Silver said, and that's what Canadians will see when he talks directly to them.
3. Choose his words carefully.
All of the leaders will be conscious of not looking too scripted and not sticking their foot in their mouths when speaking off the cuff, but Trudeau will have to be especially careful, said University of Toronto political science professor Lawrence LeDuc. Trudeau has a history of verbal gaffes, such as when he joked about how the war on terrorism shouldn't be strictly about "whipping out our CF-18s to show how big they are." If a debate remark can be characterized by the other parties as a slip-up, even if taken out of context, it is sure to be repeated throughout the campaign.
4. Keep it simple and short.
Trudeau can be long-winded at times and can forget to modulate his voice enough while he is giving speeches, Jacek said. A flat voice won't keep viewers interested and long and complicated answers aren't likely to be remembered. TV reports often use clips that are about eight seconds long, Jacek noted, so if he can't be succinct and make an impact in that amount of time, he's out of luck.
5. Wear pants.
Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke said Trudeau will exceed expectations "if he comes on stage with his pants on." Silver said he appreciates Teneycke setting the bar that low for Trudeau, acknowledging that while Trudeau is the underdog, "I think he's likely to remember to wear pants."
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