“Clearly, our leader won the debate”

You’ll hear this line from every party but the first public utterance of it that I saw was from the Liberal camp on twitter:

“Stéphane Dion won decisively! He clearly demonstrated that he is the only leader with a credible plan for Canada’s economy!”

This might be the same “credible plan” that was introduced on the floor of the NAC tonight by Dion that CTV commentators admitted reminded them of Paul Martin’s “Hail Mary” Not Withstanding Clause policy at the 2006 leader’s debate. Nobody heard about this plan until tonight. Having already released their platform, which was or wasn’t about the Green Shift depending on what polls Liberal strategists were reading in a given day, the Liberals seem to have released a second draft of their platform tonight. On the economy, is Stephane Dion making it up as he goes along?

The Liberals are stuck in a difficult place during this election. The Green Shift was a train that had already left the station and for Mr. Dion one that was already serving dinner in the dining car when Canadians suddenly became fixed upon the economy. For a serious political party that is vying for power, it is not simply enough to attack a party on an issue — especially one on which one’s rival is strong — but one must also define the path that a party’s leader would take should he or she become Prime Minister. What is astounding, is that Dion is reacting to the global economic crisis like an investor that gets the market numbers from the local TV news between the weather and sports. On the twenty-third day of the election campaign, Dion derails the train and tries to make it hop the tracks. Instead of being proactive on the economy, Dion is reactive.

For the Conservatives, this is an easy pick-up because it underlines the message they’ve been carrying as one of their main themes since this campaign started: Harper represents stability and Dion represents risk. What a disaster it was to see Mr. Dion drop his bombshell so quietly on the debate floor while the other leaders simply paused and moved on. Mr. Dion appeared but as one of four opposition voices — hardly dominant — against the Prime Minister and for Mr. Harper, representing one pole of a polar argument doesn’t exactly hurt his chances.

The most heated exchanges during the debate occurred between Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe, the two front runners of the election in Quebec. On the issues of 14/16 year-olds going to prison for serious crime and repeat offenses, Harper with rare emotion for the evening responded by backing up his plan with third party endorsements of the idea from a police union president and the head of a victim’s rights group. On the Quebec nation and Mr. Duceppe’s two day hesitation and subsequent reversal on the motion that declared Quebec a nation within a united Canada, Mr. Harper demonstrated strength. However, on most other issues such as the environment and the arts, the four-on-one atmosphere that Duceppe led for most of the evening showed the Prime Minister defending his record, the default position for any incumbent.

Will this debate move numbers in Quebec? Likely not. For Mr. Harper, this may mean that he might need a scripting change for that province in order to produce a game-changer that may light a fire under his numbers there. On the other hand, Bloc support may have firmed up on the island of Montreal and the numbers breakdown outside of the city may float Mr. Harper in the more conservative regions of la belle province in order to secure that majority.

Comments

comments

  • http://returnofthetory.wordpress.com The Trusty Tory

    I PROMISE to ban the notwithstanding clause! That's exactly what this “30 day plan” is – echoing some silly strategy of Paul Martin. Good thinkin', Steph!

  • Kim Feraday

    Gee what a surprise that the Fox of the North (er CTV) came out against Dion's idea. You said in your interview on the Current this morning that you thought that getting away from partisan sniping (which is what most blogs focus on) you wanted to use them as a forum to start talking about the issues. Ok here's a chance for you to defend your leaders record.

    I believe that Mr. Harper's record on the economy has been weak. GDP for the year will likely be around 1 percent and that's after being bouyed by the July numbers which can largely be attributed to oil and the high dollar. Productivity rates have fallen. Our dollar is overvalued by about 10 to 15 cents (good for natural resources horrible for manufacturing). The manufacturing sector has been gutted — we've lost 200,000 jobs or about one mid-size plant for every day that Harper has been in office. The government was in deficit for the first 2 months of the year and but was aided again by high oil prices and (I believe) a big one time payment from the cellular auctions. As the U.S. economy cools oil prices and revenues are going to fall so the chances are good that the government will be flirting with deficit toward the end of the year.

    Now Harper claims that his economic policies were undertaken to proactively address an economic downturn. Let's look at one of the biggest of these the GST tax cut. If the idea (as Norman Spector claims) was to stimulate spending then it failed. Retail sales with the exception of February have been very soft for over a year. So that was a waste of money that might have been targetted to income tax cuts, particularly as the GST cuts will benefit the rich more than the poor (the more you spend the more you save). There was the reinstatement of a previous income tax cut and some cuts to corporate income taxes but these most benefit big profitable companies.

    As for the current elections most of the tax policies were the same types of gimmicks (like the first home buyer tax credit and child arts tax credit) are really great marketing techniques but don't do anything to either help tax payers or solve any of the economic problems.

    So here's the challenge for you rather than spinning some more make a compelling argument how the Conservative's plans will help the economy. I am having a really hard time getting it. But when you consider that there have been several economist who have recently stated that our own housing sector is at some risk, when you combine that with the problems in manufacturing and our increasing reliance on natural resources, particularly oil and potash that makes me really nervous.

    Waiting eargerly to hear your response.

  • Cool Blue

    On Dion's “30 Day Plan”:

    In the scrum afterward a reporter asked if during this 30 day conference on the environment, the consensus is that the Green Shift will harm the economy, will you drop the carbon tax?

    He avoided answering the question.

  • Liz J

    That was a debate? Looked more like Question Period on a bad day.
    Have to say our PM looked competent with all the missiles being fired his way. The rest looked like they were trying out for a lead role.

    Wonder if Layton and the Liberal Pack have a plan for when Bush is no longer President ? How will they link Harper with Obama, who has far less knowledge of world affairs than Bush or Harper and who the media are calling to win?

  • Alberta Conservative

    I for one was disgusted with the format. It was the same old rhetoric from the left gaining up on the conservative leader. One thing that has not been mentioned during this canpaign is how the left is “divided” into 4 different parties with their own agendas and the right has one united front. There should be 2 English debates. One with PHSH facing off against the Libs and the Bloc on one night and the Socialists and the Greens on the next night then he may be able to get into the debate without being interrupted every time he speaks.

  • Dennis

    The NP had some memorable quotes from last night's debate:

    “Mr. Layton accused Mr. Harper of being insensitive to the fact that the majority of Canadian artists live in poverty. Mr. Duceppe said Mr. Harper views artists as “spoiled children.””

    I say, Boo Hoo Hoo. Cry me a river, you dolts.

    And there was this gem from Stephan Dion: “We absolutely must not come back with a government that wants to censor the arts and will intimidate people in galas,”

    Amazing. The LPC apparently believes that artists attending galas should not be “intimidated”. What a pile of elitist crap. Not much wonder Dion fails to connect with the average citizen.

  • Grind a Grit

    The subject of this debate was to focus on Duceppe and Harper. The rest were just spewing their lefty clap trap for the 11 Montreal seats. Outside Montreal, it's pretty much a tie between Bloc and C's; the others are not even close. Of course the french and english MSM are trying to make this a horse race by portraying Harper as loosing ground because of the art cut and the juvenile crime laws and I would say worst case that the Conservatives have stalled but not regressed in Quebec. Both the Bloc and C's are still statistically tied outside Montreal according to polls.
    What's important here to mention is that Duceppe's campaigning is concentrated in Quebec only. He has almost constant free reign to spread his attack without balanced rebuttal. The french MSM, ultra lefty, help Duceppe if it would mean keeping Harper from forming a majority. So watch the Harper machine open up full blast in the last days and concentrating on Quebec for the most part. Their current french tv ads are powerful and I am convinced more will come out with specific arts and crime law subject among other things. Many juicy headlines from separatists like Brassard and Bouchard could easily be converted into powerful messages again'st the fading Bloc movement…Apart from us political junkies, we have to remember that most voters have just started to tune in and that includes Quebecers. The not so old Brassard slap at Bloc will need to resurface soon.

    Yes, 4 again'st 1 is brutal and some would say “tis is not fare” but if Dion, Layton, Duceppe and for some (Women who wear baggy dresses and rubber boots with 15 cats meowing around maybe?) even Lizzy May did well and many I read on CBC and other comment sections do attest, then the left split will be even worst in Quebec giving a formidable chance for the C's to slip in the middle and win seats that way. Chretien did it because of similar situation and formed majority governments with a minority of votes.

    The majority possibility for Harper has not vaporized yet folks. Watch Harper in his first language tonight. Duceppe is going to get it back big time and the french MSM will have to report on that tomorrow. At this point for Harper, it is almost more important to attack Duceppe than Dion.
    Dion and Layton will be more at each other for the official opposition.
    May will be there to pick moonbat crumbs off of Layton and yes some of Duceppe too. After 18 years of Bloc, the braintrust that still support them are batty enough to go Green.

  • East of Eden

    I keep hearing the mantra about “experts” saying that the GST is not the tool to stimulate the economy. Well, as a Joe Average, I really don't care if it is or is not a stimulating tool. I do care, however, about paying less tax. That is a relief to me and to a lot of people. Even in the Liberal material, I have read that Canadians pay too much tax…but that statement is negated when it turned out that Dion wishes to “shift” money from my pocket to the government and give me a portion of it back so that I am left with a net loss. Chretien ran on a Scrap the GST promise and then reneged. All in all, I believe the Harper is doing a great job.

    The housing sector? I don't really pay attention to economists. Housing starts and prices took off during the Liberal reign and, in fact, it was one of the Liberals' showpieces – the great booming housing industry. Well, it is going through a natural dip in the natural cycle which is created not by the government but by the industry which influences demand by influencing supply. Where I live, houses cannot be built fast enough to satisfy demand. Job losses? Well, the outsourcing to Asia began long before Harper showed up. As for American-based companies and the auto sector? Well, American-based companies have long used Canada only as a temporary base until their American factories could take up the slack. The Big Three? Well, they produce cars which we don't wish to buy. Toyota, on the other hand, is going gangbusters.

    GST benefiting the rich more than the poor? Well, of course the rich buy more goods and services – that argument is pointless. But, for a working poor person, paying less GST on natural gas to heat his home does make a difference. So that rich vs. poor argument is totally lame and should not be trotted out. Every penny counts for a poor person and the less tax he has to pay, the better. Case closed on that argument. I could go on and on defeating the Liberal arguments against Harper but I can sum it all up: the Green Shift and the Liberal platform runs contrary, in many cases, to their earlier opposition to the very same initiatives authored by the Harper government.

  • http://streetadvisorconsulting.blogspot.com markalanwhittle

    I watched the debate and the Prime Minister came across as calm, cool and collected, unlike the others. Nobody should be surprised at the piling on, what else can the opposition leader do when they really don't have much to offer the little guy. I'm more interested in tonights debate were Harper will be in his element.

  • john davis

    Because of this late addition by Stephane Dion/The Liberals the platform has to be re-printed. All those poor trees that will have to be cut to make the paper to re-print the platform. To quote Helen Lovejoy, “Won't somebody please think of the children!”

  • Liz J

    If the Quebec voters return Bloc members in large numbers can we really say they care one whit about Canada and being part of a governing party? The whole raison d'etre of the Bloc is separation from Canada. The people have less interest in that idea, thanks to Harper initiatives, so now the Bloc has reinvented itself as looking after Quebec interests.

    The debate was not a debate, it was a set-up to skewer Harper. Tonight will be another set-up the media is out to make certain Harper does not get a majority and in fact they're even hoping he loses.

  • East of Eden

    Wow, that is very telling. I have always thought that the Green “Shift” was just a tax vehicle.

  • http://ragingranter.blogspot.com Raging Ranter

    Kim Fereday, do you reallyt think that ANY leader has the ability to change the course of the economy, given what is happening in the US? The only thin any government can do for us is steer us through the tough times ahead without doing anything too crazy. Stephane Dion can take 30 years if he likes, he has ZERO influence on events unfolding in the US.

  • MaryT

    People should remember, or think, that if we get another conservative minority we will be going thru all this again in a couple of years. Dion will quit or be evicted as leader, Iggy/Rae will fight it out for several months. liberals will continue to lack supporters with money. Alberta may start thinkig of going it alone, depending on who is opposition leader.

  • Chazz

    This format is garbage.

  • Gabby in QC

    I'm no economist, I'm just an ordinary Jane observing the panic created by some media by predicting doom and gloom is headed our way because of our neighbours' troubles.

    If consumers keep hearing over and over again that we're headed towards a recession, and that we might be headed for a depression, that kind of forecast will definitely come true.

    BTW, that's what the PM said when he stated that the Liberals were VIRTUALLY cheering for a recession. The media and the Liberals forgot to include that very important word – VIRTUALLY – using the PM's inaccurately cited comment as proof of an attack against poor, oh so civil and sensitive Stephane Dion. There, there, Mr. Dion, the PM didn’t call you a cheerleader, OK? But I digress.

    On the other hand, those same prophets of doom and gloom keep bashing the oil companies, the banks and other major employers because they make huge profits. Don't those delphic oracles realize those big corporations employ people who have families to feed, who buy stuff made by other companies, who spend their earnings on whatever they need? So why badmouth those companies? Thank God Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan are enjoying their boom, 'cause then government coffers would really be empty.

    I know I do my part in keeping the economy going … I go shopping even when I don't need stuff ;-)

    This line is especially funny: “the GST cuts will benefit the rich more than the poor (the more you spend the more you save)”
    I remember the vitriol directed at Mulroney's Conservatives when they wanted to bring in the GST. Even a usually reasonable sounding radio jock at the time ranted and railed against it, telling his audience he was going to find ways to avoid paying it, and advised his audience to do the same. Does work under the table ring a bell? And he still feels the same way.

    Regressive tax! cried the Liberals, who were going to abolish it the minute they formed government. When they got in and saw what a cash cow it could become, they soon changed their tune, didn't they? Now the Liberals are the biggest defenders of the GST. Talk about flip-flop.

    And aren’t the Liberals among those who hated the FTA? Who even today do not think the government should pursue trade agreements with Colombia and other South American countries? Korea? Isn’t there some kind of trade agreement in the works with the EU?

    Isn’t getting close to 5 billion dollars back from a tariff dispute better than keeping the dispute alive and keeping lawyers busy?

    Anyway, bottom line – despite the fact I support the Conservatives, I would have preferred raising the GST on luxury items like some cars, jewelry, art, etc. and lowered it on basic items. But, as I said at the outset, I’m no economist.

  • MaryT

    People should remember, or think, that if we get another conservative minority we will be going thru all this again in a couple of years. Dion will quit or be evicted as leader, Iggy/Rae will fight it out for several months. liberals will continue to lack supporters with money. Alberta may start thinkig of going it alone, depending on who is opposition leader.

  • Chazz

    This format is garbage.