English debate, the next morning

Five federal party leaders squared off last night around the oblong table at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Coming off of a sort of dress-rehearsal last night for the English speaking viewers, leaders were coached all day yesterday on earlier missteps and new opportunities as senior scripters checked debate playbooks, wiped the blackboard clean and chalked out some final plays.

And though politics can be a contact sport, referee Steve Paikin kept the unnecessary roughness to a minimum and even straightened out a few players when needed. The format of the debate has been criticized by some Conservatives as too amenable to unbalanced debating particularly when four candidates (including one late-comer and one spoiler) focus their attention squarely upon the incumbent. However, if one contrasts this with the American Vice-Presidential debate last night, the table format led to more exchanges and discussion rather than moderator-induced conversation without direct confrontation between candidates. Indeed, the Palin-Biden debate was instead two separate interviews, occurring simultaneously in the same room. The Canadian debate format for this election cycle proved more interesting for viewers and provided an unvarnished look at the candidates as they were challenged directly by the other candidates.

Despite this, the current Prime Minister seemed at ease though at times I’m certain he wanted to leap across the table and give Jack Layton a better-balanced bludgeoning. Viewers of the French language debate joked that the Prime Minister seemed to have been sedated while partisans both friendly and not yearned for more emotion; the unfriendlies hoped for anger while Conservatives hoped for more passion from their champion to describe their common agenda. In the English language debate, the Prime Minister seemed to exude what is more appropriately described as confidence than calm as he took the barrage that came as the polarized players flailed their collective left-wing and labeled the Prime Minister everything from out-of-touch with the middle class — quite brazen coming from Elizabeth May — to a George Bush clone (the left will miss him when he’s gone).

Despite the constant attacks, Stephen Harper performed strongly by donning his figurative blue sweater vest appearing the most rational and collected candidate of the group. As one twitterer likely not voting for Harper put it, “It concerns me that Harper sounds the least crazy.” Jack Layton, the other strong debate performer appealed to the dramatic by twice making cynical references to the very same sweater the PM wears in the Conservative ads. Jack Layton and Stephen Harper needed each other to boost their debate performances and by focusing their heat on each other, they were able to wedge out Dion. Though the Liberals have never had a leader like Paul Martin that was richer, the critics couldn’t be fairer; the Liberals have never had a greener candidate than Stephane Dion and despite Martin’s failings, he was more animated than Dion was last night. Though Martin entered the election in the lead, Dion is coming from behind and failed to capture anyone’s attention last night.

Elizabeth May surprised last night as she was the most sober of the opposition leaders. In comparison with other leaders, May brought a calm, number- and fact-referencing persona to the debate and politely corrected leaders as to the “facts” (though many as she saw them). For many Canadians who look at the political landscape and see the same old players locked in a seemingly eternal stalemate, May brought a fresh face to the stage for Canadians to consider. The Green Party leader needed to show Canadians that she deserved to debate on the same stage as the party leaders. Despite real and valid arguments against her inclusion and a childish repeat of her fraud accusation leveled against Harper, last night she didn’t appear out of place. In that, May scored an impressive victory for her cause.

As the leader of a french-first-and-last separatist party from Quebec, Gilles Duceppe did not have much to gain or lose during the English language debate and the Bloc leader appeared to be the candidate most genuinely at ease during the two hours last night. Duceppe also appeared as a shadow moderator; when he was not advancing his ideology, bringing he brought realism against rhetoric particularly when he gestured towards Layton and Dion suggesting they knew they’d never become Prime Minister and then proceeded to address the sitting Prime Minister — indeed, seated directly across from him — speaking about Quebec’s issues as the Bloc leader saw them. Most observers note that this will likely be Duceppe’s last performance in this forum as the dean of the debate is expected to retire from federal politics before the next federal election.

The debate was interesting to watch and was more interesting than debates in previous years. It certainly brought a fresh perspective to the players that we see in Question Period when parliament is sitting. If more and more newcomers show up to claim their stake on the democratic frontier as May did last night, we might see this format degenerate into a collective browbeating of an incumbent. If democratic reform proceeds along the path which May advocates, do more voices create more noise or do the enrich the process? In the American primary process we’ve seen about ten voices crowd one stage at a particular time with the TV networks biased towards perceived front-runners. Democracy is by definition a dynamic process and the evolution of the Canadian leader’s debate will follow its own path. The method by which our leaders appeal to Canadians for their votes will be, for the most part, fixed directly to the format by which Canadians would choose to hear them. That is democracy.

Comments

comments

  • Jan

    While May did have some comments of substance to add to the discussion, she came across to me as nasty, hectoring and humourless. She frequently interrupted, name called and belittled. The parting shot she made about democracy at the end of the debate after Paikin's comment about the Canadian vs. US debate perfectly exemplified her contribution. That comment only served to insult and lecture those Canadians who have an interest in important political happenings beyond our border and Paikin who I felt had done an admirable job under difficult circumstances. She seems to believe that she is above the fray when in truth she demonstrated just the opposite.

  • MikeW

    I watched athe first portion of the Debate, having seen the French version the night before, I wondered what changes might occur, I thought P.M. Harper was on his game not so much in French. Dion was well I'm lost for words, he would have been better to speak in French. May did not impress me, but then, I have taken the time to read the Green platform (I've read them all) anyone who has read their platform and votes Green is in my view an economic illiterate.

  • Rodger Moore

    Sorry but I just have to get this off my chest. “Is that a platform under your sweater or are you just glad to see me”

    Whew that feels better.

    liberal voter

  • Rodger Moore

    Sorry but I just have to get this off my chest. “Is that a platform under your sweater or are you just glad to see me”

    Whew that feels better.

    liberal voter

  • Gabby in QC

    “Indeed, the Palin-Biden debate was instead two separate interviews, occurring simultaneously in the same room.”

    This is more appropriate, IMHO, because those interviews are being conducted by the American people through the interviewer Gwen Ifill:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/
    “The veteran newswoman lived up, in every sense, to her title: moderator. She directed the candidates to important topics, pushed to keep them on subject and betrayed no favoritism.”

    There was limited interaction between the two candidates, and rightly so. They may have said in passing “I disagree with …” but their objective was to persuade electors that their ticket is the better one, pointing out their POVs and how they have handled and would handle situations.

    In contrast, our debate format was a slugfest, opponents bashing the PM, who could not defend himself on account of the ensuing cacophony. Despite Mr. Paikin's efforts to maintain control, there were several times when I felt like throwing something at the TV, they made me so angry.

    As for proportional rep. – God helps us. “Too many cooks spoil the broth” comes to mind.

  • Shawn

    The news today reported that Harper handled himself quite well but with the exception of Duceppe, May/Layton/Dion were at times childish.

    May called Harper stupid and a fraud (both in the French debate and the English one), Dion called Harper a liar, and Layton twice remarked to Harper, “Where’s your platform? Under your sweater?”

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but if the opposition leaders are acting like kids, they don’t deserve to be in government, never mind the PMs chair.

  • Shawn

    The news today reported that Harper handled himself quite well but with the exception of Duceppe, May/Layton/Dion were at times childish.

    May called Harper stupid and a fraud (both in the French debate and the English one), Dion called Harper a liar, and Layton twice remarked to Harper, “Where’s your platform? Under your sweater?”

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but if the opposition leaders are acting like kids, they don’t deserve to be in government, never mind the PMs chair.

  • Phil Hauser

    I really did like the format of thedebate but I detest the number of competitors.

    Gilles Duceppe has always impressed me in the English Debates because he can so illustrate his hate, hurt and anger for the rest of us in Canada. But, he has no place at this debate.

    Jack Layton is way too over the top for me but he is confident and a strong debater. His compassionate moments about natives were every bit as good as Dion's with the exception that I could understand him.

    To me the leaders have to get together next time and agree to no more than three. Keep the format but cut the fringe away.

  • ian

    I honestly did not like the format.Lively debate is fine but only 2 people speaking at one time.Ms May was bemoaning the lack of respect in the HOC.She was rude and obnoxious so she would fit right in if she ever got there.Mr Dion had that sad face expression which looked like he was about to break into tears.I think he was trying for the sincerity vote, didn't work.Jack talks a good game but would you really want to let him loose with Canada's cheque book?
    I think the Tories should run an ad with a family in sweaters sitting around a kitchen table talking about the opposition looking to turn our economy on its head

  • Gabby in QC

    “Elizabeth May surprised last night as she was the most sober of the opposition leaders. In comparison with other leaders, May brought a calm, number- and fact-referencing persona to the debate and politely corrected leaders as to the “facts” (though many as she saw them).”

    Huh? I guess I was drinking too much ruby porto …

    Seriously, I was very sober. I found Ms May’s interventions not only rude but also contemptuous of the PM. Her obvious scorn for anything “Conservative” was accentuated by some reference to Progressive Conservatives as being supportive of her party; that was echoed by Jim Harris in the CPAC strategists panel in order to prove that the Greens draw their support from all sides of the political spectrum.

    I also found Mr. Dion’s cry of “I want my Canada back!” (plagiarism alert! Ken Dryden said the very same thing right after Dion won the leadership contest. I even posted a comment here to that effect back in Dec. 2006) – anyway, I found that cry just as offensive as being told get out of this country, you don’t belong here (I’m a naturalized Canadian).

    Who the heck do these Liberals think they are? Just because people don’t follow their party line, don’t share their POV and don’t agree with their policies, they’re not Canadian!?! I have a stake in this country too, Mr. Dion. Canada is NOT YOUR exclusive domain.

    OK, sorry for the rant … but they really pissed me off, OK?

  • Gabby in QC

    “Elizabeth May surprised last night as she was the most sober of the opposition leaders. In comparison with other leaders, May brought a calm, number- and fact-referencing persona to the debate and politely corrected leaders as to the “facts” (though many as she saw them).”

    Huh? I guess I was drinking too much ruby porto …

    Seriously, I was very sober. I found Ms May’s interventions not only rude but also contemptuous of the PM. Her obvious scorn for anything “Conservative” was accentuated by some reference to Progressive Conservatives as being supportive of her party; that was echoed by Jim Harris in the CPAC strategists panel in order to prove that the Greens draw their support from all sides of the political spectrum.

    I also found Mr. Dion’s cry of “I want my Canada back!” (plagiarism alert! Ken Dryden said the very same thing right after Dion won the leadership contest. I even posted a comment here to that effect back in Dec. 2006) – anyway, I found that cry just as offensive as being told get out of this country, you don’t belong here (I’m a naturalized Canadian).

    Who the heck do these Liberals think they are? Just because people don’t follow their party line, don’t share their POV and don’t agree with their policies, they’re not Canadian!?! I have a stake in this country too, Mr. Dion. Canada is NOT YOUR exclusive domain.

    OK, sorry for the rant … but they really pissed me off, OK?

  • Liz J

    The so-called debate is hardly worth commenting on. It was a Lefty lynch mob, sitting at an odd shaped table playing nasty politics. There was no respect shown for the man who is PM, he was given little time to defend his positions on all the buffoonery from the Opposition. Jack Layton seems to be suffering from delusions of grandeur, he should be ashamed of himself.

    The format was incredibly stupid, just a plain dumb-headed idea concocted to favour the Opposition. No kudos to the media cabal who concocted it.

    The US had a debate and a respectful one, each side had a chance to speak straight to the people and get their message across. Good old American know-how on display again. We have a lot to learn.

  • Gabby in QC

    Good idea. I'd vote for that kind of ad.

    I think the family should be clothed in the thickest sweaters going, 'cause that's what they'll need when they can't afford to heat their homes if … shudder … the Libs get back in to implement their “Tournant Vers une Nouvelle Taxe” (™ by Gabby in QC)

  • J

    When the moderator asks questions like “Are the Conservatives a bunch of barbarians?” when discussing the arts, I tend to question his neutrality. Even if each candidate said no, he brought the in the allegation and that is what the public questions.

  • batb

    When people say that Ellie May scored an “impressive victory,” as you and others in the media have, Stephen, I'm wondering if they were watching the same skirmis…er…debate I was. “Fresh face” she hardly is, harpy is more like it. I found her, from start to finish, to be loud, brazen, rude, and contemptuous of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Her manner was so off-putting that I barely heard what she had to say–although when I did hear her, I was not impressed. She talked out of both sides of her mouth, and of course, she probably won't even have a seat in the HOC nor will anyone else in her party.

    The “dynamic process” of democracy was pretty much hi-jacked in the “debate” last night. It was not a debate but a free-for-all. I had difficulty following many of the points being made, especially by PMSH, because of all the shouting out, shouting down, and finger wagging (Ms. May, in particular).

    What I saw last night was a verbal TV wrestling match with the only difference being that you expect TV wrestlers to be brazen, idiotic louts. I don't expect the same kind of behaviour from four out of five so-called political leaders.

    Gilles Duceppe, who shouldn't have been at the table in the first place (only Quebecers can vote for him and he wants Quebec to leave Canada, for crying out loud), was combative and rude. I thought he was going to have a heart attack on the spot, his face got so contorted and red.

    Jack Layton's performance was facile and put-on. He's a phony through and through. By his preening and posturing you’d think he thought he was in some kind of TV sit-com, playing the part of the je-ne-sais-quoi congenial, smart-a** boy-next-door? Maybe he thought he was on the set of “Three's Company + Two.”

    Ellie May should have had a scarf on her head, brandishing a rolling pin aimed straight at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's head.

    And Dion. What to say about Stephane Dion who seemed to be entirely a ghost of his former self, it that's even possible? Someone needed to hand him a hankie to wipe away his sad, silent tears.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper was prime ministerial. He took the cudgels and stinging verbal blows like a man, well, like a grown up who could barely believe the company he was keeping. It would have taken nerves and discipline of steel to keep his head when all about him had lost theirs. He spoke clearly when the rabble allowed him to and did his best to explain his party's platform of the past two years and what its plans are to move Canada forward in difficult and uncertain times.

    It's pretty clear that the only person at the round table capable of being Canada's leader is Stephen Harper. The rest of the show was a B or C horror movie.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca stephentaylor

    Approve
    Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  • Gabby in QC

    I view that question differently. I thought Mr. Paikin put the opposition on the spot on purpose.

    It is a well-known fact that many “progressives” think conservatives are unsophisticated rubes, or “knuckledraggers,” as Bob Fife once referred to members of the Conservative caucus:
    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/matthew-sheffield/

    The “progressives” view themselves as very tolerant, accepting of many different views. In this context, they were put in the position of
    1. agreeing with the notion “these guys are barbarians” which would show up their intolerance or
    2. lying, so as not to appear intolerant. They chose the latter.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca stephentaylor

    I agree with your view of Paikin's question Gabby

  • http://djxtreme-seashell.blogspot.com/ SeanMcAllister

    I stopped watching after a while as I was getting too frustrated. I thought the moderator was letting the other candidates interrupt and talk over PMSH too often. Also, I thought PMSH wasn't getting equal straight on camera time. That being said, I thought SH was too quiet and not aggressive enough, especially when the others were all attacking him. When Layton called him incompetent I would have liked to see a stronger reaction. But, like life, we do not always get what we want.

  • East of Eden

    You know, BatB has a point about respect for the Prime Minister. Something changed with this election and that is the total destruction of any respect for the office of the prime minister and the person who holds that office. Whether any other party or any citizen is happy about it, Stephen Harper WAS elected into the position. Anybody who is unhappy with that can vote for another party – simple. For me, this destruction of respect for the office of the prime minister began with a disgruntled MP who began to publicly diss the prime minister, his supporters, his cabinet, his party about 2 and some years ago. Now, it seems, that all of these so-called adults are now engaging in a contest to see who can out-slag Stephen Harper. It is absolutely ridiculous and it is an insult to us: the Canadian people. While the opposing parties are trying to bring down Harper, they are forgetting about us. They are more concerned with their own power plays and hunger for the PM post that they totally ignore us: Canadians.

    And the one who crows the loudest and longest about democracy is among the worst offenders: so wrapped up in slagging his opponent that he forgets his constituents in the process.

    With the exception of Stephen Harper and his party, the others are nothing more than shameful, egotistical, small-minded, petty, bad-mouthing embarassments to our country. They care nothing about us; they care only about themselves. Canadian citizens be darned – it's all about me, me, me. With, of course, the exception of Stephen Harper who truly is the only one who cares about us: the Canadian people.

  • batb

    Sean McAllister: I agree. I would like to have seen some of Stephen Harper's rapier dry wit brought to bear on some of the verbal idiocies hurled at him. It was pretty obvious that he and his advisors had decided that he was better to keep his powder dry, seeing as the MSM most hate it when c/Conservatives reveal that they have a sense of humour. If you rile the MSM and you're a c/Conservative, you'll get it in the jugular, you'll be spun around till the viewers are dizzy.

    So, Prime Minister Stephen Taylor decided to play it very cool and about the only thing he's being criticized for is being so “passive.” Far better than being accused of being “mean,” 'nasty,” and “angry.”

    I'll bet, however, that when he got home or together with his close advisors he let 'er rip!

  • Gabby in QC

    It appears this comment I posted earlier either was sent into the ether or … was not allowed? I don’t think it was offensive … unless Stephen thinks ladies shouldn’t use expressions like p***** o**? C’mon, I’ve seen worse. But I edited anyway, alright? ;-)

    “Elizabeth May surprised last night as she was the most sober of the opposition leaders. In comparison with other leaders, May brought a calm, number- and fact-referencing persona to the debate and politely corrected leaders as to the “facts” (though many as she saw them).”

    Huh? I guess I was drinking too much ruby porto …

    Seriously, I was very sober. I found Ms May’s interventions not only rude but also contemptuous of the PM. Her obvious scorn for anything “Conservative” was accentuated by some reference to Progressive Conservatives as being supportive of her party; that was echoed by Jim Harris in the CPAC strategists panel in order to prove that the Greens draw their support from all sides of the political spectrum.

    I also found Mr. Dion’s cry of “I want my Canada back!” (plagiarism alert! Ken Dryden said the very same thing right after Dion won the leadership contest. I even posted a comment here to that effect back in Dec. 2006) – anyway, I found that cry just as offensive as being told get out of this country, you don’t belong here (I’m a naturalized Canadian).

    Who the heck do these Liberals think they are? Just because people don’t follow their party line, don’t share their POV and don’t agree with their policies, they’re not Canadian!?! I have a stake in this country too, Mr. Dion. Canada is NOT YOUR exclusive domain.

    OK, sorry for the rant … but they really made me angry, OK?

  • Gabby in QC

    It appears this comment I posted earlier either was sent into the ether or … was not allowed? I don’t think it was offensive … unless Stephen thinks ladies shouldn’t use expressions like p***** o**? C’mon, I’ve seen worse. But I edited anyway, alright? ;-)

    “Elizabeth May surprised last night as she was the most sober of the opposition leaders. In comparison with other leaders, May brought a calm, number- and fact-referencing persona to the debate and politely corrected leaders as to the “facts” (though many as she saw them).”

    Huh? I guess I was drinking too much ruby porto …

    Seriously, I was very sober. I found Ms May’s interventions not only rude but also contemptuous of the PM. Her obvious scorn for anything “Conservative” was accentuated by some reference to Progressive Conservatives as being supportive of her party; that was echoed by Jim Harris in the CPAC strategists panel in order to prove that the Greens draw their support from all sides of the political spectrum.

    I also found Mr. Dion’s cry of “I want my Canada back!” (plagiarism alert! Ken Dryden said the very same thing right after Dion won the leadership contest. I even posted a comment here to that effect back in Dec. 2006) – anyway, I found that cry just as offensive as being told get out of this country, you don’t belong here (I’m a naturalized Canadian).

    Who the heck do these Liberals think they are? Just because people don’t follow their party line, don’t share their POV and don’t agree with their policies, they’re not Canadian!?! I have a stake in this country too, Mr. Dion. Canada is NOT YOUR exclusive domain.

    OK, sorry for the rant … but they really made me angry, OK?

  • Brett

    The lack of respect for the PMO and the person is a straight copy from the Dems down South. Ever since Dubya was elected President, the left and its enabling media has slagged im continuously. Same for PM Harper. Ever since he was elected, he has been slagged as robotic, mean and a bully. They've even gone so far as criticizing him for shking his children's hands instead of kissing them. The Liberals and their media anablers still cannot believe the Liberals lost.

    Just saw MDL. Craig Oliver said the Liberals need to bring ou the heavy hitters like Chretien and Martin to save Dion. I hope they do, then the Tories can tie Dion to those two and bring up adscam again. That ought to get us our majority.

  • Libertarian!

    Elizabeth May's performance during the debate was indeed on of the best in some repects, but the “body language” suggests her agreement with politicians' assessment that Canadians are stupid, is indeed real despite her multiple denials. Her apparent pride in being a lawyer but now running as a lowlife politician suggests an elevated opinion of herself verging on hubris, despite Canadians holding both lawyers and politicians in nearly equally low regard (and politician-lawyers at the very bottom?) The hectoring hand (pointed finger, with the hand and arm moving up and down) and the dismissive glance (looking away from the person she was talking to, with a dismissive backhand gesture) suggests she is unilkely to listen to opinions different from hers, which she holds in the highest regard. Its only a feeling, but I can already hear the marching jackboots (recycled natural rubber soles to muffle the sound and carbon-neutral recyclable hemp uppers, to be sure) as they march any of us who dare to disagree off to the Fort McMurray Gulag to work on settling pond remediation in the middle of winter — if she were Prime Minister. This is one person who I would not trust with power. Watch the debate on tape again closely for the subtleties and see if you get the same impression.

  • Brett

    I thought the table kind of looked like a toilet seat.

    May was at times articulate, but most of what she said was out to lunch, particularly on the economy and Afghanistan. She looked more like the Liberal candidate for Central Nova than a leader of a national party. Overall, she came across as a harpy.

    Layton did well most of the night, but laid it on too thick. I wonder what he meant by the “new economy” as he kept refering to it over and. over. Was it an admission that many of the manufacturing jobs are lost forever? He lost the vote of Afghan immigrants when he basically said he would leave Afghanistan to the Taliban.

    Stephane Dion looked like he wanted to cry, particularly when PM Harper took him to task over his economic plan, or lack there of. What good shots he did get off, were either unintelligible. or deftly parried by the PM.

    The PM was absolutley great and was able to more than hold his own despite being ganged up on and having Dizzy May yammering in his ear all night. He should have hammered Dion more forcefully though, particularly when Dion accused him of mismanaging the economy. He should have reminded him that his party failed to even show up to vote on the budget. I think Dion would have cried then.

    Duceppe, well I am not sure he was even there. He had nothing of value to add to the english debate, except for some humour when he took a shot at the other opposition leaders about not becoming PM. He could have taken that further by stating that May only wants to serve in Dion’s cabinet. That would have been priceless.

  • Brett

    I thought the table kind of looked like a toilet seat.

    May was at times articulate, but most of what she said was out to lunch, particularly on the economy and Afghanistan. She looked more like the Liberal candidate for Central Nova than a leader of a national party. Overall, she came across as a harpy.

    Layton did well most of the night, but laid it on too thick. I wonder what he meant by the “new economy” as he kept refering to it over and. over. Was it an admission that many of the manufacturing jobs are lost forever? He lost the vote of Afghan immigrants when he basically said he would leave Afghanistan to the Taliban.

    Stephane Dion looked like he wanted to cry, particularly when PM Harper took him to task over his economic plan, or lack there of. What good shots he did get off, were either unintelligible. or deftly parried by the PM.

    The PM was absolutley great and was able to more than hold his own despite being ganged up on and having Dizzy May yammering in his ear all night. He should have hammered Dion more forcefully though, particularly when Dion accused him of mismanaging the economy. He should have reminded him that his party failed to even show up to vote on the budget. I think Dion would have cried then.

    Duceppe, well I am not sure he was even there. He had nothing of value to add to the english debate, except for some humour when he took a shot at the other opposition leaders about not becoming PM. He could have taken that further by stating that May only wants to serve in Dion’s cabinet. That would have been priceless.

  • batb

    Whoops! I hope you liked the sound of “Prime Minister Stephen Taylor,” Stephen!!

    OF COURSE, I meant Prime Minister Stephen Harper in my above post.

    But, who knows? Someday …

  • anon

    bit OT, but I see the Liberals are once again accusing Harper of plagiarism. As I mentioned previously about how the plagiarism angle played up by the Liberals and MSM earlier this week was nothing more than a Trojan horse to usher in the terms “BUSH” and “IRAQ” into the election lexicon, same holds true here. The plagiarism angle will be moved on from by the MSM, allowing the Liberals to insert Mike Harris into the debate, particularly since Ontario is a key battleground. It's rather amusing to think that the Liberals would choose to do that because it makes relevant (rather, more relevant) Bob Rae's tenure as premier. From a credibility standpoint, the Liberals cannot invoke past premiers of Ontario without the MSM making Rae's tenure a focal point … if they have any credibility.

    Note to a previous comment about Duffy and the signs ripped up… Duffy did do a pice on it. Congrats to him. CBC, however, has not, as far as I know.

  • Casual Observer

    That set-up was not a debate, it was set-up more like a “swarming”. What a completely unfair and stupid arrangement! Anyway it did give PM Harper a chance to show the viewers, unequivocally, that he is by far the best of the lot to hold the most important office in this country. Even with the 4 all attacking the one, even with that hag Elizabeth May wagging her fat fingers so rudely in the PM's face, even with the constant interruptions, Mr Harper showed utmost restraint and composure.

  • MaryT

    In the states they have several debates before the big one. We spent 4 hours on 2 debates that were nothing but attack the PM. So, next time around how about 4 one hour debates with the PM and each leader, and one debate with all the leaders except the PM. Let them fight out for number 2 spot. The debate with the Bloc leader could be half hour in french and half hour in english.

  • Casual Observer

    They must have hired WWF promoters to set that so-called “debate” up. Why didn't they just go all the way, and put PM Harper in the old fashioned stocks, and allow the opposition “leaders” to throw tomatoes for an hour or two.
    Paiken, who I usually have the utmost respect for, was a real let down in this debate. The moderator of the French debate was excellent.

  • Casual Observer

    The US debate was like night and day to the Canadian one – both in it's set-up ( a format that actually promoted civil debate), and the debaters themselves were so much more articulate than the nimrods like Jack Layton and May in our debate.

  • Gabby in QC

    Thanks, Stephen. But you know what? I'll have to revise my answer, because I watched that exchange again while looking for some other info (when does Dion say he'll create more fun in Canada), and I noticed both Dion's and Duceppe's answer revolved around censorship.

    Dion said Harper views artists as “enemies”, that Harper was behaving like “big brother” or “President Harper” whereas Duceppe referred to “ideology” and “moral standards he [Harper] has” in that irritating nasal twang of his. The cuts were not an economic decision, they were an ideological decision, according to Duceppe.

    When Harper explained the reason for the cuts was the ineffectiveness of some programs, May went on about the “tiny amounts of money” involved, and how they were intended to increase Harper's political power. May then raised the spectre of a giant Conservative database which according to her would enable Harper's tacticians to increase the Conservatives' votes, and ended by calling the cuts “stupid.”
    Sooo – Ms May gets the prize: she implied that the Conservatives were trying to appeal to a certain segment of the population. Shall we say … the unrefined segment?

    Layton brought up the “freedom of expression” angle – the names of Gwynne Dyer and Avi Lewis were mentioned by May – and then Layton went on to describe artists' subsistence level.

    So, they didn't really lie, as I concluded previously. Actually, they were quite true to themselves.

  • Susan

    The debate was great and almost made me reconsider and produce a Conservative vote, until I read this blog and responses to the blog. Now the best I can say is that I hope, really hope, for a minority government. When I pulled the ideas and points of view together, I began to hope. The back and forth brought out, for me, the variety of view points to believe there were better solutions working together than I’d heard from any one party. Perhaps I missed a bit by not watching, but only listened to the words and tone. If there were a way to get rid of party politics and move to a process for encouraging creative solutions from excellent background and discourse on same and a decision making process to follow, I would suggest the best of democracy might happen.

    That we continue to bash humour (silly sweater and “you learned the French word for last night?”) and be riled by the expression of different ideas is bothersome.

    In fact, I had to find the American vice presidential debate to give a later listen, since I was enthralled by the Canadian version. The VP affair was indeed, two speeches, running simultaneously, Stephen.

    My vote will go to the candidate who recognizes that, if it is important, then it is complex. If complex it will not be ‘fixed’ by a simple one thread solution.

  • batb

    Yes, Steve Paikin was a great disappointment–which didn't surprise me.

    He presents well, he comes across as measured and, apparently, objective, but if you watch TVOntario's The Agenda on a regular basis, you discover that his panels, nine times out of ten, are stacked about four to one with anti-c/Conservative commentators.

    A case in point was his Cuts to Arts funding program this week. He had three dyed-in-the-wool lib-left-arts cheerleaders, who clearly disliked PMSH and his party, one businessman/arts patron who occasionally mentioned that it's the responsibility of the government to do cost-effective studies and to curtail grants/subsidies which are not producing results, and Tim Powers, a CPC spokesperson. Thank G*d Tim Powers has a genuine sense of humor and enough self-esteem not to have been completely steamrolled.

    The stacking of the deck happens all the time. So, no matter how “temperate” or “measured” Mr. Paikin appears to be, he and his producers have set up the discussion to tilt largely to the lib-left side, which means that the viewers are hearing 3/4s lib-left viewpoints to 1/4 right-of-centre ones. 'Hardly equitable.

    No wonder the Canadian public is so ill-informed about what's actually happening, seeing as they're getting a heavy dose of lib-left propaganda and spin every time they turn on their televisions. I seldom watch The Agenda anymore. I've got better things to do.

    On the other hand, Steve Paikin and TVO did themselves proud on last night's program, which dealt with the subject of voting for someone you could see yourself having a beer with. The panel was evenly split between lib and not-so-lib commentary and, IMHO, the conservative commentators did an admirable job (Deb Gray was GREAT!) . If more panels were composed like this, I'd tune in more often.

  • Gabby in QC

    “The debate was great and almost made me reconsider and produce a Conservative vote, until I read this blog and responses to the blog.”
    What is it about the blog and responses that turned you off?

    “The back and forth brought out, for me, the variety of view points to believe there were better solutions working together than I’d heard from any one party.”
    Could you please list some of the points in that “variety of view points” with some of those “better solutions”? I'm having a hard time interpreting what you mean, so I'd appreciate it if you were more specific.

    “That we continue to bash humour (silly sweater and “you learned the French word for last night?”) and be riled by the expression of different ideas is bothersome.”
    Once again, I want to make sure I understand what you mean.
    Do you object to the sweater comment during the debate, i.e. Jack Layton's question about whether the Conservative platform was hidden under Mr. Harper's sweater?
    Or do you object to conservatives finding such a question silly, and thus “bashing humour”?

    “My vote will go to the candidate who recognizes that, if it is important, then it is complex. If complex it will not be ‘fixed’ by a simple one thread solution.”
    Well, you seem to object to the opposite of complexity, i.e. simplicity.
    Personally, being a simple kind of person, I would have welcomed more simplicity, more directness in your comment here, not veiled references … to a certain candidate's complex plan, perhaps?

    Please allow me to leave you with a couple of pertinent quotes:
    “Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple.” Edward de Bono

    “Expansion means complexity and complexity decay.” C. Northcote Parkinson

    “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” Frederic Chopin

  • notsurprised

    I thought Steve Paikin was alright until he brought up the “barbarian” thing. I'm still shocked at that and I had the feeling that everyone else sitting around the table were a little stunned as well. Am I right that someone actually said “just a minute here”? Anyway, I haven't read a thing about it in any media posting. The only place I've seen it mentioned at all has been in the occasional blog that I've read. I believe he should apologize for it, to be honest…whether or not it “hurt” our PM, I don't know but I think it's something that will stick in the minds of the undecided.

    I've lost all faith in any media reporting I hear on tv or radio or read in the newspaper. I'm finding that searching the net better informs me about the things we don't hear about….possible the right things.

  • notsurprised

    oops..seems that didn't work!

    I'll try again.

    I wanted to say that I thought Steve Paikin was alright until he brought up the “barbarian” comment. I have no idea where that came from but it was entirely inappropriate. Am I right that someone on the panel said something like “just a minute here”? I thought that everyone sitting there seemed a little stunned by it, and thankfully, all had the sense to dismiss calling our PM just that. I think that Steve P. really should apologize, it was uncalled for and very unprofessional. Strangely I haven't read anything by the media about it.

    Typical….

  • batb

    That barbarian comment, BTW, had been used by Steve Paikin on The Agenda on TVO a few nights earlier, on the show about the CPC's cutting funding–well, SOME funding–to the Arts in Canada.

    When Paikin got around to Tim Powers, he curled up the fingers on one of his hands and said, 'see the blood dripping from my dragging knuckles? 'Ya got a bandaid?

    'Best line of the night–and well deserved by Paikin and his team for having asked it. I somehow can't see a similar question being asked of the LPC, NDP, or the Greens: “What about those envelopes overflowing with cash left in Montreal restaurants? Does this connect the LPC with other somewhat unsavory envelope stuffers in la belle province?”

    It'd never happen. Double standard, anyone?

  • batb

    That barbarian comment, BTW, had been used by Steve Paikin on The Agenda on TVO a few nights earlier, on the show about the CPC's cutting funding–well, SOME funding–to the Arts in Canada.

    When Paikin got around to Tim Powers, he curled up the fingers on one of his hands and said, 'see the blood dripping from my dragging knuckles? 'Ya got a bandaid?

    'Best line of the night–and well deserved by Paikin and his team for having asked it. I somehow can't see a similar question being asked of the LPC, NDP, or the Greens: “What about those envelopes overflowing with cash left in Montreal restaurants? Does this connect the LPC with other somewhat unsavory envelope stuffers in la belle province?”

    It'd never happen. Double standard, anyone?