The Leadership debate

I just arrived home from the leadership debate in Ottawa and it was an interesting and enthusiastic day.

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The debate was a perfect showcase for our leadership contestants and a great showcase for our party. While Belinda Stronach, Stephen Harper and Tony Clement debated the issues, there was a consensus, indeed among the audience as well, that change needs to occur in government and that Paul Martin has lost his right to rule.

Interesting notes from the debate:
Belinda Stronach started her opening statement in French and spoke confidently. She spoke with strength and poise during the entire debate and never faltered significantly. She certainly surpassed everyone’s expectations.

Tony Clement tried to show that he was in charge of the debate. He would often move the debate towards certain candidates, shifting the discussion. “Now Belinda, you assert that…”, “Stephen, I want to get back to that point”. Clement certainly had the most ease about him and he managed to share some wit as well. After listing his qualities, he rhetorically asked, “Now, who do you want for leader”, to which one Belinda supporter yelled out “Belinda!”. Tony laughed and concluded that he wouldn’t be asking anymore rhetorical questions.

Stephen Harper discussed the issues. He kept referring to his record in parliament and his role in merging the two parties. Tony Clement replied that contrary to Harper’s belief, he (Tony) and Belinda had every right to be there as Belinda was instrumental in joining the two parties together. The greatest criticism of Harper came as a concern that he will not appeal to Canadians outside of Alberta.

The Stronach supporters and Harper supporters were out in full force, filling much of the hall. Clement’s supporters had a modest showing equaling roughly one third of either the Belinda boosters or the Harperites. There were many Conservative senators in attendance and Peter MacKay was also present. Harper’s supporters in the hall were of all ages, while about 90% of Stronach’s supporters, in the hall, were under 25.

The best ideas to come out of the debate:
Belinda Stronach proposed a Youth Advisory Council where Parliamentary decisions could be guided by youth input.
Tony Clement proposed a Parliamentary Budget Office where parliamentarians could do year-round research on the fiscal numbers proposed by the Ministry of Finance.

All three candidates had a strong showing. The only clear loser appeared to be the Liberal party as the Conservative candidates underlined the Liberal scandals and arrogance every chance they got.

There was no clear winner. Every candidate seemed to perform as they needed to perform. However, I would give a special nod to Ms. Stronach. Many of her detractors believed that she would have crumbled under the parliamentary debating experience of Stephen Harper and Tony Clement. However, she continues to impress and has clearly shown today that she not only deserves to be in the race, but also deserves serious consideration for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Tony Clement also was very impressive and showed that he is indeed somewhat of a scrapper and very capable debater. Stephen Harper didn’t present anything new and, as already said, relied on his record. However, Stephen Harper did have the most to lose, so his defensive yet consistant policy positions served him well for this debate.

Watch the Leadership Debate

The leadershipship race for the Conservative Party of Canada today will feature a debate between Tony Clement, Stephen Harper and Belinda Stronach today on CPAC at 2pm. For those of you without cable I found a CPAC live webfeed. I’ve got tickets for the Ottawa debate so I’ll be reporting back here on all the details.

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CPAC live feed (please select language below to watch the debate live at 2pm)
English | Fran├žais

Prime Minister Tony Clement?

tonypic.jpgI haven’t said too much about Tony Clement’s bid for leadership and indeed, my level of attention has been paralleled among most Canadians. However, I do believe that Mr. Clement does require a closer look. The man just might clinch this race, not by his visibility, not by his organization, but by his mere unthreatening image that he poses to the leadership candidates and to all Canadians. This leadership race is becoming polarized with Tony merely floating precariously in the middle. This contest, as it is, has become a “Stronach not Harper” or a “Harper not Stronach” race.

We all know the story. Supporters of Belinda Stronach feel that she’s the most likely Ontario Tory to secure the race and they believe that a Stephen Harper victory will only reflect a Alliance takeover of the Progressive Conservatives. A Western politician, they believe, will be unelectable east of Manitoba. Conversely, supporters of Stephen Harper believe that Belinda Stronach’s inexperience in politics will present a liability to politics at home and politics abroad. The numerous admirable qualities of the two candidates each respectively outweigh the petty detractions but when the voters choose the leader, they’ll add up the negative aspects of the candidates and then decide. We should decide based on the positives, but it seems as though the negatives are more prominently etched in our minds.

So, where does this leave ‘lil Tony Clement? He’s in the unique position were he can take the high road — not by choice, but because it’s the road less traveled. He’s correct when he said yesterday that he’s everyone’s second choice. Tony’s lack of visibility and Stronach’s knack for visibility makes Tony the second choice of Harperites, while his personal non-threatening nature and Ontario Tory roots make him the natural second choice among the Belinda Boosters. Indeed, enough Conservatives may add up the negatives of the two apparent front-runners and vote Clement as their first choice. These Conservatives may also believe that in an election, Tony’s unknown yet ‘non-threatening’ image may indeed draw voters who usually vote Liberal to vote Conservative because these voters couldn’t, in clear conscience, vote for the modern-day Liberal Party of Canada. Tony could indeed be the “anybody but” vote in both the Conservative leadership race and in the next federal election. This is Tony Clement’s greatest drawing factor and he knows it.

An optimist would say that Tony Clement’s campaign has nowhere to go but up. If Tony does well in the debates, which is most likely, he may just surprise us all, himself included.

Tony Clement is coming to Kingston on Saturday, February 21st. Mr. Clement will be speaking and meeting potential voters at Aunt Lucy’s Restaurant (Princess & Portsmouth) at 4pm.

Update:I met Tony Clement at Aunt Lucy’s. Lou Grimshaw, our riding president, was nice enough to announce that I’m seeking the nomination in Kingston and the Islands. The first declared nomination contestant!

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With Tony Clement – Click to enlarge