A couple of days ago, I attended the all-candidates debate at the Nepean Sportsplex where incumbent John Baird faced former Liberal minister David Pratt, Marlene Rivier from the NDP and Green party candidate Frances Coates. Despite their politics, I was quite impressed by the debating ability of Rivier and Coates. Pratt came off as a bit of a curmudgeon as he took almost opportunity to attack Stephen Harper and John Baird. It’s understandable from his perspective as he hopes to be the giant killer, but in a campaign many have labeled as negative, Pratt just fueled people’s perceptions of the same.
I’m not convinced that too many undecided voters attend all-candidates meetings. In fact, I’m certain that there were only a handful there. The theatrical display in that hall a few nights ago was put on in front of political partisans who tried to out-cheer or out-boo the other side’s cheerers and booers. A long train of people rushed to the microphone when it was time for questions from the audience; there was no chance that everyone would be heard as this section was alloted approximately one hour and each question would take the panel about four minutes to answer. Predictably, the moderator kept to time and a shorter but still extensive line of people behind the lucky last person to ask a question seemed disappointed and returned to their seats. After the panel had answered the last question, a woman grabbed the microphone and realizing she wouldn’t be recognized by the moderator, started yelling in the mic at John Baird which was followed by a shower of boos from the audience towards the woman that disrespected Baird but more importantly the room which patiently respected the process. She kept yelling and was largely inaudible with the surrounding boos and cameramen present rushed to capture a story in progress. The timekeeper, sitting next to the microphone grabbed the mic and pulled the micstand down. Then the woman tried wrestling the microphone away from the timekeeper bending down to shout into the mic now clasped in his hands. Flustered, she turned around and turned around and quickly paced to the door leaving the room.
Outside, a reporter wanted to get her story. Apparently, she was upset about the Conservative government’s record on science, technology and innovation. The reporter asked for her name to which she replied “Christine”. “And your last name?”, the reporter asked. After hesitation she responded “Pratt”. “Is that a coincidence,” asked the reporter.
“No, I’m his sister”
I attended my riding all candidates debate last night. Stupid politics. It made the news this morning to. I am now more mixed up than ever. David Pratt did not handle himself at all well. He did nothing but attack Baird and the conservatives (ok….to an extent, rightly so, but there is a time and place, and a way to balance it), and spent very little time on talking about what he would do, even when asked directly “What would you do for X, Y, or Z”. He also frequently ran over his time, and powered through to the end of his statement with the moderator trying to talk over him saying his time was up. John Baird is actually a pretty clever man despite my abhorrence of his policies. He came off looking like he had a clear moral high ground, stayed polite, stayed in time, played some very clever political theatre for the crowd, and kept attacks on Stephane Dion to a minimum. Baird’s supporters on the other hand were a disgrace. Yelling, heckling, drowning out Pratt and making him use up his time, shouting down people asking questions critical of Baird, they were quite frankly an embarassment. Pratt had his own embarassment however, after the moderator declared we were out of time except closing statements, a woman muscled her way to the microphone and start yelling at Baird (only to be outright verbally abused by Baird’s supporters for her efforts). I learned this morning, she was David Pratt’s sister, and it was a very stupid move to do when the moderator had already closed down questions from the audience, and David made no attempt to dissuade her.
I am seriously questioning my volunteer contribution to Pratt’s campaign office. I still want to see Baird out of a job, and Pratt has the only real chance to pull that off, but right now, I’d have trouble being sincere doing door to door canvassing. “Please sir or madam, I’d like to ask if David can count on your vote, even though his performance at the debate probably didn’t earn it”