Monday, January 09, 2006

Leaders' Debate: My Comments off the Cuff

I wasn't going to write about the debate tonight. I figured it'd be the snorefest of last time, but Andrew inspired me, and this debate was actually lively. I believe having Steve Paikin of Studio 2 as host made the difference. Previous debates have degenerated into verbal slugfests when they've opened it up, but somehow he brought his distinctive interviewing style into this debate that ensured it was lively but not incomprehensible.

What resonated with me?

Paul Martin's impassioned remarks on National Unity -- "...this is their (Quebeckers) country!" -- Stephen Harper's specific proposals about fixing federalism, and Jack Layton's focus on uniting and reconciling our entire country sparked some thoughts about how our country is evolving. I'm going to let those thoughts percolate and write on that later.

Why do voters in Quebec vote as if there are only two choices: Liberal and BQ? Given that so many share the values of the NDP, why do they not vote NDP? Layton in saying "today's NDP" signalled that it has shifted to be more pragmatic and less ideological. That gets back to a previous point I made in one of my posts with regards to the Green Party: why do we only look at the two entrenched parties and not consider voting for a candidate who truly represents us? We may actually get a Parliament that represents us and excites us.

Martin came across as a blowhard; he looked rumpled and chaotic. I was shocked at how much he lost control of himself, even to the point of speechlessness at one point. He, of all them, is the most accomplished debater...usually. Harper came across as more Prime Ministerial with his sartorial dress, thoughtful comments, and more relaxed demeanour. And only Layton matched Harper in all three areas.

Isn't it interesting that in the 80s, John Turner challenged Brian Mulroney's patriotism and Mulroney yelled back. Today, Martin tried the same trick with Harper (as in Conservative = unpatriotic). Yawn. Harper pointed out Martin's glass house, and Martin's attempt at painting Harper as an American in disguise deflated like a limp balloon. Deborah Grey on Studio 2 is right: having different ideas from the Liberals doesn't make us unfit Canadians. It's insulting. And frankly, President George Bush and the Republicans view the Canadian Right as a bunch of leftists. (I disagree with Harper's views on federalism, but unlike Liberals, do get that Canadians differ on this issue. That's democracy.)

Martin talked about amending the Constitution to remove the Notwithstanding Clause. Is he nuts? Does he think we're such idiots we don't know what it will take to amend the Constitution? I liked Harper's erudite response. His measured tones made Martin look like he was just scattering shot, hoping he'd eventually hit something. He missed by a Mm.

On taxes, no way is Martin's proposal going to help the worst off of us, specifically those who don't pay income taxes, and his comments on Harper's GST reduction is just hypocritical when he campaigned against the GST in the 90s and then as Finance Minister reneged on his campaign promise. However, Harper did not answer Paikin's question about hiking income tax for the lowest bracket directly. His evasion stood out because in general he did answer Paikin's questions directly, instead of prefacing them like Layton or avoiding them like Martin. This was a rare gaffe.

I'm not commenting on BQ and Duceppe because, as an immigrant Canadian who did pay attention in history class, I think he's representing an anachronistic point of view that plays on people's unhappiness and perpetuates problems without solving them in a way that makes us grow individually and collectively. Layton is right -- we need to focus on what unites us -- and Martin is right -- Upper and Lower Canada came into Confederation as equals, that's what makes our country so radical.

Who won the debate?

The one who wins the election.

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2 comments:

Andrew said...

Good showing, I'm glad you did, that was a very interesting read.

The mainstream media has one way of telling us who won the debate, the bloggers tell us who really ended up winning it :)

I did a coin toss, you left it open - this election will be a coin toss so all bets are off. I might join the crowd and say it's Harper's to loose, he was a bit lame later on, trying not to screw up!

talk talk talk said...

Thank you!

Blogging -- and reading blogs -- has certainly opened up new outlets for us frustrated voters. I feel like I finally have a voice. Your website looks like another good way to exercise one's voice. I plan on checking it out properly soon.