Ontario debate 2007, moderated by Steve Paikin was on all the networks tonight for 1.5 non-stop, solid hours in glorious HD. (I was going to watch it on my old rabbit-ears, but the weird squeezing of the visuals on Global was hard on the eyes.) It was great to see how the leaders performed under that kind of pressure, but I wilted. A commercial break would have been nice. But never mind. Herewith are, in honour of Citytv, my notes in the raw.
Instead of the usual opening statements, we had full-colour ads, oops, video openings. Then the questions began. Some from "ordinary" Ontarians, pre-taped, others from Paikin. After each leader answered (or in Dalton McGuinty's case sometimes didn't) the question, there would be a 4-minute debate, reduced to 3 near the end as the leaders would often keep on talking when Paikin would try and tell them to cede the floor to leader x. Really, do the fellows not know it all sounds like a mish-mash to viewers when they do that?
John Tory started badly by reading from his notes. I heard on CHUM FM this morn that he's the only leader to have no television debate experience. It showed at the beginning; it didn't by the end. Once the debate got going, he was natural and effective.
Dalton McGuinty came off as patronizing to Tory and dismissive to Howard Hampton. He also made Tory's points for him or gave him openings.
Hampton stumbled in several spots. Poor opening, like Tory.
McGuinty starting to sound too earnest.
Hampton speaking a bit more naturally in his opening answer.
Tory didn't read as much from his notes, and when did, he did more naturally. The nerves are starting to go with Hampton and Tory, thank goodness.
I really hate McGuinty's thumb. Ugh!
Hampton has personal experience with large classes: 38 in his son's class this year (so much for McGuinty's reduction in class size promise) and no ESL for 5 non-English speaking students! McGuinty talked about homework help, blamed the previous Conservative government (one of his favourite things to do), and faith-based stuff. He did not answer Hampton's concerns. He suddenly piped up that the funding formula is not fixed. It's an ongoing process.
Holy cow! McGuinty is now saying he's helping the kids with autism. This is the MF who forced the parents to spend time and money to get the government to help their kids? What nerve!
Hampton says upload 50% of operating costs. It's not as much as in the old days, but a heck of a lot better than now. He wouldn't build the subway past York U, instead build light rails and do right thing for environment, whatever that means. Every municipality is being stretched because of downloading. According to McGuinty, in answering Hampton, it's the Tories fault -- the last 4 years don't count apparently.
Tory says action now, reliable funding, and plan ahead. What a concept, planning and implementing. He attacked McGuinty then said he'd give every cent from gas tax, that's $800 million by 4th year, starting in 2008, for new transit.
McGuinty says it's an important issue for us urban folks. Nice that he knows that. What took him so long? Apparently he has a fantastic plan for the GTA and already putt 2 cents of the gas tax towards our transit. How come I don't see the effect? I don't remember that tax having any effect on my TTC experience. He wants to go ahead with his plans. So what the heck was he waiting for before this election? He contends that his 2 cents is better than Hampton's 50%. Wow, aren't we lucky. He says it's all the former government's fault. Yawn.
Tory is too funny: speaking to McGuinty, but really to us, "his plan is so far ahead in the future, people can hardly contemplate it."
Tory says our cities are struggling. He's now talking with passion and no obvious reading from notes. He will upload services in time for next budget year, after receiving the report that McGuinty's governmentt commissioned. McGuinty waited almost the full 4 years before finding uploading religion.
McGuinty: The former Tories made it hard for him. He is uploading slowly, and that gas tax really helps. It's difficult for politicians to grasp that our centres of wealth are our cities. Why is he speaking of himself that way? He then started talking about schools and it's all the old government's fault.
Hampton: The former Tories were wrong. But McGuinty hasn't fixed it. Upload 50% of cost of transit, drug benefits, disability support, and court costs. It's not about the Conservative record, it's about the Liberal record, and schools are being cut under the Liberals in the rural areas. Why should anyone believe McGuinty with his record of broken promises? Ding. Ding. Ding. We have a bulls eye hit.
Breaking Promises. Video question to McGuinty about bringing in BC's recall legislation here:
Wow, McGuinty had to take a breath before saying he didn't support recall legislation as questioner wants. His Dad's advice was no matter what, keep your word. Too bad he didn't heed it. But McGuinty had to ignore Dad and make that hard decisions because he had no choice. Poor me, he says, Tory's been attacking me all these months, but Tory stuck me (Tory? I don't recall Tory being in the Eves government, do you?) with that deficit, and I had a tough choice to make.
Hampton pointed out McGuinty only one in Ontario who didn't know that the former government had a $5 billion deficit. He gets elected (this reminds me of some of my readers who say people vote for those who tell them what they want to hear, more services for less money, not those who tell them the truth), then hits the poor with the most regressive tax ever. He's not making 6 dozen promises like McGuinty, but 6 commitments. McGuinty promised to reverse the clawback for child's benefits, which he didn't. So the poorest are still denied $1,500 of federal monies. Apparently Omtarios new $1100 child credit is better than $1500, according to McGuinty. OK.
Tory points out McGuinty only talks of the health care tax promise break, not the broken promises on coal, the autistic kids McGuinty used taxpayer's money to fight, ERs, etc. Recall legislation not a replacement for a leader who keeps his word. By not keeping his word, McGuinty destroyed the credibility of all politicians.
All three did agree recall not an answer.
Economy and manufacturing jobs: 100,000 jobs lost in Toronto. Tough question that put Hampton on the hot seat as NDP party started job loss ball.
Hampton: need an industrial hydro rate that is reliable. Need a job commissioner, not sure why. The man from northern Ontario challenged McGuinty's assertion that the unemployment rate went down; it went down because people are leaving not because they're getting jobs. And how McGuinty never wants to talk to them when he is up there.
Tory: Ontario will be dead last in job creation this year, this the traditional engine of Canada. We can be a powerhouse again, but the record of standing by and watching and raising taxes is not good enough. Fair taxation, better training, and allowing better innovation. Then he closes with saying that by the time we get to the end of the broadcast, McGuinty'll be bringing in Sir John A Mcdonald and blaming him.
McGunity tells us that he just can't be as negative as his colleagues and his employment rate is the best ever. I don't recall Ontario being last of all 10 provinces before. Of course it's hard on families and he gave 500 million auto bucks to create 7000 jobs. Wow. Be still my heart. Great return there. I still remember when the forestry industry and miners were yelling to try and get his attention that hydro rates and taxes were killing them.
McGuinty: We're paying $19.50/ hour. Tory: What about if you were paid $26 before?
Poverty and the widening gap between rich and poor:
Tory: revitalize poor neighbourhoods, introduce mentorship programs, open schools to provide proper recreational opportunities. Why did McGuinty bring in health tax in a way that has poor pay it at a higher rate than richer people? McGuinty thinks it's strange Tory talking about health care. He lost me. Thankfully, Hampton pointed out McGuinty not answering the question and pointed out McGuinty gave insurance companies and banks tax breaks. Meanwhile, McGuinty went back to thinking his colleagues say it's OK to take money out of health care. And now kids are tested for 20 genetic disorders. It's fair to provide adequate health care. What has that to do with poverty?
McGuinty: we're one big family, as he learnt in his own home. Increased disability supports. I'd like him to live on what he thinks is a wonderful increase. Next thing is to cover dental costs and very progressive. The health tax needed to fund health care then goes on to talk about health care. It was really strange and weird and puzzling how McGuinty just did not talk about poverty after initially listing his so-called achievements like increasing those disability supports.
Hampton: raise minimum wage to $10 now. McGuinty had time to raise his own wage by $40,000 but not minimum wage.
Crime -- question to McGuinty:
Crime always important issue to families. Really? What about those without families? They don't care? He hired more police and dozens more crown attorneys. And have attacked causes of crime by engaging kids in a good way.
Hampton points out police per capita has dropped under McGuinty. Devote more resources to prevention so working families can feel safe. McGuinty can't boast about crime rates when kids are being shot in schools.
Tory visited the funerals of victims (I remember often the only politician to do so, not even Miller would show up) and under McGuinty those CAs are making deals that lead to these funerals. McGuinty says Tory being so negative. And he wants Harper to ban handguns and would appreciate it if Tory would just support him. Tory nicely shot back that handguns are effectively banned anyway and you know that. You don't have to write more letters to Ottawa, you can right now stop the CAs from pleading out the criminals, letting them back onto the streets before police have finished the paperwork.
What struck me was only Tory and Hampton showed real concern in their eyes and faces during this portion of the debate, as if they truly understood the pain of victims and their families. McGuinty's demeanour didn't change no matter what issue he was talking about. That difference really struck me as it reflects the characters of these politicians as humans.
Hampton: McGuinty in 2003 said too high but now wants to raise it by 36 percent.
Tory wants to continue to regulate tuition and increase grant portion; he ran into 2 students in Etobicoke who talked about the false assumptions about their family support when applying for help. What he said shows me he continues to strive to learn and think about and come up with solutions. He's thinking on his feet, while McGuinty stays on mantra and spouts stats and his $300 textbook grant. I'm speechless at Liberal generosity. My texts back in the prehistoric era were $500, that's in prehistoric dollars. Now McGuinty's moving on to blaming the NDP government (when was that? can we stretch our minds that far back?) and pointing out how long he's been a politician. He's exhausting.
Tory is the only one who's making me laugh. McGuinty keeps giving him openings for his quick quips. Any politician who makes me laugh has my vote.
Tory: Do we need new nukes? Yes I believe we do as McGuinty wasted a lot of time, and while he pretended he was going to close coal, he didn't do anything else. Nukes for baseload power supply and get wind, solar, conservation going. The only coal plant that McGuinty closed, its closure was started by former PC government and McGuinty knows that. The Fiberal says that Tory is making this up and it's so complex, that's why they WILL pursue it. Tory retorted that they cancelled program for enery efficient appliances then brought em back just before the election. Whereupon McGuinty told us all about that program.
McGuinty rolled up his sleeves when he came into power. And then he must've sat down and had a long coffee break. Oh sorry, supposed to tell you what he said. I'm finding his smoothness boring and easy to tune out.
Hampton says both wrong. No nukes because of our sad history. Energy efficiency low-interest loans to retrofit homes (I prefer grants myself). Like California who dropped power consumption by12,000 MW, that's 3 Darlingtons. Even Alberta providing low-interest loans. Smart meters will simply drive up the hydro bill. Yay. A man who gets it!
McGuinty puts on his concerned look but he can't suppress that half-smile. Don't think can take 3 billion bucks out of health care from nixing the health tax and still fund health care properly. So Tory pointed out surplus and the 2.5 billion bucks Liberals rushed out door at end of year, and the recipients needed to know the secret phone number to get that moolah.
Hampton: Auditor General says to take McGuinty's wait times with a grain of salt. Wants to talk solutions. Hates private care and profit-driven hospitals. Innovate like Manitoba and Sask.
Tory: ask yourself do you feel the delivery of health care is better than 4 years ago? Uh no. One million people sans family doc 4 years ago, one million today.
Is Ontario still leading the country? Interesting lead-up to that question.
Hampton talked about global warming, invest in education, fix funding formula, ensure all youth can afford university. He didn't connect that to leading the country; I suppose I can do that if I really think. McGuinty asserted himself in wrong direction -- how is his raise and refusing to raise min wage moving forward? McGuinty said only put a cap on MPP wages so not less than 25 percent less than feds. He's making my head hurt.
Tory: we led when we had strong leaders. He listed all the areas where Ontario last or almost last, despite being a province of strong potential, and no longer coming forward and taking the lead. Even PEI is ahead of us. Patients come first, and the health card is the universal health care passport was his last word of the night.
McGuinty, the man of the hard-to-type name: we are Canada's leading jurisdiction and won't cede that. Goody for him. Reality already has. Went over his talks with Harper and things he fixed.
Closing speeches went back to a mind-numbing list in slow, precise voices. The words went right through me. Can't a politician ever learn how to give a rousing final speech?