Thursday, December 15, 2005

Le Grand Debat

The new format made for a more orderly debate but a far, far more boring one. You'd get a question and everyone would agree what a wonderful question it was, then move on to their platform. I'll give the moderator some credit for actually asking tough follow up questions, after the very off-beat questions from average Canadians.

There wasn't much on the big topics - child care, US relations, handguns. So, at the very least, it served as a way to shed some light on a wide range of policy issues. Duceppe was probably the best, but he always has the easiest ride in these things. The fact that Adscam got a lot of play is bad for the Liberals, and Martin, even if Paul wasn't that bad in this debate.

Anyways, here's my minute by minute recap. There may be some large lags in there, when I dozed off or switched over to Wheel of Fortune.


Opening Statements

6:03 pm: 15 seconds into his speech and Duceppe has already mentioned the Sponsorship Scandal.

6:04 pm: "A process that will end Canada"...wow. Way to keep the hollow rhetoric down Paul.

6:05 pm: Look at the bloody camera Stephen!

6:07 pm: "We will reduce the cost of drugs" - Jack Layton is trying to cozy up to Boiclair, I see.


The Questions

6:11 pm: Guess who? "We tried to make Parliament work".

6:18 pm: Duceppe loves talking Sponsorship, doesn't he? He's definitely winning so far.

6:23 pm: Duceppe, on access to information: "We got documents that looked like crossword puzzles with more black squares than white ones." heh.

6:30 pm: The moderator says "you have all made tens of thousands of dollars in promises..." What election are you watching? Hopefully it was just a bad translator.

6:35 pm: Paul's helping the hearing impaired by giving all his answers in sign language.

6:42 pm: Harper says he doesn't understand the question for the second time. I don't blame him - these questions are just...dumb.

6:51 pm: There's a question on homeless people dying. Be careful Jack...

7:01 pm: Booo! No beer and popcorn jokes during the child care portion. Is anybody going to say anything remotely confrontational tonight?

7:29 pm: Someone asks a question on when Quebec will ratify the constitution. Good grief.

7:33 pm: The CBC has live blogging updates here.

7:41 pm: Zing! Martin gets the question about the "referendum election" and whether or not he'd recognize a BQ majority as a "yes" vote. Martin tries to blame Duceppe for starting it. I'll quote Paul Wells on this one:
And what does he do when his adversaries say something absurd? Jump right in:
"If that's how they see it, we'll fight on that basis." So if Boisclair and Duceppe announced that Canadians would be electing the next prime minister of Spain on Jan. 23, apparently Martin would start campaigning in a lispy Castilian accent.

7:44 pm: Duceppe's response is very forceful, calling the Liberals "liars" several times. He gets the hard follow up from the moderator about a large number of Bloc MPs being good for sovereignty.

7:52 pm: I take back my prediction for question Duceppe would least like to see. The question is "what's your vision of Canada in 30 years?".

7:53 pm: OK, OK. Duceppe handles it alright. Layton rambles on about social programs. Harper goes on about "endless potential" again. Martin says "I've already made spending announcements up to the year 2036, so obviously I have the best vision for the country." (OK, not really)

CBC has a full play-by-play here. They're better people than I am for staying awake through this thing. Of course, they are probably getting paid for it.

26 Comments:

  • Didn't watch.. but glad CTV replayed that clip of Paul Martin fumbling with his glass of water. Maybe they should give him a mug with a handle.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:57 PM  

  • Tonight's first of the debates, in French, didn't offer much to help an undecided voter decide where to put their X. Duceppe was restrained by the format from getting at Martin in a sustained manner. Harper and Layton were just along for the ride. My overall assessment would be:nothing gained, nothing lost. The sponsorship scandal came up early on and Martin took some heat on that but no major blow struck. Duceppe coasted through the debate not really challenged.I found the format was not really helpful.

    Let's hope the debate tomorrow night is a little more stimulating.

    By Blogger cardinal47, at 11:17 PM  

  • Why did Martin have a pen in his hand all the time? He looked like a school teacher.

    By Blogger mezba, at 11:22 PM  

  • OK, I'm racing to the computer to pre-empt all of you that are going to bitch about the format, and how it was boring.

    You're all either underestimating Canadians, or I'm overestimating them. I think Canadians' first concern this time around is trust. And the idea of having questions come directly from Canadians allows the viewers (it allowed me, at least) to put themselves in the place of the questioner. That made me feel like the debates were useful in determining how the leaders would have reacted to me, if I had asked that question. And that is something I can use to decide who to trust.

    The reason it was boring is the leaders didn't buy into the idea. They were "on message." Which meant that they were "off question." Which also meant that they were "off putting."

    In short, the format isn't the problem. The communications strategies built for idiots to communicate with imbeciles are the problem.

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 11:31 PM  

  • Nice summary Bart.

    By Blogger Brandon, at 11:43 PM  

  • Not too exciting - but in the end I'd have to say that Martin didn't help himself. Harper has obviously been told to keep the gloves on, which is probably resonable considering the 'angry man' spin. Layton was good during the scandal spot (Martin looked like he wanted to crawl under a box). Duceppe did 'outrage' pretty good though I thought he went a bit light on Martin as well. All in all, if I was living in Quebec I'd probably vote Bloc as well. If this was Martin's pitch as the federalist alternative it was pretty pathetic.

    By Anonymous Gunter, at 11:46 PM  

  • Martin needed, if not a knockout, a pretty strong punch.

    Martin did not do that, and took a few hits. This may cost him a couple of more seats.

    It's not Martin's fault per se. He's just got a horrible record to work with and the best presentation in the world (Martin actually looked comfortable for a guy being called a crook) isn't going to change that.

    I don't see this conundrum changing as the election moves on. Martin's in trouble.

    By Anonymous Chester, at 11:54 PM  

  • I really thought Martin did really well especially in opening and closing statements more so in opening. His answer about the next 30 years was excellent. I think he did good. Of course my buddy Gill always does good because he's a good debator and because he has nothing to present...anywyas good post bART...you are hilarious

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:11 AM  

  • I didn't mind the average Canadians asking questions, even if they were a little odd.

    They should have given everyone 30 seconds, and then gone into one on one matches. If you want to axe the four person free-for-all, then fine, but I would have liked a little clash.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:57 AM  

  • First of all, I think the translators were generally lousy. On the other hand, with the exception of Duceppe, they might have had a little bit of problem understanding what the Anglos were saying.

    I've gone through all the news sites tonight, and some key blogs, and nowhere does anyone mention the commitment that Harper made on reducing or eliminating the fiscal imbalance. It seems to me that this phrase embodies more than just $'s, especially power devolution and tax points ... in Quebecers' minds.

    So to me it was a big message to Quebecers. The CPC will work with Quebec (and other provinces) to reduce the fiscal imbalance. Maybe I'll see something on it from the francophone press.

    Remember, this was playing to Quebec, not ROC.

    That said, I thought Layton evaded direct answers to the questions, instead trotting out his party's positions even if they weren't in the least germaine to the question.

    Martin survived and is probably where he was before the debate started. He went around the block a few times (or consciously lied) about who benefits from the reduction in GST, and I think Quebec voters are smart enough to figure it out.

    Duceppe ... well, he did his thing. Remind Quebecers why the Bloc is there today, especially re: AdScam.

    Harper probably had three onjectives tonight for Quebec listeners:

    1. Prove he's not scary. Accomplished.

    2. Dispel the "hidden agenda" rap. Probably accomplished.

    3. Be attractive enough to eiter get a seat or three, or move some parked Bloc or soft Liberal votes to him. Accomplished.

    So in my mind, Harper did all that he set out to do. Layton? Dunno ... appeared he was appealing more to ROC. Martin: survived, and I guess he can call it a success.

    And I'll leave it like that. My off-the-top bullet points are at my site, but I'll update them in the morning after I've had a good night's sleep.

    By Anonymous Erik Sorenson, at 1:18 AM  

  • The one point I think Martin took a beating on was the fiscal imbalance question. He tried to sidestep, the moderator came back on him for it, and he still fumbled. The other leaders had fairly clear concise answers which highlighted how befuddled Martin was on that one.

    By Anonymous PeterP, at 2:57 AM  

  • Harper did something clever by stating he wouldn't use the notwithstanding clause over gay marriage, and doing so in the French debate, which gives 24 hours of gel time before the English debate starts. His job wasn't to impress Quebecers, it was to continue to put the scary tag to bed in Ontario, and he did chip away at that, if not slay it entirely.

    Layton was really disappointing. The Liberals are going whole-hog for soft NDP voters with their gun and daycare policies to shore up losses in Quebec and Ontario to the Conservatives, and all he can say is "elect more NDP members". He should be saying is "strategic voting perpetuates a corrupt regime" and start flagging all of Martin's cozy remarks and policies regarding the US, including Iraq.

    Have ads like this:

    "He said our troops belong in Iraq"
    "He said that NATFA-style free trade with the US is the only way to go."
    "He said that gay marriage is not his thing and would do his best to preserve traditional marriage"
    "He said tha missle defence is a good idea"

    Stephen Harper? No. Paul Martin.

    Do you know what you are voting for?



    It looks like the Liberal campaign is "take our lumps in Quebec, try to stanch our losses to the Conservatives, and steal as much as we can from the NDP."

    The former is happening and they know it, they are likely not happy about the outcome with the Conservatives. The low hanging fruit in this campaign is the NDP, and if they can reduce them to below the official party status threshold the revenge will be sweeter for them.

    Unless the NDP can start pinning things on Martin that are opposite to the Liberal's current claims they will be in trouble.

    By Blogger Michael, at 8:47 AM  

  • I predict that, sometime over the remaining three debates, Paul Martin will drop a glass of water, poke the leader to his right in the eye with his pen and knock over his podium.

    By Anonymous Dave in Ottawa, at 9:17 AM  

  • My favorite was at the end of the debate (if you can call it that) when Martin upped his pace to get to the teacher uh I mean moderator first to shake hands.

    PS - I like Michael's ad concept

    By Anonymous Sailor Man, at 9:49 AM  

  • I just want to know who designed that atrocious set with all the faux stone and pillars and stuff. It looked like they were debating in an Olive Garden at the mall or something.

    By Blogger Alex Elliott, at 10:49 AM  

  • Sailor Man; I think Paul tried to jump the gun too. Didn't the moderator say something like "not yet Mr. Martin, we're not done", before her closing comments?

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:29 AM  

  • CG - He looked a little eager to get out of there for some reason...

    By Anonymous Sailor Man, at 11:51 AM  

  • CG - He looked a little eager to get out of there for some reason...

    Captain Canada probably had to go save the country or something. :p..

    By Blogger Greg, at 12:07 PM  

  • Summary:

    On surpluses and fiscal imbalance with provinces:

    Layton: I would eliminate the surpluses, and thus the fiscal imbalance, by spending all of it...this is what Canadians really want, believe me!

    Martin: What fiscal imbalance??? But I agree with Jack; surpluses should be spent!

    Harper: We'll eliminate surpluses by cutting taxes, and sitting down with the provinces to address and solve the fiscal imbalance.

    Duceppe: There is an imbalance for sure, and if I were in a position to do something about it, I would.

    On s/s marriage:

    Layton, Martin, Duceppe: Blah, blah, blah, NWC, the Supreme Court.

    Harper: I'll give Parliament a free vote on the matter. I think the country will survive democracy just as it has in the past.

    On unity:

    Duceppe: I'm against it.

    Martin: It is clearly obvious by how much I'm clenching my fists when I rant about how much I love Canada that national unity is one of my main priorities. To that end I will continue to do my utmost to isolate and marginalize all those in Quebec and the west who don't like Liberals.

    Layton: I'm for unity, too...and I will spend as much as I possibly can to make sure nobody can afford to separate.

    Harper: The Liberals and the Bloc have been waging this war since forever. Surely you must be fed up by now???

    On integrity...

    Duceppe: The Liberals are crooks.

    Layton: The Liberals are crooks...but I can still work with them.

    Harper: The Liberals are crooks. You have a alternative to crooks.

    Martin: The Liberals were crooks, for sure, but not any more! Really! I mean it! So let's not dwell on this any more! Pleeeeezzzzz!

    By Anonymous springer, at 1:53 PM  

  • Springer, just a guess but are you voting CPC?

    By Blogger Greg, at 3:43 PM  

  • I actually made it to the 1.5 hour mark. Then I fell asleep . . . sigh.

    Cheers,
    lance

    By Anonymous lance, at 3:50 PM  

  • Martin must have had a "heads up" to the questions, because his answers seemed "scripted". Too damned pat. The whole show was a snooze. I'll expect better tonight.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:54 PM  

  • HHAHAHHAAHAH Did you see that guy who asked about gun control and the 20 rifles behind him? That was HILARIOUS!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:15 PM  

  • Hahha.. Paul Martin is going to deal with the sponsorship scandal "frontally"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:36 PM  

  • Now everyone is holding a pen.. even the moderator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:57 PM  

  • The "debate over the debate", i.e. about the format is aggravating.

    Last time, the babble was all about how confrontational the debate format was:

    "It was disgusting. They were just squabbling like school children. I could hardly hear what they were saying half the time. If they were real leaders, they would talk about issues instead of doing all that bickering."

    So they change the format to make it more deliberate and serious, and now everyone's saying it's boring!

    Hilarious. Almost as hilarious as the 12 Gags of Christmas but not quite.

    By Blogger Mentok the Mind-taker, at 12:52 PM  

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