There were quite a few times I cringed watching today's debate...mainly because the performance by the organizing committee was downright embarrassing. By the end of the debate, every single person in the room was fanning themselves. There were constant microphone glitches in the opening statements. The lights kept fading in and out during Ken's opening speech (it's hard enough to stay away during Dryden's speeches, even in a fully lit room, so they were really just tempting people...). At one point a lady went to the microphone to lambast the candidates for not speaking enough French (it was really weird).
The debate itself, was once again rather dry. You don't need fireworks for a fascinating debate but the questions really didn't open the door for much disagreement, or specific policies. The best question of the day dealt with federal/provincial relations but it was wasted on a Bevilacqua/Fry solo debate. Here are some random thoughts:
1. I thought Dion's "you haven't proposed any changes" to Kennedy in their one-on-one was a little unfair, especially since Gerard wasn't given any time to respond to it. Kennedy came out with an extremely detailed environmental platform yesterday. He's also released a detailed immigration platform which has been praised by experts. I haven't seen any of the other candidates, Dion included, come out with more policy than this.
2. I will give Dion props for actually putting the crazy heckler in her place. He told her that the rules were to answer English questions in English and French questions in French, so that's what he'd do.
3. It's hard to say anything good about Volpe, except that he makes the debate interesting.
4. While Volpe was the most critical of Iggy on Afghanistan during the debate, Rae was the most critical of him afterwards, making repeated references to Ignatieff's Iraq position:
I think you've got to take his statements over time. He supported the war in Iraq. He described the war in Iraq as an extension of the duty to protect and he said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So neither of those I think pass muster.
And I think that's the context in which we have to face a lot of the debate and arguments since that time.
5. While Brison was on the receiving end of a great line by Martha Hall Findlay last week, he showed himself to be quick on his feet this week, getting a good jab in at Bob Rae on the Afghanistan issue. After Rae told a story about young girls in Sri Lanka, Brison reference the million girls now going to school in Afghanistan.
6. Still on Afghanistan, the Globe & Mail front page carried the "Ignatieff Lambasts Opponents" headline. In the article, Ignatieff tried to compare Afghanistan to the Rwanda genocides which is a really bad analogy and something an expert of foreign affairs should know better than to do. Rwanda was a genocide. Afghanistan isn't and never was. The proper analogy would be to compare Rwanda to the Darfur (where our troops can't go, because they're tied up in Afghanistan).
7. The editors really didn't do Dion any favours. When he was answering his first question, they cut to the crowd and showed a man who was asleep. Ouch.
8. I'm a little upset Ken Dryden didn't mention the Summit Series for the international moment which affected him the most.
9. Ignatieff appears to have backed down on the carbon tax issue, dodging the question when it came up. Nearly every candidate except Ignatieff and Dryden did however categorically say they opposed a carbon tax. Putting aside whether or not it's good policy, I'll just say this: If a Liberal leader runs on the carbon tax during the next election, I'd advise everyone to invest heavily in Kevlar. Because Liberal campaigns in Alberta are going to have buy a ton of bullet proof vests for their door knockers.