Better Than Being There...
Canada's Peacekeeping Role (Iggy, Dion, Bob)
This was the most heated debate of the night. Dion obviously came to Vancouver planning to wage war since he threw back some of Ignatieff's old quotes at him. Ignatieff protested that "you're putting words in my mouth" which I guess was true, except that it was Ignatieff's own words that were being put in his mouth. Rae went after Iggy hard too, asking if he stood with George Bush and eventually got Ignatieff to concede that "George Bush made every mistake in Iraq and then some".
Without a doubt, this pairing was a gift from God to Dion and Rae since it's hard to not look good in front of Liberals while defending Canada's decision to stay out of the Iraq war.
Pipelines and the Environment (Brison, Kennedy, Volpe)
All three make their openings in French. I don't know much about the issue but I will say that Gerard Kennedy made a bit of history by becoming the first Liberal to ever quote Peter Lougheed in a debate.
Legalized Pot (Findlay, Dryden, Fry)
This was a fun topic. Unfortunately all three candidates seemed a bit confused between "decriminalization" and "legalization". Martha compared the current laws to alcohol prohibition and said we couldn't control marijuana because it's illegal. Hedy kept making reference to the Netherlands and to the marijuana cafes there. All good arguments but those are good arguments for legalization, not for decriminalization which is what all the candidates all said they favoured.
Martha and Dryden agreed that talk of pot decrim makes "a lot of people nervous". Well, if they're nervous...
Kelowna (Dion, Kennedy, Findlay)
To be honest, I was kind of distracted by Martha's giant white sweater she always wears so I didn't pay too close attention to this one. Kennedy used a lot of French again, Dion talked about setting up an independent body to solve land claims in BC, and Martha promised to review the Indian Act.
Salmon Stocks (Ignatieff, Brison, Dryden)
This turned into a roast of Stephen Harper. Dryden said that Harper "doesn't believe in science" which, while it might be an apt description of Stockwell Day, is probably a little disingenuous description of Stephen Harper.
Foreign Ownership Rules (Rae, Volpe, Fry)
Bob Rae decided to quote Tommy Douglas in what I guess was an attempt to remind everyone he used to be with the NDP. He said he supports stricter protection in the field of culture but not necessarily in other domains.
Hedy Fry and Joe Volpe then got into one of the most bizarre debates of the evening where they seemed to be passionately arguing the same point against each other. Further confusing things was the fact that this point seemed to be that they loved Canada and wanted to protect it. In the end, Hedy proclaimed that they'd have to "agree to disagree".
Trade with Asia (Dion, Brison, Fry)
All candidates handled the "Chyndia" question well. Brison, wanting to up Kennedy quoting Lougheed, made reference to Richard Nixon reaching out to China. He also mentioned a few times that Harper was isolating China which is a new attack I hadn't heard before.
Hedy Fry proclaimed that Canada was number one in "space", "robotics", "bionics", and "nano technoly", failling to mention our dominance in hockey and rock reality shows.
When Dion was called upon to add his comments to the debate he answered with "umm...I think we all agree".
CBC and the CRTC (Ignatieff, Findlay, Volpe)
Ignatieff said we're "too holed up in regions" and talked about "one national culture". Personally, I'm not sure if the best way to develop "one national culture" and to fight regionalism is to parcel Canada off into nations.
The candidates all supported a strong CBC, probably all hoping to one day get their own mini-series should they win this race. Martha said we should look at making the CBC commercial free.
Senate Reform (Kennedy, Rae, Brison)
As Kennedy said, this isn't really a burning issue in the Tim Hortons of the country. Gerard went on to talk about bringing forward policies which will appeal to the west and emphasized that a carbon tax probably isn't the best way to do this.
Rae took a few subtle pokes at Iggy's constitutional plan and Bob also gets marks for being the first candidate to use the word "shafted" in one of these debates.
The candidates were given 2 minutes for closing remarks which must have seemed like an eternity to them after the 1 minute they'd been given in previous debates.
Dion re-emphasized that we shouldn't open up the constitution. He also mentioned that Jack Layton had seemingly endorsed him, which probably falls into the "rejected endorsement" file.
Ignatieff, as usual, made reference to his support of Trudeau at the 1968 leadership convention which is interesting given his recent constitutional gambit. He also promised hope for every single profession, group, and individual in Canada.
Rae says the race isn't about "who has the best ideas, but who who can beat Harper". Even if he's new to the party, no one can say that Bob Rae doesn't understand what matters most to Liberals.
Kennedy gives a very good closing statement, full of passion and fire. He talks about renewal in the Liberal Party which is something I would have preferred to see his campaign focus on more than it has.
Brison plays to the crowd with a little Emerson bashing. Re-emphasizes the point everyone is making that this is about who is best suited to beat Stephen Harper.
Volpe tells a story about when he talked to Jean Chretien about running for leadership. WHAAAAA?!?!? Joe Volpe talked to Jean Chretien about running for leadership. I can only imagine how that call went:
Jean: " 'ello"
Volpe: "Hello Jean. This is Joe Volpe. I'm thinking of running for leadership."
Volpe: "Hello? Jean? You there?"
I really do like Martha but her closing statement really missed the mark this time. She started by listing the reasons people shouldn't vote for her. Then she compared herself to Jack Layton (what's with the Layton love-in this debate?) and Brian Mulroney. Yes, she compared herself to Brian Mulroney. She concluded by saying that Stephen Harper is afraid of running against Martha Hall Findlay. With all due respect to Martha, who has really impressed in this race, I don't think Stephen Harper is afraid of running against you.
Dryden says "what do Canadians think?" and "who can win the country" four times each in his closing statement. I'm gonna guess this was a not so subtle reference to the polls which came out this week.
Hedy Fry wins the "most honest remark of the debate" award when she says "you all know I'm not the first choice" (ed note: or the second choice, or the third choice...). She then gives one of the most depressing closing statements ever, talking about "unabated misery" and complaining about the high convention fees, high membership fees, and problems with the party. To me, this sounded like someone ready to drop out of the race.