Monday, September 11, 2006

Le Debat

For those who have better things to do than watch CPAC on the Sunday afternoon, you probably missed the third Liberal leadership debate in Quebec City. I did prefer the new format but it seemed like time always ran out just as things started to get interested. Given that most of the debate was in French, it was also tough to get too excited by the translator debating himself. And because I only watched the dubbed version, I will probably be the only Anglophone not offering a finicky review of the French skills of the group of 10.


General Thoughts
Ignatieff and Rae clearly had the most supporters in the audience, with Dion also having a very vocal contingent. As Lobster Thermidor commented, this led to some funny moments when candidates would say things like "we need to claw back agricultural subsidies by 0.2% over the next decade" and their supporters would burst into chants and applause.

I was surprised to see Ken Dryden didn't get more cheers. Even if no one is supporting the guy, you'd think 6 Stanley Cups for the province would be worth polite applause at the very least.

I haven't recapped every mini-debate since many weren't overly memorable. For example, when Hedy Fry, Carolyn Bennett and Ken Dryden were called for a break out debate, I took the chance to catch bits of the Star Trek marathon on SPACE. After all, the need for my sanity outweighs the need to see what Hedy Fry thinks on regional development. With that said, here are some of the highlights, as I saw them:


Opening Statements
Volpe attacks Iggy, Rae says he's sticking around "win or lose", Iggy tells Quebecers that Quebec is their nation and Canada is their country, Dion says "help me help you" ("show me the money!"), Kennedy plays up his Afghanistan position.


Healthcare (Rae, Volpe, Bennett)
Bennett talks about prevention while making choking gestures with her hands. In the exchange, she gets a dig in against Bob, saying she decided to run provincially "after five years of Bob Rae" because the health care system was in bad shape in Ontario. To Bob's credit he took the jab with a smile and defended his record effectively.


Constitution (Rae, Dryden, Dion)
Rae was the most forceful of the three saying that, from his experience, it would be "dangerous to change the constitution". Dryden went into a Dryden-esque "what is history?" explanation, and I think he was against changing the constitution, though I can't be sure ("when I think of constitutional reform, I think of a six year old girl playing ice hockey in a pair of second hand skates in the 1920s; I think of a French Canadian mill worker trudging to his job, knowing that, in his mind, he truly believes he can provide the sustenance for his family to realize their dreams in life..."). It's a shame Ignatieff wasn't in the group for this question, as this could have provided for a great debate on what may turn into a major issue in this campaign.


Tax Balance (Iggy, Brison, Bennett)
This marked the first Ignatieff/Brison encounter since the infamous "Stockwell Day" comments Brison made a few weeks back. After kidding each other over using "tu/toi" (which took me forever to get because of the translation), Brison went into the strongest attack of the debate. He accused Ignatieff of setting high expectations on the fiscal imbalance and said there would be no way for Ignatieff to pay for all the promises he was making in his platform.


Immigration (Kennedy, Dion, Martha)
I was very pleased to see Gerard get the immigration question since he's certainly got the most detailed policy of any of the candidates in this race on that topic. I think he addressed the question well and laid out the specifics he's mentioned in his platform.


International Trade (Iggy, Kennedy, Volpe)
I'd been anticipating Volpe/Ignatieff fireworks for a long time, especially after Volpe led off his opening statements with a dig against Iggy. But instead, we got a kindler, gentler Joe Volpe and there were no real fireworks. Ignatieff said he didn't like the Softwood deal and Gerard talked about needing to show respect in talks with the Americans.


Childcare (Martha, Brison, Rae)
In the biggest softball ever, we found out whether the candidates thought child care should be delivered through a "cheque" or through "high quality child care spaces"? Well, duh, I wonder what a debate of Liberals in Quebec are going to say. Not surprisingly, what followed was four minutes of "thanks Ken" and "I agree".


Closing Comments
Martha gave a very eloquent closing statement, but it was all in English. Ignatieff re-emphasized his desire to re-open the constitution, which led to a mix of applause and boos. Brison played to the crowd, calling Quebec both a nation and distinct society.

15 Comments:

  • Sadly missed it. Don't like the format, but then, I have the time to spare. I'd rather they stuck to big questions (ie. NOT childcare) and let each speak on those questions. That's just me.

    I'm excited at how favourably everyone is reviewing Martha. Me digs that lady lots.

    Thanks for the rundown.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 9:16 AM  

  • Fair post CalgaryGrit, but I have one or two comments I want to make. First, I think it was generally accepted that Ignatieff was flat for the duration of the debate. Second, I think it's important to highlight (and this was most noticable for those of us in the audience) that there are only three candidates who can speak in both official languages. The rest struggled dutifully throughout.

    Second, I wholeheartedly agree with you on the childcare question - what a no-brainer. I think the candidates were a little perplexed as to why that question would have been selected for a debate - it's not like anyone is against the plan the Liberals (Ken Dryden) already had in place.

    Finally, to clarify what Bob said re: the constitution, he said that he thought it was "dangerous to re-open the constitutional question," citing his experience with both Meech and Charlottetown. Later, in his closing remarks Ignatieff threw a little jab at Rae saying something to the effect of "occasionally we have to take on dangerous tasks" (obviously referring to Rae's comments re: the constitution. Rae responded in his final remarks with a haymaker, saying "It's not about whether something is difficult or not - it's about making promises that we can keep."

    All in all, the room was sweltering - and listening to that debate in french between dryden, fry and bennett was like listening to nails on a chalkboard.

    By Blogger Skip, at 9:32 AM  

  • You said the following:

    "this led to some funny moments when candidates would say things like "we need to claw back agricultural subsidies by 0.2% over the next decade" and their supporters would burst into chants and applause."

    I was just wondering who said this?

    By Blogger Giant Political Mouse, at 11:09 AM  

  • mouse; No one said those exact words. Like the Dryden example, I wa exagrating a bit.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:01 PM  

  • uzurper; thanks for the comments from someone who was there. It didn't look nearly as hot as the Halifax debate where people were falling asleep and fanning themselves repeatedly.

    I only heard the dubbed version so I have no clue how good everyone's french was.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:02 PM  

  • You sure like taking the piss out of Dryden's integrity and portraying him as some kind of doper-hippie on mushrooms. The first few times are amusing.

    Too many times and and you risk being "Calgary Git" instead of "Calgary Grit" :)

    And yes I am supporting Dryden.

    Great work on the Blog.

    By Blogger VanEastGrit, at 1:41 PM  

  • The Cyber Menace

    Somehow Dryden's current public persona is almost completely removed from that which he had as a Montreal Canadiens superstar. He was low-key back then, but his on-ice performance did all the talking.

    The more people currently see of Dryden, the less they remember the hockey great. That's probably as much the result of his personality as it is time, unfortunately. Smart guy, but BORING.

    It also doesn't help that his recent public stints were as head loser for the Maple Leafs and Paul Martin.
    ________________________

    What I found curious was the decision the Liberals made to hold this event basically at the same time and in the same place as the NDP convention. Not one week before or after. Not in Montreal or somewhere else in Quebec. But right on top of Jack Layton's bald head in Quebec City.

    I'm sure no one will read into that the penchant for Liberals to do things cynically every chance they get. Naaaah.

    By Blogger The Cyber Menace, at 2:31 PM  

  • As a french-canadian, I can tell you that only Ignatieff, Rae and obviously Dion can speak French. It's sad for a guy like Kennedy but if he become leader of the LPC, the party have no chance to win any riding in Québec outside Westisland, and LPC can't afford to waste these 60-65 seats. In 4-5 years, when Gerard will be more fluent in French, I think that he will be a great leader, but for now...
    Ignatieff would be the best choice to fight the sovereignist and he is clearly the front runner in Québec.

    By Blogger Guillaume, at 3:06 PM  

  • Thanks for the highlights, CG. Now I don't have to try to catch a replay of it on CPAC and risk, horrror of horrors, missing RockStar Supernova.

    By Blogger Havril, at 3:12 PM  

  • What I find really laughable is that GK has put on his website that he is "fluently bilingual." Anyone who heard him at the debate would give him "passable at best."

    By Blogger Skip, at 4:50 PM  

  • Yeah.....cool. I Love the way a bunch of Liberals can get together for a few hours of talk....and still manage not to say anything detailed, coherent, or well thought out. Only the Liberals can pull that one off.


    However, if anyone wants to hear what an actual speech sounds like when the speaker has respect for his audience - tune in to Harper's Sept. 11th speech today. That's what a REAL leader sounds like when he's speaking to the people.
    Respectful, coherent, and sensible.

    By Blogger James Halifax, at 8:52 PM  

  • That's what a REAL leader sounds like when he's speaking to the people.
    Respectful, coherent, and sensible.
    It is still striking, truly striking, how "Stevie's" followers descend to such incredible depths of obsequiousness.

    (And then turn around and complain about "Grits.")

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 10:22 PM  

  • Demosthenes wrote:
    "striking, truly striking, how "Stevie's" followers descend to such incredible depths of obsequiousness.

    (And then turn around and complain about "Grits.")"

    Actually Demo, we don't complain about the Grits because they give passionate speeches. We complain about the Grits because they give passionate speeches they really don't believe in. We complain about the Grits when they talk about honesty or ethics, because we know that neither honesty or ethics seems to be a character trait much in demand by today's Liberal Party.

    Basically Demo, we complain about the GRITS because they desire only power and will say or do anything to attain it. They are insincere.

    By Blogger James Halifax, at 2:13 AM  

  • Gerard French News:

    "An informal poll of some of the 500 delegates in the hall confirmed that candidates Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Joe Volpe can hold their own in their second language, Gerard Kennedy and Scott Brison are not too bad, but the rest should go back to school."

    http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=b4fc44b7-293a-438b-aed6-eb790ed3db34&k=63452

    If the Montreal Gazette gave Gerard the thumbs up, I have a hard time honestly considering the negative comments made by members of the other leadership campaigns.

    The truth is that Gerard's French is not yet (wait for even more improvement in Montreal) as good as Dion's, but his policies are more in tune with average Quebecers than the policies of Harper or any of the other leadership candidates.

    MississaugaPeter

    By Blogger Peter, at 5:05 AM  

  • Basically Demo, we complain about the GRITS because they desire only power and will say or do anything to attain it. They are insincere.

    "And we stick with our talking points to the bitter, bitter end."

    Think you left that part out.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 10:47 AM  

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