Well that was Fun
The show got started when a girl paraded by in a bikini carrying a sign (about income trusts? huh?)...better her than Bob Rae. Then we get an old guy with a microphone screaming something but, given that no one had any clue what his cause was, he really didn't make for a very effective protestor.
Women in Politics (Findlay, Dryden, Volpe)
Rick Mercer had a sketch called "the race for 5th place" on his show this week which I guess is what this debate was. Martha holds up the Globe "backroom boys" page as a sign of what's wrong. Dryden revealled that the best way to get to 50% women is to get to 35% first but, before this, 30% which, while being accurate, doesn't tell us a heck of a lot about how to do this.
Homeless & Poverty (Dion, Brison, Rae)
Rae talks about his record as Ontario Premier on social housing. Dion tells Rae "he can't have it both ways" which I imagine is some sort of attack on Rae's record. Rae gets fired up defending his record by saying "it's better to make mistakes out of caring for people" to which Dion retorts that Chretien and Martin had compassion while they were cutting programs.
Infrastructure (Kennedy, Iggy, Martha)
Gerard seems quite forceful today and puts a lot of passion in his voice. He talks about the gas tax and on the importance of Western initiatives like the Pacific Gateway. He later says government shouldn't just be about "cutting ribbons and cutting cheques" - you need to get tangible results. Iggy talks about rural Canada and the need to avoid gimmicky politics. Findlay concludes that the trio has been succesful in "making infrastructure sexy".
Environment (Dion, Dryden, Iggy)
Dion reminds people about the secondary costs of climate change and the health consequences which is good. Iggy mentions the carbon tax without actually calling it a carbon tax which shows he's learned a bit on how to handle the subject. Dion says we would have a carbon market had the Liberals been re-elected, and seems really upset that Ignatieff doesn't mention that. Ignatieff fires back, saying bluntly that "we didn't get it done". Dion jabs back with "this is unfair - you don't know what you speak about". At this point, I was just chewing my popcorn and sipping my beer, enjoying the show because this is ten times more entertaining than any of the other debates have been. Dryden then agrees with Ignatieff that "we didn't get it done".
Same Sex (Kennedy, Volpe, Brison)
The audience seems amused that Brison got the same sex question. Either way, this is a pretty easy question for Brison and Kennedy to score points on (although a bit more difficult for Volpe since the honest answer to "why did you vote for same sex marriage?" for him is: "to keep my Cabinet position"). Brison explains that it's important for the party to make decisions on principle rather than to be "dragged kicking and screaming by Supreme Court decisions" which is very good point. He then attacks Volpe, saying: "I've watched you give speeches against same sex marriage". Gerard sums it up nicely saying that human rights come ahead of making people feel comfortable.
Foreign Policy (Martha, Iggy, Rae)
I'd been praying all week that Kennedy would wind up with Ignatieff on the foreign policy question and this matchup is really a gift from God for Bob Rae. All three candidates open by blaming Harper for playing politics on the Afghanistan question and all say, to varying degrees, that we need to look at the mission and make sure we pay proper attention to rebuilding the country and providing humanitarian aid. It's interesting how the position Kennedy came out with in August has pretty much morphed into the universal Liberal Party position on this issue.
Then things get interesting. Bob calls it an "imperial mission" and cut Iggy off when Ignatieff tried to protest. Rae continues, saying that "we need to choose our words carefully" on foreign policy. Annoyed,
Gun Registry (Brison, Dion, Dryden)
Dryden says he doesn't like guns and doesn't trust guns because "all of us are capable of doing really stupid things" (the man did just watch Ignatieff bring up Middle East flip flops after all). Brison does what he does best and attacks Harper. Dion points out that they all agree.
Culture and Communication (Kennedy, Volpe, Rae)
GK jokes about the Bob Rae skinny dipping sketch. Volpe leads off by saying he's the "wrong guy to ask about whether we should regulate press and media". Heh. Kennedy reminds people that we can't just focus on the big ticket items and need to look out for smaller cultural groups and to pay attention to projects outside of Toronto. Also points out that the Internet is really changing the way we look at culture, especially for young people.
Martha says "I wasn't running as a woman before...but now I am".
Dion says he's "proud to be a Liberal and it doesn't take a leadership race to say so". heh.
Kennedy says it's unfortunate that no one has talked about Liberal Party reform. Says that we need to be proud of the past but that it's essential that we reinvent ourselves and regain the trust of Canadians.
Dryden attacks Harper as "the great divider" then compares him to the Broad Street Bullies who were "wrong for hockey". After the Flyers had won two cups, he says the Habs roared back and "we won four straight". Given that the debate was in Toronto, I'm not sure this was the best story to use. Especially since the Leafs are pretty much the NDP in his analogy...
Brison says it's ridiculous that there wasn't a single question on the economy and he probably has a good point there.
Ignatieff says this was a wonderful debate and a great afternoon to be a Liberal. Goes into his "party of hope" speech similar to the one he gave in BC. Says the hall is full of dreams (and protestors).
Volpe says all of the candidates "talk of a great Canada, some as if they've just discovered it".
Rae, unlike Dryden, plays to the home crowd, congratulating Mats Sundin on his 500th goal.
The media clip of the debate was, without a doubt, Rae's "this from the guy who's changed his position on the Middle East three times this week" line. Because of that, it's impossible not to call Rae the winner of this debate.
Ignatieff took a beating all night long and has got to be thankful that there won't be any more official debates between now and December.
Dion was definitely the most aggressive of the eight, attacking Rae and Ignatieff hard. He was also extremely defensive about the Liberal record and seemed a touch arrogant at times, especially with his "you don't know what you're talking about" line to Ignatieff. Personally, I wasn't very impressed with his performance but the CBC guys thought he was the best of the bunch tonight so I'm guessing the reviews will be mixed.
Kennedy, I thought, was really on today. I know I'm biased but I thought he was one of the best speakers in the debate, even if he won't get any memorable media sound bytes out of it (mainly since he didn't attack anyone). His closing statement was very concise and he also sounded good in the post debate scrum talking about party unity and the need to bury past feuds.
Brison was also one of the better speakers but that shouldn't be too surprising (although it leaves one to ponder why he only wound up in 7th place...). He also performed really well in the post-debate interviews, cracking a few funny one liners.
Dryden had a good closing but seemed almost invisible during the debate (which isn't easy for a man of his size).
Martha turned in a very solid performance and made people listen to her, which isn't easy when you only have 40 delegates.
UPDATE: You can find good recaps here, here and on pretty much every Liblog.
UPDATE deux: The Frog Lady has a wildly entertaining recap.