The Morning After
Last night was the lone televised debate of the Ontario election campaign. With the vote too close to call, a lot was riding on it, and after last night...
...not a heck of a lot changed. I have a hard time seeing how anyone would actually change their mind as a result of last night's debate, and the Ipsos flash poll largely confirms that.
After all, if you're like me and you like Dalton McGuinty, you liked what you saw. While the opposition focused on buzzwords and empty anecdotes ("Gary the accountant tells me he lost his job because of the HST"), McGuinty made his case his facts and figures. He responded to attacks, defended his record, and talked about his plans. He looked and sounded like was a grown up - some might even say a Premier.
That's not to say it was a masterful performance we will all rave about years from now. He fought much of the debate on weaker ground - there was a lot more talk about taxes and energy prices than about Health Care and education. He took some hits. But that's the life of an incumbent - the important thing is, he held his ground.
Hudak was the leader who most exceeded my expectations, but that likely says more about my expectations than about his performance. I liked his "big screen TV" and "lemonade stand" metaphors, and he showed real emotion when talking about his daughter's experience in the Health Care system. If you were scoring the debate on points, Hudak landed the most blows. His "nobody believes you anymore" soundbite will probably lead off most clip packages.
However, the one knock on Hudak's performance is a biggie. Quite simply, he looked and sounded like an opposition leader, not a Premier. He mentioned "Changebook" and his "5 point jobs plan" a few times, but there were only scattered descriptions of specific platform promises. He went after McGuinty at every opportunity - even when asked directly about what bold ideas he had for Ontario. It was a good performance, but not one that screamed "Premier-in-waiting".
And then there's Andrea Horwath. Horwath had the most to gain from this debate, and she likely helped herself out a bit. She was likable, and played those tried and true NDP hits - "hike up corporate taxes", "results for people", "putting people first".
Personally, I wasn't moved. She talked about the difficulty of balancing a family budget as a mom...on her lowly six-figure MPP salary. She talked about the awful treatment her son received at a Hamilton hospital...and later admitted the story was more "illustration" than fact. She told a story about a woman who gave her a big hug because she loved the NDP platform so much.
Personally, I found it all manipulative and lacking substance. But it will play to Horwath's base, and may even rope in a few undecided votes.
Add it all up, and after 90 minutes of debating, we're no closer to figuring out who will win on October 6th.