Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Debate Night

Post-Debate Thoughts

First off - I like the format. The leaders got a chance to explain themselves and still got to mix things up a bit. However, I do agree with Coyne that they really need to replace the French and English debates with a series of bilingual ones, because this was really "the Quebec debate" rather than "the french language debate".

As for the participants...

Elizabeth May reminded me a lot of 2004 Jack Layton - very much the attack dog. She was forceful and showed some personality, but her attacks were mostly ineffective cheap shots ("you're a liar!" "your plan is a fraud"). I don't think I learned much about the Green Party or was given a compelling reason to vote for them over the Liberals, NDP, or Bloc. But Elizabeth May seemed nice enough and if I was already leaning her way, I don't think she would have turned me off.

If the story tomorrow is just "everyone gangs up on Harper", then Harper probably was the winner. He was definitely the only Prime Minister on the stage and he defended himself adequately on policy issues. However, there are three big negatives about his performance. Firstly, from a "likable/optics" perspective the creepy smile just wasn't working tonight. Second, if I were a Tory strategist, I'd be very worried about Harper's messaging on the economy right now. You can only say "kay cera cera" so many times before people will begin to think you don't have a plan to handle what everyone assumes will be an upcoming recession. More damaging to Harper could be if voters start thinking he's "out of touch" - Canadians are worried and if they don't think he realizes this, that's trouble with a capital T. Third, surviving the debate is fine for the English one, but Harper needed to land some punches on Duceppe tonight. And he didn't.

Jack Layton was Jack. He did his Jack thing. He showed concern for the problems "normal people" face and tried to relate to Canadians as much as possible. If he does the same thing tomorrow he did tonight, he'll win the English debate, but I'd be surprised if he gave many voters a reason to vote for him over the Bloc.

Stephane Dion was good. He exceeded expectations and didn't get tied up in his words. I thought he struggled explaining himself on the environment but he did well on most other topics. And, most importantly, his attacks were forceful and not flustered. I'm not a big fan of launching policy during a debate (can you guess who did debate prep?), but if his action plan on the economy gets some traction, it could give him some credibility on the issue that everyone cares about right now. The question now is can he pull off an equally strong performance in English?

Gilles Duceppe was good. He's always good. He's been doing this thing for a long time and he does it well. Separatism never came up and Harper failed to make the Bloc out to be the inept anachronistic entity that it is. Considering the Bloc is leading in Quebec right now, there was a shockingly low number of attacks directed Duceppe's way. So Duceppe is certainly a winner, if not the winner.

I won't pick a winner since I think you could make a case for any of the five as having "won" the debate. But it was fun - let's do it again tomorrow!

Debate Live Blog

Feel free to post predictions, reaction, and analysis in the comments section.

Before we get going, be sure to check out my debate drinking game - I'll try and keep a running tally of which leaders does the best job of inebriating watchers tonight.

7:37 - A note on format. More time will be spent on the economy which is good...but the opening and closing statements have been nixed which is kind of dumb. The candidates will also be sitting around a table which is really dumb. We're not on The View here, this is a debate to lead the country - hell, let's just break out the couches and sweater vests and do the whole thing casual!

8:01 - OK, fashion report. Harper has the blue tie! Dion goes with a red tie! Way to be original guys. May mixes it up with teal.

8:03 - First question is on the economy. Harper: "the fundamentals are strong!". May: "the fundamentals are weak!"

Bureau asks the leaders if they have RRSPs - I hope so, because a few of them may soon be unemployed...

8:12 - Duceppe makes an attempt to shore up his Ontario support: "you're ignoring Ontario and Quebec in favour of Alberta".

8:15 - Duceppe says Harper is in bed with "big oil" for the fourth time...and we're only 15 minutes in. Look, I appreciate a straw man as much as the next guy, but those Alberta oil companies have been funding Quebec equalization payments for decades.

8:19 - "You guys willing to go into deficit?" "No", "nope", "no way", "not a chance", "no". Glad we cleared that up. (oh, and Duceppe goes after big oil for the fifth time tonight)

8:21 - The economy is done (Err, the topic, not the actual economy. Not yet anyways.). I think all five leaders stuck to their game plan and did what they planned to do. Harper stuck to his "sunshine lollipops, the fundamentals are strong" approach - he argued the point well but I wonder if he's going to look like he's out of touch. Dion hyped the Liberal record and attacked Harper hard for squandering the deficit. Duceppe...blamed big oil for all the economic ills of Canada. May quoted economists and didn't sound like an enviro-nut. But I think Layton may have won the round, since he was able to relate to average Canadians and showed that he shared their concerns about the economy.

8:37 - And it's chaos!!! Even the translators are talking over each other!

Dion attacks Harper on listeria, quoting a Canadian Medical Journal article, and Harper dismisses it "because the author is a Liberal" - no doubt he's also part of the Elections Canada-Supreme Court-Civil Service-CBC conspiracy.

8:45 - It's hard to say who's winning the debate, but I think the May translator is leading at this point - she's feisty, raising her voice, and showing far more passion than the candidate she's translating from. I'm not such a huge fan of Dion's Scottish translator.

8:51 - Harper's got a "isn't that cute" smirk on his face, whenever Elizabeth May talks.

8:53 - "Can you say one good thing about the opponent to your left". Gag. When does the sing along start?

Jack is almost glowing as Harper compliments him...I think he's blushing.
May: "Mr. Harper has nice children"

9:00 - "What do you think about negative campaigning."

Jack - Ed Broadbent! Take a drink!
May - Ed Broadbent! Take a drink!
Harper - "We don't need personal attacks"

9:03 - Dion has perhaps his best moment of the debate, attacking Harper for his ultra-partisan attack mentality.

9:11 - Duceppe gets the fear mongering award of the night: "Mr. Harper's vision is to have more guns and more criminals". Harper defends his policy by saying the President of the Quebec police union supports it. Yeah, but that guy's probably a Conservative...

9:23 - Quebec nation question. Duceppe gets the laundry list of grievances out. Harper: "notre government agit, the Bloc agit". Then Harper and Duceppe get into a long argument about...I have no idea...something about faxing the motion to the wrong address...I think this argument deserves a debate of it's own!

9:34 - May: "We haven't talked about climate change in a I'm going to bring it up in the culture section."

9:36 - The vision of a hunched over and smiling Stephen Harper is going to give me nightmares for weeks. He just looks creepier and creepier by the minute.

9:46 - Afghanistan. It's weird - Dion has the most convoluted Afghanistan position of all the leaders but he came across the strongest on this topic. Yet, on the environment, where Dion has the strongest position, he came across fairly wishy washy.

9:55 - Dion confuses Layton and Duceppe with a somewhat funny "the reason Mr. Duceppe will never be Prime Minister...". I don't blame him for mixing the two up, giving the love-in between Layton and Duceppe tonight.

9:56 - Layton to Dion: "The difference between you and that I have a mustache!". OK, just kidding. The difference is that Dion wants to stay in Afghanistan.

9:59 - Harper, for some reason known only to himself, decides to bring up Kyoto, and Duceppe rips him a new one.



  • I'm babysitting without cable so I'm counting on you, CG!

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 7:12 p.m.  

  • I actually think Dion will surprise tonight. Expectations are so low that he can't under perform them and he's in his first language, with a platform behind him Quebecers should relate to.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:27 p.m.  

  • So, let's see:

    Layton will attack Duceppe and Harper

    Duceppe will attack Harper

    Harper will attack Duceppe

    Dion will attack Harper and Layton

    May will attack herself

    Sound about right?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:32 p.m.  

  • I am happy that the prepared statements are gone, as are, I bet, Liberal staffers, because Dion tends to do better in off the cuff statements, rather than those of the prepared variety.

    By Blogger Matthew Naylor, at 7:51 p.m.  

  • I'll be curious to see how Dion does. He always got good reviews during the Liberal leadership race for this debate performance but I was less enthused, and we all know how a few of those infamous debate lines of his turned out.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 7:57 p.m.  

  • So far, the best part are the various voices that are matched with each leader.
    That's an Aussie accent I heard first isn't it?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:04 p.m.  

  • I predict Cherniak will declare Dion the winner of the debate.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 8:05 p.m.  

  • bo,
    CBC has a stream up .

    By Blogger Bill D. Cat, at 8:07 p.m.  

  • Who's the geek speaking for Harper , Paul Reubens ?

    By Blogger Bill D. Cat, at 8:13 p.m.  

  • Given the placement of each of the leaders glasses of water I'm waiting for someone to "accidentally" knock their water into their neighbors lap...

    By Blogger A View From The Left, at 8:40 p.m.  

  • And they have Scott Thompson speaking for Jack Layton, this is awesome!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:42 p.m.  

  • Quick observations:

    1) What's with Duceppe? He looks like he wants to punch someone.

    2) Best hair by far, Harper. Liz May's hair looks like she slept in a car.

    3) Best liveblogging line of the night comes from the Maclean's liveblogging team: 8:10 PM Philippe Gohier - Is anyone surprised Dion’s the only one raising his hand?

    4) Did Duceppe actually say "nationalize the oil industry"?

    5) Dion has that deer in the headlights look... not good for him

    Finally, as I watch Harper I keep thinking the only thing going through his mind is: "dance puppets, dance!"

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 8:46 p.m.  

  • Did anyone notice that Harper is the only one wearing a canadian flag on his lapel? I guess he is the only twoo patwiot.


    By Blogger Aunty Bertha, at 9:46 p.m.  

  • aunty - but Dion said he supported the troops and Harper didn't...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:14 p.m.  

  • Good summary on the whole. I agree that Harper needed to actually go on the offensive rather than just hold his ground. In English, he would be fine to just hold his ground since asides from Atlantic Canada, he is probably close to his ceiling anyways. Never mind, Tory support is pretty firm in both directions, many no matter what he does there are few potential pick-ups and few potential losses. His only real hope at a majority is hope voter turnout is quite low as he is strongest amongst older voters who are usually the most reliable to show up.

    By Blogger Monkey Loves to Fight, at 11:44 p.m.  

  • My view is that harper just blew his majority. He over-reached himself in Quebec, and hit a wall. His debate performance was far below what he needed to overcome his policy mistake. That's all I need to say.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 12:26 a.m.  

  • The grumpy voter,
    May would never sleep in a car (other than perhaps a mini, and I believe sleeping in those is anatomically impossible). Clearly she slept on her adult tricycle.

    wow. Harper must have really bombed if even you declared him the loser. CTV - you don't need focus groups, you've got the Jimmer.

    My take - Duceppe won obviously in the absolute sense, but it is always more complicated than that. Duceppe did well, but if you look at the divide posed by the debate, it doesn't look good for him. In 2006 Quebec politics was federalist-separatist. In 2008 it is left-right, and Duceppe must contend with three other left-leaning parties.

    Dion probably did the worst in the relative sense because he was at best one of many "I hate Harper" voices, and at worst, invisible. Unlike Harper when he was in opposition, Dion wasn't presenting himself as an alternative government. Then again Dion has little to lose in French Canada.

    Layton was spirited and did better than last time. He was likable and played a big part in all of the debate.

    Elizabeth May was out of her league but wins just by being there. I think she would have done better to introduce her platform - typically third (fifth, really) parties do well by proposing new ideas and criticizing the old guard parties for being too divisive and partisan.

    Harper held his own, and was the only person with a [very timid] right of centre agenda. Considering a third of Quebec voted for Mario Dumont and another third for the most right-wing leader of the Progressive-Conservative party in its history in the last provincial election, it isn't as if there is no market for this sort of thing. Harper probably shored up his base in Quebec.

    So if Harper shored up his support, the question is whether the debate muddled or clarified the "stop Harper" question left-wing Quebec (I would say maybe 65% of Quebec is decidedly on the left) must grapple with.

    Well lets see - Duceppe did well, but less well than in 2006 when he reamed Martin hard. His attacks on the arts were effective, but not news. Layton did better than he had in 2006 by a good bit. May was crap but will get more votes than in 2006 by being there. Dion, however, did worse than Martin in 2006. I would say that on balance, however, things come out more muddled for the left, and more clear for the right.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 12:48 a.m.  

  • And... Lapresse says I am wrong. I am surprised how badly Harper did in this poll (though the "evaluate the performance of each candidate" approach works against him - he doesn't need all of Quebec to love him, he needs 33% of Quebec to love him... which admittedly he failed to do).

    I will also admit I missed most of the first hour.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 12:59 a.m.  

  • Sorry, bro! Here's an update from CBC. Jean Lapierre (that Jean) says that harper failed to deliver. He also reports that a Quebec radio station received 3k calls. The majority said that stephane (that dion) won the debate!!!!

    By Blogger JimTan, at 2:23 a.m.  

  • Hoping that media got some cover on this debate night.

    By Anonymous cowboy boot, at 9:52 a.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home