Leadership Debate

I only got around to watching the debate this morning, hence the late posting about it here. Sorry about that.

As usual, it was a worthless exercise that produced nothing in the least bit memorable or illuminating. Aside from occasional moments of amusement provided by Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe gleefully needling both the Liberals and Conservative leaders, the performances were dreadfully lacklustre, vacuous, and painfully stilted. Really, it was just an awful waste of everybody’s time.

According to some Liberal strategists, the “turning point” of the sorry affair can be seen at the beginning of this clip where Ignatieff scoffed at Harper’s plea for an outcome that would deliver a Conservative majority government. “A majority? … Majorities are things you earn when you earn the trust of Canadian people and you haven’t earned the trust of the Canadian people because you don’t trust the Canadian people,” Iggy righteously fumed.

Personally, I thought the most damning moment came shortly afterward where Jack Layton skewered Ignatieff for having “the worst attendance record in the House of Commons of any member of parliament.”

As is typical with these contrived “debates” there didn’t seem to be any clear winner or loser, although Jack Layton certainly came across as the most engaging of the bunch, so I guess in that sense he may perhaps benefited from it more than the others.

While Ignatieff didn’t embarrass himself, he also failed to impress. The relentless personal attacks on Harper that he kept hammering away at all night will do little to attract new support and may even turn some people off. As for Harper, his “preternaturally calm” delivery (to quote Ibbitson) may well have creeped out a lot of folks, but the “stay the course” message of solid growth and economic recovery is one that many will likely find, if not compelling, at least reassuring.

Update: The NDP has released a highlight reel from the debate featuring Jack’s best moments.


To be “fair and balanced” I checked the Liberal and Conservative YouTube sites, but they haven’t released anything to do with the debate.

Update2: Here’s the entire debate via CanuckPolitics. Cheaper than Sominex!


15 Replies to “Leadership Debate”

  1. Agreed wholeheartedly. I ended up remarking more on the ugly set and Palkin’s spray tan.

  2. S&S: Oh God, yeah. Wasn’t that set hideous? It looked like something they dug up in the backlot from a 70s sci-fi drama.

    And what do you want to bet that there was actual discussion about the fact that the colours couldn’t indicate anything partisan (no blue, red, orange), hence the pallette of ochre, tan, gray, brown, and black.

  3. I agree with everything you said about the debate. I highly doubt Iggy gained any new voters, while Jack did well to solidify his base and likely stop the bleeding of votes to the Liberals. Harper was wooden but came across as competent and reassuring (at least to those who vote for him anyway.)

  4. What saddened me most was the extent to which the debate’s themes perfectly embodied Canada’s current parochialism and lack of national aspiration, a zeitgeist that echoes Stephen Harper’s own dwarfish species of Canadianism and really defines him as Canada’s man of the hour—an icon of civic inanition.

    Where was the sustained discussion of foreign policy? Aboriginal affairs? The future of Canadian nationhood? The environment? Energy policy? Was anything said that could only have been said in a G8 nation? How much of the discussion would have seemed out of place in a leaders’ debate in Ecuador or Lithuania?

    What I heard was a lot of small talk among small men with small dreams. What a shame that this is what Canada has come to.

  5. SF: You’re right. The absence of vision was remarkable. Maybe it’s just a reflection of how diminished our expectations are these days.

  6. Red:

    In Harper’s defence, he was wearing a flag pin (at Ari Fleischer’s insistence, probably)—which was doubtless meant to serve as a reasonable facsimile of vision.

  7. What saddened me most was the extent to which the debate’s themes perfectly embodied Canada’s current parochialism and lack of national aspiration…

    With the advent of constituency targeting, articulating an abstract conceptualization of nationhood would be too elitist, I am sure. After all, that would actually invoke a serious discussion rooted in our institutional heritage and our cultural legacies that inextricably tied with the maturation of those institutions. It is much better to speak for ‘ordinary canadians’ as if though that can be divined by giving a laundry list of narrowed policies. This is inevitable, I suppose, since it is no longer politically advantageous to underscore the primacy of a shared vision rooted in communitarian precepts. The neoliberal concept of ‘rational self-interest’ seeks to preclude that or assume that whatever manifestation of arch individualism will somehow incidentally result in a cohesive benefit and positive trajectory for the society at large.

    Why, I wondered, do the other leaders (not including Duceppe, of course) HATE Canada?

    Well, one of them is JUST visiting you know ;).

  8. I was actually embarrassed by Layton’s dig at Ignatieff over attendance. It was an inaccurate dig and beneath him. It really lowered my estimation of Jack. If he is going to use figures, he shouldn’t seriously exaggerate. Further, he could have made the same comment to Harper. Using the voting record against either man flies in the face of the work the PM and leader of the official opposition have to do, both in parliament and across the country. It was a cheap shot.

  9. I didn’t mind the debates that much, aside from SF’s point about the absurdly small stakes Canada’s politics is now organised around. I will say that Harper lying, several times in a row, about how our system of government works, and not being corrected on it by Layton, Ignatieff or, heck, even Paikin made me sick. There are cases where politicians can’t call others on their bull because voters are stupid, but in a case like that the moderator should speak up and let everyone know that the speaker is just making shit up. Especially since Harper’s comments essentially undid several hundred years politicial development. With a bald-faced lie Harper suddenly did away with the central role the HoC plays in our system of government. It was remarkable, and, as far as I can tell, nobody covered it outside of twitter.

  10. The best part of the debate was that the Green Party [Elizabeth May] was not represented. I am quite sure she could not abide by the rules set out.

    It was bad enough that answers were talked over … yet when all is said, I do not think it changed the votes. If one went in a [insert your political party] then your stance was not changed but reinforced.

  11. Shiner, for what it’s worth the CBC ‘At Issue’ panel did cover this, and Andrew Coyne specifically was calling out Harper that he’s wrong. Likewise he said Iggy’s answer was shaky and he should have been more forceful – except that would have gave legs to the ‘coalition’ bogeyman.

    You are right though, the media should be calling Harper a liar about this, because of course the way a Westminster Parliament works is whoever the PM is must obtain the confidence of the house to govern. Your party winning a plurality of seats helps, but it is by no means the criteria by which confidence is obtained.

  12. Shiner: Good call. I have to admit that segment of the “debate” made me cringe when Harper decided to just freestyle it as to how parliament works in order to make his self-serving point. And yes, Paikin should have intervened there with a factual correction. Although, in fairness to him, I think the “rules” of the game probably prevented him from doing so.

    CP: Heh. I thought much the same thing. She didn’t miss much by being left out of this forgettable nonsense, even though it would have been more relevant for her to be in the English debate than Duceppe.

  13. even Paikin made me sick

    That was the true surprise. When I watch him on The Agenda (one of the jewels of TVO unless Randy Hillier gets a hold of that channel), he is pretty good on following up on the nonsense by the some of the commentators. I was somewhat disappointed. U.S. Primary debates had better followups. Curiously enough, this muddling of our Westminster Parliamentary system comes on the heels the Republican House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, having his own lapse of understanding of how his own system works prior to almost government shutdown.

    Anyway, just a quick question: Who on Earth rated down Shiner’s comment? It was a fairly apt observation. Debates get more hysterical when the moderator refuses to call out the most basic of what went on.

  14. Unfortunately, Paiken was reduced to being nothing more than a timekeeper. It really was a waste, because anyone who’s watched TVO’s “Agenda” knows that he could have contributed a lot more to the discussion. In fact, had this “debate” taken on the same format as that program, with Paiken moderating and conducting it as he usually does, the result would have been a good deal more edifying.

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