Thoughts on the debate (and Sun newspapers)

Last night was the leader’s (English) debate– the one and only– of the 41st Federal General Election. I watched it in its entirety, though I admit I zoned out once or twice–like when Duceppe and Layton had their one-on-one debate (irrelevant but for a few small pockets of Quebec).

Stephen Harper did what he had to do: he stayed mostly calm in his defence of his government’s record, and looked the most “Prime Ministerial” out of the four (as he should– he’s the only one that has been PM). Jack Layton had it fairly easy as the leader of the third party– able to attack the Liberals for supporting the Conservatives numerous times (even though not supporting them would have meant bringing down the government) and attacking the Conservatives for everything else. Gilles Duceppe was his usual obnoxious self, in his 15th debate, cracking jokes about Harper answering questions from the public and talking as if he represented all of Quebec. The increasing irrelevancy of having a separatist leader in a federal debate should be discussed. Perhaps the consortium that makes the rules of the debate should consider changing it so that only leaders of parties that have a minimum number of candidates in each province should be allowed to participate.

Michael Ignatieff, meanwhile, in his first debate, struggled a little bit. At times, it seemed he was straying from the formula that had been working for him in this election and in his tours around the country– freely speaking without notes or a reliance on sound bites. Because of this repetition of sound bites in the debate, he came across as a bit ingenuine. However, it’s too early to say if that hurt him or not, as most people in the country didn’t watch all two hours. Perhaps some of his soundbites didn’t come across that way to the casual viewer.

While he struggled at some points to come up with the right words, I think he did have the best “clippable” remarks (like “It’s not bickering, it’s democracy” and (to Harper) “You are a man who will shut down anything you can’t control”). He also came across as angry with Harper, which might not have helped him win any votes on the right side of the spectrum, but certainly must have hardened the Liberal vote.

It’s too early to say if this debate will change anything. But it was certainly refreshing to see the leaders actually talk to each other and even stray from talking points.

Meanwhile, the Sun newspapers have run an editorial comparing Ignatieff to Chairman Mao, the murderous Chinese communist dictator. You should read it, if only to make clear to yourself that you should never take the Sun seriously, and you might want to ignore the new Sun TV News channel.

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