Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, December 16, 2005

English debate roundup

You know, I'm very much a "look on the bright side" sort of person, but somehow I can't manage to come out of this debate with all that much good to say about anybody.

I expected Martin to be lousy, and he didn't disappoint. He seemed frighteningly out of touch, particularly when he essentially told the disabled woman to get a job, and when he had the temerity to utter the words "the major cities are doing well." (Does he not realize that this country is second only to Australia in its urbanness? Does he not realize that many of those city-dwellers vote Liberal?) He stumbled through most of his responses, his "they" rather than "we" when he was talking about Quebecers was a big no-no, and the my-father-was-Tommy-Douglas bit was truly annoying. He did hit a home run in response to the Quebec question, though, when he turned to Duceppe and ranted, and the angle on him was just perfect. I'd bet good money that that picture is going to be on the front page of the Globe and Mail and the Star tomorrow, too. [Edited to add: Wow! I must be psychic!]

I had high expectations of Duceppe, but he did disappoint. I think he's better in the other format; in 2004 he looked laid back, like he was just going to take it easy while the other guys got all riled up. This year he just looked bored. His one really good line was "the West wants in, and Quebec wants out." Clever. Although I did have to wonder, if he really believes so strongly that they shouldn't have a free vote on a question that has already been answered, as he said in response to the same-sex marriage question, then what's all this fuss about another referendum?

Harper was the surprise of the night--he is a superb debater, but tonight, at least 75% of the time, he was bad, bad, bad. It's funny, because I remember him being so excellent in 2004, and wishing "my side" were as good at making strong, rational arguments. This year, though, he had no energy. He'd clearly been told to smile, but when he tried, he just looked creepy. When he didn't, he looked depressed, as if he'd just found out his dog had died. I did enjoy it when he indirectly accused Ralph Klein of "dishonest fiscal management," but otherwise this was a terrible evening for Mr. Harper.

Layton was very hot and cold. When he was good, he was great. When he was bad, he was cringeworthy. The opening statement--bad. The turning toward Martin and ending up turning his back on the camera--really bad (though I suspect a lot of that was the camerawork rather than his doing). He also did the worst job of all four men of coping with being cut off prematurely. On the other hand, he was terrific on same-sex marriage--he looked both serious and sincere. Mentioning Saskatchewan directly was incredibly savvy, and I'm sure it won him some votes. He seemed like a really genuinely good person much of the time, with very little of the "Guy Smiley" that he's been so chastised for. My personal disappointment of the night, though, was that he didn't bring up proportional representation as a partial solution to western alienation. I know why he didn't--it's not something that you can explain in thirty-second sound bites, after all--but it was such a missed bet.

I sent in a question, and it even got as far as them writing back for my phone number, but apparently I didn't make the final cut, alas. Here's to a better round in January.


Anonymous said...

IP: I, too, wrote in a question. But nobody responded. It was directed to M Duceppe much more than it was to the 4 members. As for the 4 Musketeers on stage tonight, I have to agree with most of your observations. There were two occasions where I had to pull my hoodie over my eyes I was so embarrassed with JL. But all in all, I loved his agressiveness when facing PM. Though I think he has to work on his finger wagging (they weren't supposed to do that). Disappointing is the fact that he incessantly reminded people to vote NDP. It was turning into a end-of-season vehicle clearance commercial! SH was rather boring. His sole weapon tonight was 'lack of moral authority'. He could have branched out a touch more. Maybe his brain was too tired from desparately trying to understand the debate questions last night in French? PM, I think, did better than I was expecting (though this could have been expected with the tremendous fire held under his bum). I think his comments regarding a national daycare programme were bang on! And Duceppe, who I find charming in a high school social studies teacher kind of way, well, someone needs to sit him down and teach him to stress correctly in English ie. it's not de.MO.cra.tic

Anonymous said...

This is all very interesting. I liked your bit on the referendum. As you may know I've been writing about Quebec a lot these days.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Yeah, Jack really has to watch that "salesman" quality he has, which he's also gotten slammed for in the past. Most of the time he shook it off last night, but it was definitely there in places.

What was your question?


Hey, good to hear from you; I love your writing. And yeah, I actually laughed out loud when Duceppe said that. Not because I don't agree with him, but because I do.

Anonymous said...

IP, I asked M Duceppe what kind of steps he would take to ensure that, in the event a sovereign Québec were created, Canadians and Québécois would still have access to programmes in which they may participate to learn/perfect/maintain their French-English bilingualism. My exact question is as follows: Je suis anglophone albertain qui, depuis plus de 10 ans, est engagé à apprécier et à promouvoir les langue et culture québécoises. Non seulement ai-je voyagé plusieurs fois au Québec, mais j'y ai également travaillé et étudié en participant à divers programmes gouvernementaux reliés à la mise en valeur du bilinguisme. Grâce à l'ensemble des expériences que j'ai vécues au Québec, couplées à ma propre culture, l'anglais de l'Ouest, je me considère une personne qui comprend vraiment ce que c'est 'être Canadien'. Selon moi, il est tout aussi important d'encourager les anglophones à être bilingues pour toutes les mêmes raisons que l'on encourage les francophones à l'être. Cela dit, je voudrais savoir si, dans le cas éventuel d'une séparation réalisée par le Bloc, M. Duceppe veillera-t-il à ce que son gouvernement indépendant privilégie la diversité linguistique hors Québec en continuant de permettre aux non francophones de tirer avantage du contexte français au Québec en vue d'appuyer le bilinguisme chez nous.

Mike said...

You know IP, my nieghbour said the same thing this morning abpout Jack - he really had her onside and then wen he turned on the salesman charm, she stopped liking him.

I sure hope Federal Office hear's this and fix it up before the next debate...

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Wow, that's a great question. What a shame that it didn't get put on.


I think it'll hurt him, but it would hurt him more if the other guys had done better than they did. You're right that the central campaign should get on it, but I wouldn't worry too much about it.