The Canadian federal leader’s debate was more about attacking and speaking up the quickest than it was about substance and exploring issues.
Moderator Steve Paikin should receive a special merit badge for trying to control and manage a debate which was unwieldy at times. Debate organizers tossed aside the traditional podiums for the debate participants and had them sit a tear-drop shaped table.
At first, the concept of the table seemed like a good one. It gave the impression you were eavesdropping on a potent after-dinner conversation. However, the informal setting created the following formula: A (Prime Minister Stephen Harper says something) + B (the other four leaders talk all over each other to say something) = C (the moderator arbitrarily sorting out the order of who gets to speak next).
The actual mechanics and spirit of a debate never materialized but it did prove to be entertaining thanks to some excellent moments:
Layton, during a pointed-attack at Prime Minister Harper over the lack of a defined Conservative platform, takes a swipe at the prime minister’s sweater-vest worn in some campaign ads.
“You say you have a plan, where is it? Where’s your platform? Under the sweater?” asked Layton.
Duceppe, near the end of the debate, when asked “What would your first act as prime minister be?”, was about as honest as one can be.
“I know I won’t be prime minister and three of you won’t be prime minister, neither,” he said, waving his hand at May, Dion and Layton at the table. “Some of you know it, but you won’t say it.”
“I’ve been between jobs, I understand that,” Harper said to Layton. – (I’m thinking that when you have been between jobs prime minister, it was no where near as hard or tragic as it is for people losing jobs in forestry or in manufacturing)
“The economy is not fine,” Layton said to Harper. “Either you don’t care or you are incompetent. Which is it?” – (I’m thinking, if you want to be considered a viable opposition leader, let alone prime ministerial- suggesting people may be “incompetent” is not the way to go).
Stephane Dion, though he delivered a solid, yet unspectacular performance. He is sincere and passionate about the environment. However, he almost jumped from the table and stomped his feet, calling Harper a liar as he said to him “why would you say that?” when Harper was talking about Green Shift. The reason he said something you did not like Stephane is because it was a debate and Harper can be a bully in a powder blue sweater-vest.
There was not a clear-cut one but I would give the final nod to Elizabeth May, by a nose. She did not sound like a one-trick pony and stood up to Harper the best, reciting facts better than the others. She was seated right near the PM and was not fazed by it.
Second place goes to Harper, the man withstood a fury of attacks and achieved the ultimate goal, he kept his composure, smiled his occasional smarmy smirk and delivered concise answers which will likely not come back to bite him in his political backside.