No knockout blows in the debate
by Tom Thorne in Belleville, Ontario at 9AM
This is going to be very short. Stephen Harper was stodgy and boring but he stayed on message. Economy, economy, economy. Every topic led back to the economy and the need to plan, plan, plan. He has an ability to make the others look like they are little dogs nipping at his heels. If that is what a prime minister is supposed to look like according to his Conservative handlers then he was successful.
There were no severe body blows from anyone. Jack Layton is the master of prepared one liners and every debater got at least one from him last night. The most serious one hit Michael Ignatieff when Jack reminded us that the Liberal leader has the worst record of all Members of Parliament when it comes to attendance in the House of Commons. On the other side Jack Layton was a bit puffed up when he asked Canadians to make him prime minister. Canadians are not about to do that. He and Ignatieff need to become political allies as I said yesterday by forming a new party.
Michael Ignatieff made some in roads against the Conservatives when he touched down on the trust issues saying that the Conservatives have not yet earned a majority government. However, the luck of the draw for placement set him between Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe which marginalized him against Harper as just one of the pack. Leaders draw lots for which podium they get and Ignatieff did’t get the best position. Maybe tonight in the French debate he will get right next to Harper.
Gilles Duceppe was his usual charming rogue self. His role in the English debate is really to do and say whatever about how Quebec is distinct and it is a wonder that he is in this debate at all. Personally I like the fact that he is there if only to dramatize the absurdity of Quebec separatism.
Yesterday I mentioned in this blog the need for leaders to call Duceppe on the separatism card. I have to say Stephen Harper did that although mildly. Duceppe made some interesting ideas about preserving the French language in the face of federal multiculturalism policies. He did admit that Quebec needs immigration as much as the rest of Canada.
So no knock outs. Ignatieff didn’t gain much. Layton was predictable. Duceppe was mildly enjoyable as side entertainment. Harper stayed on message. None of them really did enough to change the course of the campaign nor guide us away from minority government on 2 May 2011.
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