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Thoughts on the debate

So the english language Leaders Debate was held in Ottawa tonight. Just a few thoughts..

Overall, not much of a debate… more of a series of speeches and a lot of ignoring. The moderation was pretty poor, and the leaders rarely seemed to listen to what others were saying and rarely got into any real meaningful discourse.

I think Stephen Harper did quite well. Whereas Paul Martin was often on the defensive and even seemed to get frustrated and flustered in debate, Harper was overall collected and clear in his arguments.

For a guy who was so obviously over-coached and instructed to stick to a very specific script, Martin made a lot of references to other leaders’ (specifically Layton’s) handlers. I’m not so sure that Martin’s boys at Earnscliffe have much to be proud of in their boys’ performance tonight. He never really faced off with any of the other leaders, always choosing to address his remarks to the camera, ostensibly to make a connection with the voters. Personally, in a debate, I’d like to see the leaders addressing each other and responding to each other. And to me, his tactics just came off as transparent and forced.

Stephen Harper had a great line at the beginning about how this election is about choosing a government, not a country, at which point he turned to Martin and said, “we’re all Canadians here…” I think he made some good dents in Martin’s “Campaign of Fear.”

Layton really just comes off as a car salesman. I kept waiting for him to say, “What’s it going to take for me to get you into this car today.”

I always enjoy Duceppe in the debates. He had a few great moments tonight calling Martin to task about the sponsorship scandal and his government’s credibility.

I would have liked to have seen Jim Harris of the Green Party included in the debates, if only because it really gets me that a group of broadcasters can get together and decide who will be heard in one of the pivotal moments of an election campaign, especially in a year when the Green Party has representation in just about every riding and look to be poised to take somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5% of the popular vote. He was a guest on Mike Duffy’s Countdown on CTVNewsNet after the debates and had some great contributions to that discussion. I’ve had a look at the Green platform, and I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with them and think that in a decade or two, they could well be a contender on the national stage.

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