Friday, October 3, 2008

Decision 2008: The Debate

No, not that one, the Canadian one.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Canadian Leaders debate last night (October. 2nd) was riveting and thought provoking. It served to solidify the way I'll vote, and it gave me a chance to look into the eyes of the people who want to run our country.

I'll start with Elizabeth May. What an excellent showing by the Green Party. In my eyes, they have proved to Canada that they belong on the national stage and are not the one issue party that people perceive them as. She responded to every question with far more detail than the other party leaders; citing example after example as she hammered her points home. She was certainly the most well briefed of all the candidates, and her arguments came across very strongly as a result.

What took away from Elizabeth May was that she lacked the sense that she was tried and true. In order for Canadians to trust her, she not only needed to have strong arguments backed up by facts, but she also needed to have a style of discourse that came off as professional and experienced. Her choice of diction such as calling Conservative plans "stupid" and calling Stephen Harper a fraud undermined her image as a serious candidate and made her appear unpolished. She did well when talking about the environment, the economy, justice, and proportional representation.

I believe that one of the reasons she did so well was because she went relatively unmolested when stating her policy ideas, and she fleshed them out so well that they landed solidly every time. If the other leaders hadn't underestimated her, they may have quashed the danger they now face in the first Green Party MP's being elected to the House of Commons.

I have to comment on Jack Layton next. I always enjoy his style of speaking because he is so incredibly confidant and strong in his positions and attacks. He used gesticulation particularly well, and came off as the champion of the working class. There's always a twinkle in his eye, and he spoke well about his party's plans for Canada. Jack had the most charisma, excellent knowledge to back up his points, defended himself relatively well, and was the strongest attacker in the debate. He was strongest when talking about health care and Tommy Douglas, the economy of the working class, Afghanistan, and being a man of action.

Were he comes down is seeming over confidant. He appeared to be more bully-like than Stephen Harper when he asked him where the Conservative leader's platform was, referring to the sweater vested image of Harper's initial campaign ads. Even his introductory nod seemed a far cry from the congenial, courageous, smiling face that I had expected. He's got the best smile, he should use it. One of the best things about the New Democrats is that they're such nice people, and I don't think Jack communicated that to Canadians.

Again I can liken Layton to Elizabeth May's case; he was attacked once that stood out in my mind, and that was Harper's shot at him about being a hypocritical advocate of the public health care system. The New Democrats are surging in strength, and failure to throw jabs at Jack was a fault of all the candidates.

I spoke about congeniality before, and definitely the the most polite, caring person of the night was Stephané Dion, who looked sincerely into the camera every chance across and used excellent body language to communicate that he loves this country. I believed him, and he seemed the most genuine debater of the night. He also had a chance to defend his platform as not being a Carbon Tax, but instead being a tax cut. Richer, greener, fairer, he communicated his centrist position well. He was strong on the environment, the economy, justice, poverty, and came across as the leader who cared the most for Canada.

But of course where Stephané always falls through is with his poor English. This man needs a speaking coach, because although I paid close attention and was able to grasp what I just mentioned, it was hard for me to catch his full message. Congenial he may have been, but he was severly hampered by his inability to be quick on his feet in rebutting or attacking the other leaders.

Dion should also consider himself lucky that he wasn't the punching bag of last night's debate. If he had been, he would have crumbled under the assailance of all parties because of his language barrier. In addition, he's also the least charismatic of all the leaders, his words don't move you in quite the same way that say Jack Layton's do.

Another person who has that problem is Stephen Harper. But he came across as intelligent, steady, and although it's cliché, Prime Ministerial. He defended his record well, and deserves kudos for taking the brunt of all attacks last night. He spoke pragmatically and came off as the most sensible of the candidates by far. Indeed, the media put it the best, saying that he was like a father at a kitchen table resolving the issues of the household; fairly and with an experienced hand. Harper was strong on the economy, justice, defending his record, and simply raising himself above the debate.

However, he came down firstly in his eyes. When he looks at you, his icy glare penetrates deeply. Distant, and uncaring were the impressions I got from is body language, with empty eyes and not a single look directly at the camera, although he did fool me a couple times on that one. He seems the most dishonest, and certainly a quip from the 2006 election describes his smile well, as shark-like. Not only does he seem not to care, but he really falls flat on his intonation. He was the most monotone of speakers, and he has little of the pizzazz that some of the other leaders enjoy, excepting Dion.

One mistake that the other parties made was focusing on him too much. Because Harper is so quick and intelligent, he can rebut a point and quickly pull out one of his credentials that he's gained over the past 2 1/2 years. He had all kinds of opportunities to blame things on the Liberals from before 2003, and got in plenty of swipes of his own on Dion and Layton when refuting the other leaders points.

Lastly I will touch on Gilles Duceppe. Duceppe's english is better than Dion's, and it showed. He came through very well for a case for Québec, making strong arguments for the Arts, Health Care, and Afghanistan. He really scored well; especially in comarison to Dion with his poor english, but ultimately still came across as what he is; a purely Québec party. The other thing that put me off was the way that he bugged his eyes out. Maybe he thinks it makes him look incredulous, but I think it makes him look creepy. He contributed well to the debate overall, both attacking Harper and solidifying his stance as pro-french.

In conclusion, I'd have to say that I'd score Jack Layton first, Elizabeth May second, Stephen Harper third, Stephané Dion fourth and Gilles Ducéppe last. Jack had the best combination of experience, confidence, substance, and style, and Elizabeth really shone through with her polished details and spunky attitude. Harper had a tough job to do but he did it well, and Dion would have done far better if he had a better mastery of English. Lastly Duceppe really seems superificial because he only represents Québec, and you can't get away from that; period.

Now we will see if the NDP can capitalize on the gains they've made, we'll see if the Liberals turn their excellent showing in the French debate into seats, we'll see if the Greens can get one seat, and we'll se if Harper can get more than half.

And we'll see if I can get any real work done this beautiful weekend in Kingston.