The art of debate suffers serious setback.

The debates are over.  Thank goodness.  That was like putting four unruly little boys in the same playpen.  It was an opportunity for them to be nasty.

It really is too bad that Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois is not as good a communicator in English as he is in French.  In the English debate, he went right for Harper’s jugular vein like a pit bull smelling lunch.  The only problem was that Harper could ignore him.  Harper hardly feels he has to make nice with a francophone separatist.

In fact, Harper ignored everybody.  With his warm and heavy makeup job and so perfectly coifed hair, he looked like he was afraid to move.  What left us cold about his style was that he never looked at anybody.   On Tuesday, he particularly ignored the moderator Steve Paikin—who let the English-language session get out of control.

Harper took whatever time he wanted. Ignatieff and Layton actually indicated to Paikin—practically raising their hand as though they wanted to go to the washroom.  Harper butted in whenever he wanted to.  Duceppe spoiled his presentation by getting red and angry with Harper.

The disappointment in the debate was the one guy who actually should have had the most debating experience at the university level.  Michael Ignatieff was over-prepped for the event.  His advisors should have left him alone.  It was obvious that they had fed him too many sound bites—which he finally garbled—and stopped him from listening to what others were saying.  While Harper could hardly care what they said, Ignatieff needed to win the damn debate.

He did not.

If we had renamed the show “Three and a half men,” Jack Layton was the half.  He was the earnest little boy allowed to play with the big kids. He appeared to be standing there throughout the debate looking admiringly at Harper.  Why he chose Ignatieff’s support for our troops in Afghanistan and attendance in the House of Commons as subjects on which to attack Ignatieff, we can hardly guess.  Ignatieff is the party leader and leader of the opposition.  He is in the House when he has to be but he has a lot of other work to do.

Harper tried to make something of the fact that he is now the longest serving minority Prime Minister since Mr. Pearson was Prime Minister from 1963 to 1968.  The difference is that Canadians liked Mr. Pearson and he accomplished a great deal during his time as Prime Minister.

Harper also reminded us of our blog about stump speaking.  The only difference is that Harper, as a speaker, is the stump.  The man has no passion nor feelings nor emotion.  Poor Laureen Harper!

After the two debates, the only conclusion is that Canadians need to take Stephen Harper to the woodshed.  He needs to understand that going way off topic to avoid answering questions does not always work.

The rest of them need to learn that a debate is not a bickering session.

The only humour in the entire two hours of English was when Gilles Duceppe had Jack Layton squirming, trying to get out of appearing to support the notorious Quebec language law (Bill 101).

The silliest question was from an obvious Conservative supporter in a small town in British Columbia about safety on the streets.  (Do they have a street there?)  Harper enjoyed the question.  Once again, we heard how he is tough on crime and easy on guns.

By the end of that first two hours, the leaders were tired, nobody had won anything and the audience was saying, “We missed regular programs for this?”  A sad result.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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