2011 Canadian Election: Debate winners and losers

Here’s a look at who won the debate in English language on Tuesday as the May 2, 2011 election nears:

Best moment:
He did what he had to do: Win the one-on-one debate with Stephen Harper. Up until that point, Harper’s calm and collected demeanour made him appear in command while Ignatieff and the other leaders seemed to lack authority and the way to wear it. Ignatieff stripped him down, beginning with: “You haven’t earned a majority. Majorities are things you earn when you earn the trust of the Canadian people.” In that succinct moment, Ignatieff encapsulated Harper’s plight and, perhaps, his legacy. Minutes later, he hammered at Harper’s imperiousness when he told the Conservative leader his contention that the Canadian people were sick of Parliament’s “bickering” was dead wrong. “This isn’t bickering, Mr. Harper this is democracy,” and added that Parliament wasn’t “some pesky little interference that gets in the way of your power.” From then on, Ignatieff pulled himself level with Harper in terms of holding a commanding presence on stage.

Another highlight was his articulation of how to get a Winnipeg teenager he recently met to finish high school and avoid a lapse into drug culture. Ignatieff showed both humanity and his analytical smarts when he described the importance of that pivotal moment in one Canadian’s life, and why social and criminal justice programs need to be coordinated in order to do the right thing.

Worst moment: Failing to answer Jack Layton’s questions of why he has supported Harper’s policies so often while also failing to show up in Parliament for a whopping and utterly shameful 182 out of 311 votes. That’s 59 percent of the time the Liberal leader — the head of the opposition — has not cast a vote on behalf of the people of his riding in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. It’s the worst voting attendance of all Members of Parliament. Sure, he’s out campaigning across the country, but it also shows disregard for the voters who got him that position and, worst of all, punctuates the worries people have about him: That there are really three “i”s in Ignatieff.

Reading between the lines: When Ignatieff said definitively that a coalition government was off the table for him, what that means is he’s out as Liberal leader if the Conservatives win. He needed to speak forcefully, definitively on some point and that was it. He’s all-in now on a Liberal victory and, if his political dream is indeed on the line, that actually could invigorate this campaign. What Ignatieff has failed to do during his speeches leading to the debate was make us believe he knew of struggle, which he so often speaks about. If we are going to see him fight for the life of something dear to him — that being his chance to be PM — it could add some needed drama to the final two weeks.

Stephen Harper Canada Election May 2 2011

Whod think that of all the leaders Stephen Harper would be the one who lets you download pictures of his campaign stops from his website? Good for them!

Best moment:
We knew he was going to win on the economy. He actually didn’t hail Canada’s performance enough (I don’t recall him mentioning the strength of the currency). What worked well for Harper was what should’ve been a thorny issue for him: the G8. Ignatieff’s contention that it was just a photo-op and that nothing good comes out of such meetings was too much hysteria. Harper made his opposition seem ignorant by pointing out, correctly, that the summits in recent years have been crucial in developing fiscal policies to deal with the recession. And it was Harper who made the maternal health initiative a major part of the platform at the 2010 summit in Ontario, getting $7.3 billion to be committed to the cause.

Worst moment: Besides losing in those vital six minutes to Ignatieff, Harper also lied and kept on lying. When confronted by The Guy Who Wants to Destroy Canada (TGWWTDC) about his role in a 2004 attempt to form a coalition government, Harper said he never signed such an agreement and no one from sea to shining sea believed him. It didn’t help Harper that TGWWTDC dug in hard on this one. Harper also said he has no plans to cut the corporate tax rate, but it will drop from 16.5 percent to 15 percent on January 1 (and that’s not a bad thing) thanks to Jim Flaherty’s measures. Harper contented that “all the police officers in Parliament” support the long gun registry (there’s Julian Fantino, Harper’s Minister of State for Seniors, and no one seems to be able to point out another cop in the House of Commons). He ducked the question on Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s assessment of dubious G8 funding and threw out some numbers on the F-35 fighter jets that seemed like creative accounting at best.

Reading between the lines: From here on out, this is a one-issue campaign for Harper, and it’s not about the coalition. He’s going to do what he should’ve done at the beginning and boast loud and long about Canada’s economic performance through the global recession. It’s the one thing he can’t be denied and the one success even his deceitfulness can’t thoroughly damage.

Best moment: We have 5 million Canadians without a doctor and in Ontario alone we have more than 4,000 foreign-trained doctors on the sidelines, waiting (many of them futilely) to receive credentials to practice here and Layton is the only leading politician pushing for reform on this issue. His call for more internationally trained medical graduates (IMGs) to receive Practice-Ready Assessments (or some other form of mentorship) to speed their integration into the medical system is commendable. Doctors, because they are bright, hard-working and often multilingual, score well on the grading system by federal immigration officials who recruit skilled workers. But because the provinces run healthcare, many of the IMGs find that when they arrive here it’s excruciatingly difficult to receive the residency training and certifications necessary to practice in their field. Great for Layton for championing this issue.

Worst moment: The NDP’s view that we need to be out of Afghanistan tomorrow is naïve, as Ignatieff pointed out, and detrimental to Canada’s reputation and the health of Afghans. If our troops left Afghanistan it would be a victory for the Taliban and also undermine some of the marvelous work being done by NGOs and volunteer organizations who are kept safe by armed forces. An 8-year-old girl being educated now by NGO workers won’t be able to make a significant impact on Afghan society for another two decades. It will take that long to see lasting, democratic reform take root in that country. A recent report published by Oxfam and 15 other NGOs says the failure to focus on “long-term development could reverse gains made in encouraging girls to attend school. This progress in sending girls to school is ‘one of the few good news stories’ in Afghanistan in the last nine years.”

Reading between the lines: Layton went hard after Ignatieff because the Liberals are taking NDP votes across the country, according to the polls. Nevermind gaining seats; with support for the NDP dropping below 15 percent nationally in recent polls, Layton is fighting a tough battle to retain the 36 seats his party holds.

TGWWTDC: Best/worst, who cares? He wants to break up the country! Why’s he even getting equal time? Sure, he’s entertaining, but it’s time to tune him out, don’t you think?

Who do you think won? Who do you think stunk? What makes you furious about this election? Send in your comments and they’ll get published here.

More Canada Election 2011 News
5 Ways to Get Us to Vote
5 Reasons Not to Vote for Stephen Harper

5 Reasons Not to Vote for Michael Ignatieff
5 Reasons Not to Vote for Jack Layton
Why I Won’t Vote on May 2
Margaret Trudeau Talks 2011 Canadian Election


One Comment to “2011 Canadian Election: Debate winners and losers”

  1. i am furoius that Elizabeth May was not invited to participate in this debate. i can’t belive that a leader of a party with canidates in every riding was excluded but The Bloc leader, Mr. Gilles Duceppe was included in the english debate. Most of the english speaking population won’t even have the option of voting for him but yet he participated over a leader who everybody will have an option to vote for.

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