I know, I know, Harper won the debate. No argument here – he didn’t get defensive, didn’t take the bait, didn’t even break a sweat.
Iggy was nervous, stumbled on his words and seemed to reboot himself throughout. Not the great Harvard debater we were expecting. Even when he made a dent in Harper’s impenetrable veneer he looked down with self doubt. He has to get rid of that nervous lip licking too.
Layton had some good moments like the Iggy attendance expose, but the old lame NDP complaints bogged him down (they are too lame to relist here – trust me you know them). I was reminded of a line from Dickens’s Christmas Carol when he lamented how Harper had changed “You are changed Ebenezer, gold and gain are all that matter to you now!”. And I would be remiss not to mention the yellow complexion – for a man fighting against concerns his health problems are hurting his party’s vitality, he should really have made sure his make-up artist got the tone right. Awful.
And then there is Duceppe, well, he is Duceppe. Punchy, funny, and surreal to watch a separatist argue in a federal debate. Can’t take him seriously in that format and I was raised in Quebec – I care about that province and what the Bloc has to say, so I can be informed enough to protect our national unity. (His god awful 8’0s tie and the piercing-eyes-of-hate didn’t help him either).
So given the decent but unremarkable performances of the opposition, Harper clearly won by not engaging them in their attacks, but instead sticking to his message like crazy glue.
Here is where he did not do himself any favours. While his performance definitely did not hurt him (and I can almost feel the hangovers this morning of elated Harperites) it did not do anything to advance him or address his major negative:
The impression that he has to TOLERATE the Canadian people’s interference in his efficient operating of the country.
In the debate his decision to keep referring to the parliamentary debate process as ‘bickering’, and his assertion that an election was an interruption to more important things like running the country was disconcerting to say the least. Doesn’t he get that we are watching the debate because we are engaged in the election? That the election matters because every leader must be held accountable? That the cost and time spent on elections pales compared to money being spent on let’s say – fighter jets – and the time is well worth it to preserve our way of life? Who does Harper think Canadians are?
Looking exclusively at the camera to connect with us at home showed a dismissive attitude towards the others and the debate itself. Explaining policy positions like we are all slightly inept didn’t help either.
As a result of the debate I still don’t know who I will honour with my vote. The opposition leaders didn’t impress. And while Stephen Harper didn’t add to his negatives, he did reinforced them.