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Maybe Two Hours Meets the Definition of Eternity

April 2011
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Note: This is my latest submission to the CBC Your Take election blog.

I made a great deal of effort, and rescheduled several things on the fly, to watch the English language leaders’ debate last night. The presentation started with an interesting poll statistic, namely, that 64% of the respondents probably wouldn’t change their vote based on the debate. About 25% said they could be swayed.

That being said, I don’t see anyone being swayed by last night’s performance.  I’ve heard the various parties talking about how well their leader did in the debates. That could, however, probably be summed up by the fact that no one lost it, rather than anyone having won it.

One of the rules for the debate is that the leaders could use index cards for notes to use during the presentation. I really only noticed M.  Duceppe obviously doing this, but that probably reflected itself in the fact that he was the only one who did not repeat themselves continuously through the entire show. My suggestion for the next time is the following rule: if you use a party buzz phrase (e.g., jets and prisons, Stephen Harper’s best friend, job-killing taxes, etc.) more than twice in the debates, you should be required to resign as party leader.  Two hours of debate is for putting forward two hours of your viewpoint on the issues rather than the same thing again and again. M. Duceppe does deserve kudos for not doing this as much as the three other leaders but he wasn’t innocent of this either.

Also, the communications people really should take some of their leaders aside and give a few hints on television presentation. First, Mr. Harper should be told not to make every statement directly to the camera. Yes, it does look good to make your points to the audience as well as the other leaders; however, when you do it all the time, it looks a little creepy. No offence, but…

Also, Mr. Ignatieff’s staff should make him spend some time with his hands below the podium. Nervous hand gestures are a habit and hard to break but are a bit distracting (I’ll also concede that he’s allowed to be a bit nervous considering it was his first  televised leaders’ debate).

Living in the north, I was curious to hear what northern issues may be on the leaders’ plates. Sadly, I’m now assuming that the answer to that question is “None.” I was also a little dismayed to find that women’s issues came up, but only in passing and only an hour and a half into the two hour debate. Obviously, no one remembers that women do make up 52% of the population and are rumoured to occasionally vote. And, while all parties claim to be interested in getting youth re-engaged in the election and increase their voting rates, the only youth issues brought forward involved youth and crime.  And… “bling??”

Maybe, I did expect a bit too much. Performing under pressure for two hours cannot be easy. Comparing it to Question Period isn’t fair, either, as QP is only 45 minutes and you are not the only one expected to represent the party. I must also admit that moving the French language debate to this evening was a good plan, though. If last night’s performance was any indication, we could probably guess how well its ratings would fare against a Bruins-Canadiens game…

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