This was one of the most lively leaders debates ever in Canada. All five appeared strong at different times in different ways. Particularly impressive was Green Party leader Elizabeth May. She came out aggressively from the start and made some no-nonsense statements to PM Harper about his environmental plan, his being "out of touch" with families who are hurting as a result of the economy. She spoke with conviction on every point she made, and stared Harper directly in the eye and asked no bs questions.
Jack Layton was impressive when he went on the offence against Harper, and also Dion. He did not let Stephane Dion off the hook after Dion stated that Liberals would not be breaking promises as Harper did. Layton reminded him that back in the 1990s, under Jean Chretien, the child-care program was promised and never delivered. That took away some of the Liberals credibility. Dion responded with a weakness in NDP stance on Troop deployment in Afghanistan, voting for the 2011 exit date with Harper. Layton later spoke about the Chretien years when health spending was cut, to the detriment of patients - a history reminder of Dion's party tradition.
Layton did bring up Harper's tax breaks to big oil and banks, mentioning Exxon's tax break to do more tar sands drilling. The tax break figure mentioned was $50 billion. He said he would get rid of that as PM and use it for improved social needs like health care and child care.
Several leaders pointed out that exporting raw materials in some cases is exporting jobs. Layton said "what wooden product can't be made here that can be in China?"
They also brought up Harper's past support of privatized health care, and his Emission Reduction plan. Ducette and maybe Layton pointed out that the Conservatives would lower the emissions rate per barrel but still more barrels of oil to be produced, thus only contributing to the greenhouse gas problem
Harper responded to many questions by describing the government's current approach to each issue.
As for his 2003 statement while opposition leader, concerning sending troops to Iraq, he finally said it was an error.
Ducette had nothing to lose as usual because he does not have to offer Canadians outside Quebec anything.
Through it all, Harper appeared the most composed, smiling, and with attacks from four others, was reminded the whole time that he was the man to beat. Possibly damaging to him was the big oil tax breaks mentioned by Layton, and the recent youth jail time idea. On that topic, and it was good it was mentioned a couple of times, by May, Ducette, and Harper that implementing social programs and resources to direct at "at risk" youth, to diminish the risk of youth crime from happening, was discussed. As well, May mentioned that one law enforcement officer experienced with youth, noted that many who were arrested had little or no literacy skills. So it raised the idea of more emphasis and funding on literacy skills. Though this was not discussed at much length, it was an important topic, and should be raised more often. It related to getting to the root of youth crime.
If anyone gained in tonight's debate it was May, and Layton. Dion appears to be reasoned and sincere, a person who appears to emphasize with real people's needs. However, and this is unfortunate, his English is sometimes a problem. The message is sometimes lost in his English pronunciations, at least to this blogger. He is the person Harper paid more attention to, because of the Liberal Green Shift plan, and their own history.
It was an excellent exchange, with no personal insults, just a couple small jabs. Follow up poll results will be eagerly awaited to see if a party got a bounce from the leader's performances. For the NDP candidates in NL and other provinces who were in the underdog or "iffy" categories, Layton's performance may have helped their cause by making the electorate give a second look at the NDP. Layton was certainly seeing an opportunity to replace Dion as official Opposition.
There were two major debates last night, and the U.S. VP debate couldn't have been more dramatic this the Canadian leaders debate.