Alright, I reviewed the recent Globe and Mail and French debates mostly based on inadequacies and comedy potential. For this one, I’d like to give credit where it is due.
Last night’s Munk debate on Foreign Policy at Roy Thomson Hall was the best of the bunch so far (audio production and French translation aside. But let’s take baby steps here)
The leaders all scored some points and counterpoints, the moderator Rudyard Griffiths (which sounds like it should have “the 3rd” behind it, but apparently doesn’t) was indeed moderate but did a better job of keeping things civil and moving forward than the other moderators had and the crowd gathered actually responded like a live audience at times!
Most importantly from a debating standpoint, there was some actual wordplay and wit and even some “cheap shots” that are arguably what make a live debate worth watching in the first place.
As for who “won”, well, again, ask any of the respective parties and you’ll get different answers. Unfortunately for Tom Mulcair though, the opinion of writers from Maclean’s and the Globe and Mail seem to be unanimous that he did not. Matter of fact, Lawrence Martin from the Globe and Mail wrote an article saying the NDP “no longer has a chance to win”. (Larry based this on his apparently mathematical opinion, ability to see into the future and of course belief in unreliable polls)
I do sort of see what Larry was talking about though. Mulcair went for a couple of zingers that didn’t land in the audience such as when he said to Trudeau “how are you going to stand up to Putin when you wouldn’t even stand up to Stephen Harper on Bill C-51?” Tom paused for the anticipated applause, but none came. I felt for him. Been there. Although, in all fairness, many in attendance at Roy Thomson Hall were likely season subscribers who were confused throughout, wondering when the symphony was going to take the stage and/or ‘how come the three tenors weren’t singing’.
As for Harper, well, he did what he has become accustomed to doing in these things: remained calm, explained why he has done what he has done and then sat back and enjoyed the other 2 leaders fighting amongst themselves. I only wish the camera had stayed focused on him during those moments as I’m sure his grin would have looked exactly like The Grinch’s the moment that Christmas was stolen.
An undebatable moment came when, after Mulcair made reference to a previous battle against Justin’s father Pierre, Justin fired back that it was an “emotional night” being exactly 15 years since Pierre Trudeau’s death and that he was “incredibly proud to be Pierre Trudeau’s son”. Good learning moment here for Harper and Mulcair. Let’s keep Justin’s dad out of this for future debates. He has proven he is NOT his dad. Time to move on.
As for actual points scored on Foreign Policy, well it depends how you as an individual feel about Canada’s place in the world. Should we be a military force to be reckoned with and a place that people in general think twice (or several more than twice) about applying to be a part of? Or would you prefer Canada get back to its peacekeeping roots and general likeability around the world? Your answer to this will help you decide how to vote (unless you base your decision on “how you have “always voted” in which case, there’s really no point in you watching these debates I guess)
However, if it comes down to arm wrestling Vladimir Putin (which is only slightly more ridiculous than other things Putin has done) I gotta go with Justin. He is by far the fittest of the three. Plus he picked a fight with David Suzuki, one of Canada’s most beloved senior citizens. That takes guts.
Still, the funniest line of the night went to Stephen Harper (even though he wasn’t trying to be funny) when he said he had a “great relationship with President Obama”. The crowd erupted in laughter at that point as if “Dame Edna” had just said a hilarious one-liner that could only come from a man dressed as a woman. No one was more surprised than Harper himself and he tried to cover it up by pointing out he was still a better choice for U.S. relations than the other 2 guys. But the moment was telling. Clearly the crowd assembled there knows that relations with the U.S. have soured under Harper. A point driven home by Mulcair saying “you have poured vinegar on U.S. relations”.
Here’s the thing though, Stephen Harper and many of his supporters seem to LIKE vinegar. It’s great on French fries, healthy as a salad dressing and when used properly, impresses audiences in debates as well.