Friday, October 3, 2008

Four lefties and a neocon walk into a room...

Woody said he played the Canadian Leaders' Debate drinking game last night. When Gilles Duceppe or Stephane Dion mispronounced words, he had to drink. When Elizabeth May used the word "stupid", he had to drink. When Jack Layton said things like "dinner table", or "backyard", he had to drink. And when Stephen Harper talked about the economy, he had to take a drink. Which, apparently, got him loaded by 9:15. Which was about the time that this debate got really tiresome. Frankly, thank God Elizabeth May was allowed to participate. Her use of the word "stupid" was a propos every time, and she was a nice, impassioned, and articulate antithesis to Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion. Now, I like Gilles Duceppe, and I think he's a pretty darn smart guy with some pretty darn good ideas, but he is totally irrelevant in a leaders' debate, what with campaigning only in Quebec. And I came away from this debate liking Jack Layton a little more than I did before, if only because he too has good ideas and he has a very confident demeanor when dissecting Harper or Dion's policies.

But Elizabeth May was the best reason to watch. She had something intelligent and articulate to say on every issue, from gang violence and gun control to the economy and health care and funding for the arts. And of course, she was going to own Harper (and everyone else) on environmental issues. But what amazed me most was her performance on the economy. The connection she made between new, clean, green technology and the economic benefits of investing in that technology was incredibly convincing. I think everyone watching the debate already knew that Harper's economic policy was mutually exclusive from his environmental policy, if he even has one of those. And May was very convincing in showing the folly of that approach.

I like the format of these debates, too. Not like the American ones, where everyone is standing at a podium and making speech after speech. (Which allows the likes of Sarah Palin to appear literate.) The round-table theme is terrific. There is a great amount of cross-talk, there are immediate responses to attacks and questions, and the discussion remains stuck on the subject at hand. It's less formal, but shows the character of the leaders much more. I do have a bit of a problem with the hokey nature of getting "regular Canadians" to ask "regular Canadian" questions as a jumping off point. I think we Canadians can trust the moderator to come up with those same questions himself, and we don't need something so gimmicky. But I would certainly like to see the ratings on the Canadian debate vs. the American one in Canada. At the end of the debate Steve Paikin said he figured this debate was likely far more entertaining than Biden and Palin. (Woody thought he said something else, but I PVR'd it. And I double checked to day. Woody, he said Biden and Palin. Then again, he was playing the drinking game. Boy, I wish I had thought of that.)

But the one thing I took from this debate was this: We have too many lefty parties in Canada. There's the debate, going strong, and although there is a little dissention between Layton and Dion, or Duceppe and Dion, or May and Layton, their basic principles and basic plans are fairly similar. Then there is Stephen Harper. The lone neo-con righty, sitting there fighting everyone. Because of course he is the leader of the one party with nothing in common with the rest of them. And therein is the problem in Canada. Where the States is basically a centre-right country, with more right wing values than left, we are the opposite. We are, moreso, a centre-left country. We like the left wing values more. Universal health care, gay rights, and so forth. But here's the thing. If only 35 percent of our country leans right, the Conservatives will still be elected with a minority. Because the other 65 percent of our votes will be split between the other four parties. Not that I'm advocating a two-party system...I'm merely suggesting that the NDP all of a sudden should make a 180 degree turn and go suddenly, totally, aggressively right wing. Not so we have more options, but rather to save us from ourselves. Come on Layton, do it for the good of the country!

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