Debatable Impact

There are many that say that an election campaign doesn’t really start until after the televised leader’s debate. If that’s the case, the end of last night’s french language debate could be heard as the report of a starter’s pistol. The question remains if either of the debates have had an impact on prospective voters, and whether the party leader’s direction has changed at all.

At the least, the debates tend to provide people with a glimpse at what theme the leaders are going to pursue in the coming weeks. Expecting a knock-out punch in one of these orchestrated media events is a little optimistic, but expecting to have a better idea what tactic the leaders will use is reasonable. Unfortunately, the debates didn’t reveal much that we didn’t already know.

I didn’t have the opportunity of watching the french language debate last night, but have heard much of the analysis. I watched all of the english debate, which is probably simultaneously a hint at how little I had to do on Tuesday night and an indication of just how exciting I am. Gilles Duceppe was his usual entertaining self. Of course, that largely has to do with the bravery of being out of range; it’s easy to say what you want when you know that it can’t hurt or help you much because you don’t stand a chance of winning anyways, and Duceppe is well aware of this. Jack Layton smiled and grinned and seemed a little too jocular, which didn’t help dispell the superimposed image of him as a used car salesman that I get every time I see him. I was positively mesmerized by Iggy-Pop’s eyebrows. I’m fairly certain that a small tribe of pygmies reside somewhere in there, or sheltered beneath their imposing shelf, and they truly seem to move with a mind of their own. He seemed the most at ease in the debate, though, which is probably because of his academic background. And, well, Stephen Harper was his usual arrogant self, wobbling his head around on his neck hypnotically and resolutely refusing to look at the person he was speaking to, instead choosing to gaze into the camera with a “gosh golly” smile on his face. He weathered the storm well, though, never wavering from his constant drone about “economy good, opposition bad.”

That’s the debate in one paragraph.

You can’t really declare a winner in these kinds of things. You can definitely declare a loser, because there is always the risk that you slip up and make an ass of yourself or fail to counter an attack. I don’t think anybody really lost, here. There were some weak moments, like Duceppe saying you are either a Quebecer or not in relation to immigration, and Iggy-Pop’s lack of a good response to Layton’s attack on his voting attendance in the House. People expect me to say Harper is a loser, and he is, but not in the debate. I think that he failed to truly answer a number of questions, and his defence to allegations that he was open to a coalition in 2004 were quite weak. I also think that he was slick enough that the doe-eyed Conservative loyalists won’t see any of that as a moment of weakness.

And, nobody really surprised. The opposition went on the attack about the Auditor General’s draft report, as anticipated. Harper repeatedly intoned the mantra of “economic recovery, money money money” that we have already heard. Layton tried to take enough shots right and left to make sure that he stood out as an individual instead of a growth on the neck of the Liberals.

Perhaps surprisingly, at least to me, was the fact that Harper continued to drive the issue of a scary coalition, despite the fact that Iggy again stated, categorically, that there would be no coalition. This horse has died and disintegrated, yet Harper continues to flog it, which gives me the fear that the reason is people are still resolutely listening and believing the drivel.

I’m a little disappointed that it’s becoming more and more apparent that ethics and accountability, old themes that served the Conservatives well in their chase for power but have been warts on their nose since they came to power, are becoming less and less relevant in this election. It’s a sign that people are too obtuse to look critically on who they want as leader, and instead accept at face value what they hear. In this case, they’re being led by their wallets on a string held by a crook.

Example: Like the internet? Like your privacy? The two might not be able to coexist if the Conservatives return to power. Seems the Harper government is planning on introducing legislation as part of the massive omnibus bill, short circuiting the usual democratic method of investigation and debate that legislation follows, that would see your presence on the internet surveilled. The plan is to force service providers to put technology in place to track, in real time, your internet activities, and to report on demand and without court order all personal information about you and your account. Police would also be given new and broader reaching powers. And, all of this information would be stored, by law, for a greater length of time. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Or do you think I’m making this up? If so, check out this from Ottawa University professor and respected internet authority Michael Geist.

What’s most disturbing is that there will be no consultation of Parliament or debate from opposition on this matter, or any of the other crime and punishment related measures that Harper is heaping into his omnibus bill. Maybe the measures are good, maybe they’re bad, but that’s why the process involves a certain number of steps and tests before something is put into law, and instead of following that democratic process, Harper is choosing to ram his agenda through by using a loophole. Democracy be damned. What Harper wants is what you have to accept as good for you. Whether it is or not is for him to decide.

Example: The Shoe Store Project. Harper, well known for his disdain of the media, has devised a way in which he can control the message and what gets put out for the public to see and read. He wants to replace the National Press Theatre with a facility on Sparks Street, an old shoe store, that he will control. The difference between the two is access and direction: in the NPT, Harper cannot control who asks questions, what they ask or what they will write/film. In the Shoe Store, Harper can limit access and will have authority over what is filmed and what is released for publication. It’s a throwback to WWI government propaganda institutions. Think I’m making this one up too? Check this out, amongst other reports.

I’m resolved to the fact that Harper is going to win, because once the lemmings begin to march, it’s hard to turn the tide, and I don’t think Iggy’s prodigious eyebrows are enough of a force to do it. I just pray this megalomaniac doesn’t get a majority. Taking the rabid dog off the leash in a preschool is worse than the leashed dog being there in the first place.

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