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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Munk Debate





I have now had a chance to see the Munk Foreign Policy Debate among the three main Canadian party leaders. Much less interrupting this time, but the clear offender again was Justin Trudeau. This to me made him the loser, even though he made better points than in the past. Canadians are too polite by nature to accept that.

Mulcair also lost in the likability stakes, I think, because his motions and the way he holds his hands look so unnatural. He seemed repressed. The camera caught expressions that looked angry when he watched Trudeau. He got in a few zingers that made him sound smart, but they were also harsh and undignified. Canadians famously love humour, but Canadian humour is conspicuously good-natured and unbarbed. This was probably not to the audience's taste.

On likeability grounds, by contrast, Harper turned in a performance that was almost flawless. So I call him the clear winner, on the grounds that usually most matter.

This debate was unusually substantive, so it is just possible that the parties' stands on the issues will make the difference. But here, I think, Stephen Harper also has to be the clear winner. It is almost inevitable for a party in power: being in power, and if they intend to stay there, the government can seize the more popular side in any current debate. If the opposition comes up with a new idea that gains interest and approval, they can co-opt that too. They do this by actually introducing legislation; which the opposition cannot do.

As a result, the opposition parties are generally left saying they would do mostly the same things, but do them a little better.

Accordingly, it is always hard for the opposition to win on the issues. If an opposition wins, they usually win, in Canada, because of a good, juicy scandal, or because of a general odour of corruption in the government. Or they win because the sitting government has given an impression of general incompetence.

Harper has done pretty well at looking competent, and certainly did in the debates.

The opposition must rely on a general odour of government corruption.

Is it there, and is it there plainly enough? Either way, this debate did not show it. On its own, it has to help Harper's Tories.


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