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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hang together or hang separately 

I don't speak French so I didn't watch tonight's debate, but this story doesn't surprise me at all:
It would be a stretch even to describe Thursday night's French-language televised election debate in Vancouver as an exchange of ideas. A new debate format, agreed upon by all four major federal parties, stripped the event of any spontaneity and reduced it to two hours of prime-time party platitudes . . . For all the leaders, the evening was about preaching to the converted, avoiding mistakes and sticking to the script. Harper acknowledged as much, in a roundabout way, after it was over. "I knew the format would be a bit dry," he told reporters. "But on the other hand I think it was much more informative for those who did watch it . . . . I'm not sure watching four leaders yelling at each other at the same time - while entertaining - really tells people very much." In the end, the first debate was less about mental agility than the perfection of cadence, pacing and language that comes from working with a good speechwriter. It may have made their handlers happy - and earned a bonus or a pink slip for whoever told Martin to gesture with his hands so much, depending on your point of view - but as a test of leadership in the crucible it did little to illuminate the candidates for Canadian voters.
So when it comes to the debates I guess we have a choice -- either the party leaders scream at each other, or they drone on and on with their individual spin points. Harper is right when he says that screaming at each other is more entertaining, though its a shame if voters chose the government of Canada based on which leader talks the loudest.

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