As promised, my completely biased uninformed coverage of the second English leader's debate, held in Montreal, to follow up my posting on the first leader debate. Now some of you may wonder "How on Earth did Mike watch the debate from the US?" Well by miracle of modern technology, I watched it on the Internet. Sadly, with Realplayer (*shudders at evil bloatware technology*), but for those that are interested, here's the debate link from cbc.ca.
The format changed this time: while last time the format was very rigid with recorded questions, this time it was much more freeform with the moderator posing questions. They also gave them a few more opportunities for followups and responses, which made things interesting. There was lots of duelling between the candidates, making for some revelations.
Of course, scandal was still heavy on everyone's minds, with regular references to the sponsorship and more recent scandals. Martin was of course harassed over the sponsorship scandal, and for not asking Gooddale to resign pending the income trust investigation. Martin shot back quoting his action with the Gomery commission, and basically said that Gooddale didn't have to resign because in the end the RCMP wouldn't investigate him due to lack of evidence of any wrongdoing! Mentions of limiting campaign contributions came up, which quickly backfired because Harper said he'd made public all of his contributors, but the other three leaders immediately agreed that if he had, they hadn't seen it yet. [ed. note: according to a CBC article, he has released this information in the past, though no mention of recent details]
There was lots of talk about budgeting, in particular, everyone wanted to claim to support low-income people with their tax break. Harper supports corporate tax cuts to keep jobs in the country (so does Martin but he didn't admit as much), but thinks the GST cut is the only way to benefit everybody. Plus he intends to give benefits to transit riders, students, and a few other special groups. Martin's sticking by his own income tax cut package story, which I think is really meant to appeal to the middle class votes despite his arguments. Martin in particular emphasized his desire for a childcare system, though the others criticized him for not doing it yet, after years of promises. Harper's childcare plan (ie. cash to parents) was pretty thoroughly mocked. Duceppe reminded people that Quebec has the best childcare, which everyone seemed to agree with. Duceppe brought up points about money taken out of EI by the Liberals, and generally supported better EI stuff.
Almost a topic of its own right was the fiscal imbalance - getting the money back to the provinces and the municipalities. This is of course Duceppe's favourite topic, becuase it gives more money for the provinces, and he wants the Quebec to maintain a strong hold on the cornerstone money programs of education and health. Others supported various committees and renegotiations already in progress, but generally didn't SAY much.
Of course healthcare was an issue, and Layton was heavily against any for-profit healthcare at all. Harper wanted waittime guarantees that would allow people to go outside Canada on Canadian dollars if the wait was too long. And Martin was all about supporting the current Canada Health Act and preventing any Canadian tax dollars reaching private for-profit institutions. Duceppe turned this into his standard fiscal imbalance complaint - why is there 10,000 federal healthcare workers if healthcare is a provincial matter? Martin thinks there are certain things that benefit from co-operation in healthcare, and that the provinces shouldn't go it all on their own.
While not all that relevant, the national unity section was funny. First question: exactly my observation in my first post - how can Duceppe say we don't need to rediscuss same-sex marriage, while working towards a third referendum? He made the distinction between collective rights and individual rights to justify this. Also, he said if we should all join up, why not all join the US as well? The response: because we have different values than the US, but we (and Martin got pretty snippy about this) share values with Quebec, and Quebec helped build Canada. And a good followup: if we can split Canada, can we split Quebec too? Of course not, says Duceppe, Quebec came in as a nation, and leave as a nation. Heh, separatists make funny arguments. Martin argued very passionately here as he always does.
There were other topics, that I really didn't touch on. Agriculture I ignored. I don't care about farmers. Well.... I CARE, but I'll leave the farmers to consider those options.
Some interesting quickies: Harper's view of the constitution came into play a few times, particularly around the notwithstanding clause. Harper supports the current balance between a US constitutional system, and a British parliamentary supremacy; here rights become a dialgoue between the courts and parliament. (An interesting side note, he'd amend the constitution to enshrine property rights). Martin made a rather bold statement: he would remove the federal notwithstanding clause from the constitution! This is huge - basically, this would be a move towards a more US-like system, where nothing short of amending the constitution (which is hard) could get around the rights guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But then again, removing the notwithstanding clause is of itself the same hard problem. Layton was particularly disappointing here, entirely avoiding these sequences of questions.
Electoral reform came up once too. All three leaders said "Hum commission... yeah... um... studies... soon yeah...." except Layton who of course has proportional representation as part of his platform.
Crime was a biggie at the start. Most of the parties are big on increasing minimum sentencing, even though one leader (forget whom) observed that police officers don't think it'll help. Harper is big on the harsh sentencing, Layton is big on addressing the underlying (poverty?) issues, though surprizingly also supports increased minimums too. Martin wants to BAN all handguns, which is a rather controversial plan. There was brief mention of the lack of armed border guards and preventing the increased smuggling of guns from the US.
When asked about who the parties would ally with in a minority, nobody gave a straight answer, but of course, Harper insisted to do anything, you had to be in power. However Layton made fun of that pretty good, quoting his own track record the past session with far fewer MPs than the Conservatives, who have done nothing but bitch for years.
Sorry for the rather random hammering of topics. I found in this debate that the little points were the bigger news.
Well, now you're ready. Vote, or shut up and don't whine to me afterwards.