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Friday, October 03, 2008

Dion's Right - the Debate Winner was Canada.

The Canadian leadership debate last night was terrific. Stephane Dion got it right in the post debate scrum when the media asked him who won. He said Canadians won and I could not agree more.

I have to give great kudos to the Moderator Steve Paikin. He was forthright, masterful and adaptable to take advantage of the human moments and ensure fairness for all the leaders. When things got out of hand with everyone talking at the same time he used humour and firmness to take back control.

The roundtable format was a wonderful improvement over the podium because the leaders got to speak to each other in a move conversational manner. And we got to tune in and watch the human interaction not just the shrink wrapped media trained messaging of podium puppets o f past debates.

This was not a television program masquerading as a debate. This was a human exchange around real issues framed by real citizens. The following open discussion added context and differentiated the candidates and their policy proposals. Last night was a great opportunity for us to see the pith and substance of the people who want our trust and our vote and permission to govern us.

I have a new found respect for every candidate because of how they focused on the issues and challenged each other’s position. Sure there were cheap shots, some deserved, some not, but Canadians can tell the difference.

Harper has not answered media or citizen questions for first 24 days of the campaign. Last night he had to answer and admit to mistakes and be accountable under good political scrutiny. He can’t presume Canadians will sleep walk through the campaign and not show up because if Harper has his way, it would be a Seinfeld Campaign – about nothing.

I see the Harper War Room has been the ones to really panic and they are all of a sudden whipping up campaign platform. Harper’s handlers have all of a sudden announced they will release a Conservative campaign platform - next Tuesday the LAST 7 DAYS OF THE CAMPAIGN. That is an insult to Canadian citizens. It will be too little and way too late to be taken seriously.

Harper’s plan for personal power was to win a majority government based on a “mandate” that he does not have to be accountable for. He presumes he can make up any policy he wants as he sees fit AFTER the election. If there is no campaign platform Harper will presume he has absolute power to do whatever he wants - once elected with a majority government. That is the extent of the serious political risk that Canadians are taking by voting for Harper.

Harper was caught last night for taking the Canadian voters for granted…not just the Alberta voters which has been his habit for years. Harper will not release his platform until after the advance polls. Those voters will have to vote and not know where Harper wants to take their country as Prime Minister.

The rushed and reactive Conservative election platform will only leave one week for citizens, the media and other parties to scrutinize it. No wonder Harper did not want May in the debates. The same public pressure that got May and the Green into the debates was about to bite Harper again as citizens wonder what Harper is proposing for the future of Canada. Harper’s reactive last minute damage control with his panicky change of mind to actually prepare and campaign platform is telling.

Harper is obviously nervous for the first time in the campaign. He is afraid that he will have to go beyond his do nothing economic approach that is now so suspect among voters. Thanks to Elizabeth May, Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and Stephane Dion in the debate last night we may actually get a glimpse of what the real Stephen Harper is proposing as a Prime Minister.