Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Leader's Debate

If I had to rank the performances of the four party leaders in last nights debate, I'd have to go with:

1) Stephen Harper (Conservative)
2) Gilles Duceppe (BQ)
3) Jack Layton (NDP)
4) Paul Martin (Liberal)

For the most part Harper managed to get his message across without having to sling mud. He basically kept to his points, while at the same time quickly reacted to statements from the other party leaders. I especially liked his whole bit about how him, his family, his friends, etc.. have always operated under the flag of Canada and fully believe in building a stronger country. This was just a beautiful statement in that it both re-enforced his patriotism (something Martin and Layton continually question despite Martin's claims to the contrary) and poked into the whole Martin/CSL issue without even mentioning Martin directly. He also did a great job of following up on the insults being sent his way by Martin and Layton by keeping his cool and defending himself or his party, without sending an insult back to them. Basically a class act.

Duceppe managed to give good examples as to how the BQ have managed to working the system to help out their constituents. It was hard to fight with him as he often had real word examples to back up his claims as opposed to the Martin's world of woulda, shoulda, couldas. He also managed to make things a little easier on Harper in that by directly challenging Martin's credibility as a leader, he allowed Harper to stay above the fray while still ensuring the scandals got mentioned.

Layton, as he usually does, sounded like a broken record for most of the evening. I was getting pretty sick and tired of hearing the words "working family" after about 5 minutes in but Layton, bless his soul, decided to stick with it and keep hammering the phrase home no matter what effect it may have on the audience. And his continual slips into infomercial like statements about the NDP being a "third choice" got tired, fast, but despite all that, he did manage to differentiate his party from the Liberals as a valid choice for left leaning voters.

Now, what can be said about Paul Martin, our current Prime Minister. He looked like a fish out of water for most of the debate. He was obviously uncomfortable answering any questions about the myriad of scandals plaguing his party, so instead of answering he basically tried and turn the tables and make them appear to have all been unfounded opposition accusations, and not in fact, payouts to party friends and members. What really go me was how he repeatedly requested more civility in Federal politics while at the same time directly attacking Harper's love for this country (even the commentator caught that although a minute later Martin denied even doing anything of the sort). Even his opening statement barely mentioned the Liberals at all and was instead a directed attack at the Conservative party. Compare that to Harper's statement which was a classical "this is what my party will do for you .." type and you could quickly see who was the cause of the loss of civil discourse on the Hill.

It was just amazing to see Martin make unfounded accusations and disparaging remarks, one after another, and then moments later completely deny they ever happened. It was like watching the last 12 years of Liberal party politicking in fast forward.

While anyone could easily come out of this debate and say they were not convinced to change their minds, it is very hard to make a case for those who claim that Martin won. You may not agree with me that Harper won, you could pick Duceppe or even if you are a die hard liberal leaning voter (notice the small 'l'), Layton (lucky for him, having no real chance to form the majority and become PM his often ludicrous statements about how he would solve all of Canada's ills were generally ignored by the other leaders) but I can not see how anyone with even the slightest impartial bone in their body could give the win to Martin. Then again, after seeing this mornings ratings of the various leaders performances, I can understand why somehow, no matter what they do or say, the Liberals always seem to get votes.

Just two more weeks for this all to play out.

Update:
A little more on Martin's just awful use of double talk. I'm working from home today and it just so happened that when I turned on the TV (for the first time, honest) that Martin was giving one of his values creeds. Somehow, in Martin's mind, all Canadians share the exact same values (when talking about Quebecers and other Canadians anyway), but somehow Conservative's values, who apparently Paul Martin is not aware makes up a sizable portion of the population, are not Canadian values because they don't want to hand out money hand over fist to unmonitored public departments running under ad hoc rules. And as always, Layton is just that annoying 'everything should be for working families' record in the corner.

And on the tax cuts, here's some simple math for Layton and Martin, if you lower the rate of the lowest tax bracket, only people who make more that the lowest bracket will actually get the full refund. If you only make 20k a year, when you take out the 9k personal deduction, you only pay taxes on the 11k, 1% of which is roughly $110. If you make 70k a year, then you get the full 1% benefit from the 35k that is the top of the lowest bracket, you get back $350. So, while the higher income earner actually gets the full 1% tax break, the lower income worker actually gets only a third. Now I don't have a problem with that per se, that's the way percentages work, but normally liberals (this includes NDPers, Liberals, as well as Democrats in the states) seem to always see percentage based deductions as being tax breaks for the rich. It's just odd to see Mr. Martin trying to defend this tax cut as being for the poor when even a high school drop out could do the math and see that the moderately wealthy will get more back.

Now the proposed GST reduction of 1%, will apply equally to both groups (with of course those who spend more getting more actual $$$ back), but unlike the 1% income tax reduction, will also apply to that $9,000 of the lower earners income that is exempted from taxes. Personally, I'd like to see both but I don't have access to the government books to break down the numbers and see if we can afford it.

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