The four parliamentary leaders met last night (Tuesday 12th April) for an English language leaders debate. The debate had been overshadowed by the exclusion of the Green party leader, Elizabeth May. The Greens do not have representation in parliament.
Reviewing the Canadian newspapers today, Elizabeth May did very well in getting considerable coverage. On the night she used a blog and Twitter to get across what she would have said during the debate. She was also covering a feed throughout the debate on the Vancouver Sun. In effect the Greens got considerable coverage without having to debate with the four parliamentary leaders. Undoubtedly a coup for the Greens.
In the debate itself, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader was the winner. Not because he was the best speaker or answered the questions especially well, but because he came out of the debate intact after two hours of constant attack from the other three leaders.
Harpers performance was competent. He appeared to answer the questions and he did not allow himself to be drawn. The one awkward point was the way in which he addressed the camera rather than responding direct to the leader making a point.
Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party (NDP) also gave a strong performance. He was, in many ways, the most aggressive of the party leaders and wasn’t frightened to attack Michael Ignatieff the Liberal leader. At one point Layton pointed out to Ignatieff that he had missed 70% of the votes in the Commons. If anything Jack Layton did come across as self righteous.
Michael Ignatieff did not make the killer move that his supporters were looking for. He failed to maximise on the failure of the government to publish the auditor general’s report on G8 spending. If anything Stephen Harper looked relaxed when Ignatieff attacked. Overall Michael Ignatieff came across as thoughtful, intelligent but not very forceful. It is hard to see how the Liberals will have benefited from this debate.
Finally, the Bloc Québécois (BQ) leader Gilles Duceppe suffered from his limited territorial interests (BQ only contest seats in the Quebec province). Nevertheless he was the most feisty in attacking Stephen Harper and did put him on the spot on several occasions.
In the most opinion polls published on 11th April by Nanos research and Innovative Research Group the results were:
Conservatives 39.7% and 39%
Liberals 31.2% and 28%
NDP 16.8% and 17%
BQ 7.8% and 9%
Greens 4% and 7%.