Undoubtedly, the worst question of the evening was the last one from the frustrated "voter," who admitted she hasn't actually voted in many years. Who do I trust? How do I sift through the rhetoric? Who should I vote for? According to Paikin, the question reflected a common theme among questions sent in.
I am tired of this sort of whining. Far too many Canadians have no idea how greatly blessed we are to live in a democracy, where we can exercise our freedom and choose our government. While it is not realistic to expect perfection from any government, we can certainly hold our politicians accountable through lobbying efforts, direct communication with our MP's, and ultimately by voting at the polls. Refusing to vote, especially when one has not even begun to make an effort, is sheer laziness. Didn't get the government you wanted? Saw a bill passed in the House that you were against? The government did something they said they wouldn't do?
Did you do anything about it? Did you contact your MP to express your outrage, or did you just sit on your couch and whine about it?
Political parties act in accordance with the wishes of their loudest and most influential voters. Want to see a change? Then you really have no choice except to get involved.
In order for a democracy to be effective, effort is required.
A fair amount of time was spent discussing economics, and in particular, the situation in the US. As Harper rightly pointed out, Canada is not in the same situation as the States and there are many reasons for this. I do have to agree with his sentiment that a government cannot guarantee a job to every Canadian, Layton's arm-flailing and cries of "incompetence" notwithstanding. Such a guarantee would be foolish, not to mention vain. There will always be some unemployed people and no government in the history of the world has been able to overcome this. Don't think me cold: I have friends who are affected by the John Deere layoffs. Also, as my father was self-employed, growing up my family went through many financial difficulties. In fact, we moved provinces on account of the Rae-initiated recession (just in case you bought Layton's line that the NDP is historically good for the economy, it isn't). It's true that the manufacturing sector is suffering a severe slow down right now, but jobs are being created in other areas. What would be helpful is to train those affected by the slow down; subsidize courses to help them improve their skills to match with the changing times. The country has to be prepared to change as needed.
Layton's plan to get rid of all corporate tax cuts would profoundly hurt all areas of industry in Canada. How does he propose to keep companies here if he will not offer corporate cuts? Does he not know that John Deere laid off so many employees because they are moving production to Mexico in order to save money? If companies leave because they can make more money elsewhere, this will result in more people out of work. Now, he says that he would reward companies who choose to remain in Canada, but how would he do this without offering a tax cut? He obviously means some sort of monetary incentive, so what is the fundamental difference between the NDP plan and a corporate tax cut offered by the Conservatives?
It is also important to note that in the face of the manufacturing sector slowdown, all parties except the Conservatives are planning on raising taxes. I don't understand how the other parties can't see that if economic difficulties are coming, Canadians will need to keep their money. That brings me to the Conservative idea of a tax free savings account. I love this idea and would like to know more about it. Currently, we pay tax on any earnings we make on our high interest account. Given that the earnings aren't much, I really don't feel taxes ought to be taken out of those earnings.
The sheer number of comparisons to George Bush and the US really bothered me after a while. You could have set your watch to it. Canada is not the US. Comparisons between our two political systems are inadequate. Although we are being affected by the slowdown in the US, this is because they are our greatest trading partner. This is not because we have followed their policies.
With respect to the US, the Iraq war was also brought up. This was a non-issue as far as I am concerned. Harper admitted that to go to Iraq would have been a mistake, but really, he wasn't Prime Minister at the time. Discussing hypotheticals as to what might have happened is irrelevant.
I take back what I said about May last night. I have given it a lot of thought and she wasn't that terrible. The problem is that she lacks experience and polish. In terms of her presentation, she ought to take a page out of Duceppe's book. He knows he will never be Prime Minister, and let's face it, the Green's are a long way off from ever achieving a government. A huge point in her favor is that she does not present herself with that annoying "I am woman, hear me roar" attitude. She also did have quite a few facts that she was able to spout off the top of her head. While I disagree with much of her interpretation of those facts, she really did have her dates and policies down. What she needs to do now is work on her presence. Learn to be dignified.
Dion was not as bad as I feared he might be, but still he was not good. The man lacks presence. Although likeable, he doesn't appear "manly" or very leader-like. It's very difficult to envision him as the leader of our country.
Layton was a disaster!! My opinion of him truly plummeted. Until last night, I could say I respected him or thought he was doing a good job. As leader of the opposition, he would be nothing short of a catastrophe. Instead of appearing as a "strong leader" he came off as arrogant and extremely rude.
Harper and Duceppe were clearly the most dignified of the debaters last night. As I have said before, Duceppe is good. It's just too bad he represents the Bloc. Harper was calm and collected. He knew that he would be up on the chopping block. He just had to make sure the axe didn't fall, and it didn't. With the exception of the comments on health care and exposing Layton's hypocrisy, I wouldn't say he delivered any knock out blows. But, in all truth, I am not sure he needed too. The one upside of all the pummeling Harper took last night was the fact that the Conservative plan received a great deal of exposure and attention. I realize the other parties tried to point out flaws, but given Harper's calm, collected demeanor, they ended up highlighting Conservative strengths. Harper was able to state concisely and clearly the Conservative stance on a wide range of issues and pointed to a litany of actions taken while in Parliament. No other party presented any of their own plans, with the exception of Dion who really could not explain his own carbon tax. He could not defend his new tax well at all or what it will cost the tax payer.
I am not quite sure why people think the Conservatives have no platform. Is it because there is no explicit platform link on their party site? To me, it seems obvious that their platform is "more of the same." Their current plan is working well, there is no real need for change, and they have mentioned what new tax cuts they are offering and what new funding they will provide. I really have no idea what else people are looking for.
In the end, I don't really think the debates will have as much of an impact on the election as I thought they might. The Conservatives will still win; it's still up in the air as to whether it will be a majority or not, and it's not certain as to who the Opposition will be.