By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 0 Comments
Alice Funke watches the Liberal debate in Mississauga.
While it’s become fashionable to champion the value that political neophytes could bring to our system of governance, yesterday’s debate clearly demonstrated how politics is a trade that takes considerable skill and experience to do well in; and that not enough of those on stage have completed a sufficient apprenticeship inside or outside of politics to pass muster for the top job. They will need to sharpen up their offerings considerably to justify the expense and effort of staying in the race. It could be that their best contribution to party renewal at this point is to withdraw.
It doesn’t feel great to be on the side arguing against political participation, but I tend to agree. Even if the worst that can be said about neophytes is that they’re taking up space and time on stage at a half dozen debates.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 1:50 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberals are holding their leadership debate (or, rather, their first series of “Davos-style” conversations with the candidates) in Winnipeg this afternoon. Each of the contenders will sit down for an 11-minute conversation with Harvey Locke, the Liberal candidate in last year’s Calgary Centre by-election.
You can stream the proceedings here. We’ll start the live blog shortly (hit refresh for the latest update).
2:00pm. So, again, this is “Davos-style,” only without all the powerful and influential people that make Davos interesting. At least Winnipeg is a more interesting place than Switzerland.
2:03pm. First up is Karen McCrimmon. First question from Mr. Locke isn’t actually a question: “Please tell us a personal insight that you’d like Canadians to have about you.”
2:05pm. Second question: There is a perception that we’re an urban party beyond the Maritimes, should we do more to attract rural voters? Tough one. Ms. McCrimmon goes with “absolutely.”
2:10pm. There now seems to be some kind of disruption. Someone is banging on a drum and shouting.
2:11pm. Mr. Locke and Ms. McCrimmon are attempting to talk over the noise. Apparently the disruption, now concluded, was related to Idle No More.
2:14pm. Next up, Marc Garneau. He likes to do household chores, particularly vacuuming.
2:18pm. Adam Goldenberg argues this format is valuable because a party leader will do many one-on-one interviews. Perhaps. But these seem to be the easiest interviews a politician will ever do. If this is a test, it’s a pretty basic test.
2:24pm. If the challenge is basically surface-level: looking and sounding the part, Mr. Garneau did fairly well there. Looks and sounds like an experienced politician.
2:30pm. Joyce Murray might make a good environment minister in a Liberal government.
2:32pm. I hope one of the candidates answers one of Locke’s questions with “no comment.”
2:34pm. Ms. Murray busts Mr. Locke for being too long-winded in this questions. That will be the sharpest exchange of the afternoon. Suggested headline: “Murray lands knockout punch on Locke”
2:36pm. Justin Trudeau goes with the “no jacket/rolled up sleeves” look. Very Jack Layton. Asked for a personal anecdote, he says he misses his children. Boom. That is how you do politics. And then, somehow, he segues from that into a comment on the young people in Idle No More and an acknowledgement of the protester. Double Boom.
2:38pm. Mr. Trudeau launches into a defence of supply management, which serves as a swipe at Martha Hall Findlay.
2:41pm. Thinking back on Mr. Trudeau’s opening remarks, he probably missed an obvious opening to sing the first verse of the Greatest Love of All. Bit of a mistake. But he’ll learn not to let those opportunities go missed.
2:46pm. Mr. Trudeau explains that he has been to Sweden and that Canada needs its own Ikea (I’m paraphrasing). So there’s Scott Feschuk’s next column.
2:48pm. Deborah Coyne’s personal anecdote is that it’s Groundhog Day and she loves the movie, Groundhog Day, and that the movie is sort of an analogy for the Liberal party’s present challenge. Idea alert: What the Liberal party needs is Bill Murray.
2:59pm. David Bertschi comes out wearing a Liberal party scarf. In case there was some doubt about which party he supports.
3:04pm. The professionalization of politics is a touchy subject and it’s problematic to argue against political participation: But can we have a Davos-style conversation about who should be running for leader of a political party? If you’ve never held political office, how well can you hope to lead a party in a parliamentary system? Set aside the question of finding a seat to win so that you can sit in the House (Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper and Jack Layton didn’t have seats when they became party leaders). What evidence is there that individuals who’ve never been elected can win a party leadership and then succeed in that role? Haven’t the most successful political leaders of the last 20 years been experienced, practiced politicians? What evidence is there that outsiders or unconventional politicians can succeed? What does this tell us about politics? Should we, perhaps, view politics as we do any other profession: something at which you must be experienced in to succeed?
3:14pm. Martin Cauchon warns that dumping supply management means eating unsafe food.
3:18pm. Here’s one request I’d make: If you enter a party leadership race as a relative long shot, bring some unique angle to the race. Call it the Ron Paul Rule (or the Rick Santorum Rule, or maybe the Nathan Cullen Rule). Joyce Murray is sort of doing this with electoral cooperation and Martha Hall Findlay is kind of doing this with supply management. But you should have either a particular ideology or a set of really bold policy proposals.
3:24pm. Martha Hall Findlay defends ending supply management. This is a fun debate. Ms. Hall Findlay is smart to make it about the cost of food for families.
3:32pm. Ms. Hall Findlay accuses Mr. Locke of asking too easy a question about crime policy.
3:33pm. Ms. Hall Findlay says the Liberals should have done a better job standing up to the government’s crime bills in the last two parliaments. The party needs more courage. Fair enough. Where was that courage at the time?
3:36pm. George Takach describes him as the “tech candidate.” I’m not sure that meets the Ron Paul Rule. Unless Mr. Takach’s answer to every dilemma is computers. (Although that would be interesting.)
3:39pm. Mr. Takach really wants to fight somebody.
3:44pm. Mr. Takach, answering a question about supply management, “And I will weave in my modest upbringing.” Very meta.
3:46pm. Closing statements. No lectern and all the candidates are on the stage at the same time. Ms. Murray pitches cooperation and picks up on Ms. Coyne’s Groundhog Day analogy. Mr. Trudeau pitches his democratic reforms. Mr. Garneau says the Liberal leader needs to be clear and specific about what he or she wants to do (subtext: Mr. Trudeau isn’t being clear enough about what he would do and where he stands). Ms. Hall Findlay says she’s pretty good with substantive policy and that this is about substance, experience and intelligence and tough decisions and courage and that there are no silver bullets (subtext: Mr. Trudeau is the silver bullet I’m contrasting myself with). Mr. Takach criticizes Mr. Locke for not asking enough questions about the economy.
4:01pm. And that’s that. This changes… probably not much. My general take on this race remains the same as it was two weeks ago.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 3:44 PM - 0 Comments
Welcome to live coverage of the first Liberal leadership debate. The debate begins at 4 p.m. EST and can be streamed at CPAC.ca, Liberal.ca and CBC.ca. CPAC and CBC News Network are also carrying the proceedings on television.
We’ll commence the live blog shortly. Hit refresh for the latest updates.
3:49pm. The theme of this debate is “Can anyone here pierce the aura of invincibility that surrounds Justin Trudeau?” The first round will focus on hair care. Officially, there will be opening statement, then two questions for all nine candidates, then 12 mini-debates among groups of three candidates and then closing statements.
3:52pm. Despite the fact that there are nine candidates, the Liberal party has apparently declined to use a Hollywood Squares setup.
3:56pm. Here are your official themes for the afternoon: aboriginal issues, the environment, social housing, Pacific Rim Trade and electoral cooperation and reform.
4:05pm. Legalized weed obviously gets the first applause of the afternoon.
4:10pm. Marc Garneau goes with a Kim Campbell joke. (The one about how she said an election wasn’t the time to discuss
policyserious issues.) Probably gets his point across: He’s about policy, not nice hair. But Kim Campbell said that 20 years ago. Most of the NDP caucus wasn’t even in grade school when she made that gaffe. It’s time to get a new punchline.
4:15pm. Justin Trudeau does his Trudeau thing: staring into the nation’s soul, enthusing about the possibility of greatness and so forth.
4:19pm. There are four people on stage who ran for the Liberals in 2011 and lost. If you ran for the Liberals in 2011 and lost, there’s a 1.5 per cent chance that you’re a leadership candidate now.
4:24pm. Opening statements give way to a discussion of aboriginal issues. Time for collaboration and discussion and cooperation and leadership, everyone seems to agree. Martha Hall Findlay is really mad that Thomas Mulcair suggested that some progress had been made with last week’s meeting between the Prime Minister and First Nations. “The gaul!” she says. For that matter, if the NDP hadn’t helped defeat the Liberal government in 2004, the Kelowna Accord would’ve been implemented. Liberals love talking about the Kelowna Accord. New Democrats and Conservatives would probably love to talk about why the Liberal government fell in 2004.
4:37pm. Nobody but Joyce Murray wants to work with the NDP. She is the Liberal party’s Nathan Cullen. Well-positioned for a strong third-place finish. Karen McCrimmon argues that the best countries in the world have more than two parties. Risky move to openly disparage the United States and China like that.
4:42pm. Marc Garneau notes his ranked ballot proposal. Martha Hall Findlay endorses the idea. How about a coalition? Are any of these candidates willing to say they’d entertain the possibility of forming a coalition—either as the junior or senior partner—after the 2015 election?
4:46pm. With everyone but Ms. Murray having dismissed electoral cooperation with the New Democrats, an audience member asks how the Liberals might cooperate with the New Democrats in 2015 (because Mackenzie King did it once, apparently). Deborah Coyne allows for the possibility of post-election cooperation.
4:51pm. Martha Hall Findlay raises the example of Liberals voting for Joe Clark in Calgary in 2000 as an example of… something. The Liberals need their Joe Clark? Liberals need to be willing to vote for other parties?
4:53pm. On the issue of energy development and sustainability, Marc Garneau notes that he was an astronaut. David Bertschi and George Takach make fun of him. Mr. Takach refers to himself as “the tech candidate.” Mr. Garneau says he is also a tech candidate. Mr. Takach suggests that Mr. Garneau cannot be both the astronat and the tech candidate. That’s about the extent of the disagreement so far.
5:00pm. Joyce Murray shouts out a “price on carbon.”
5:06pm. A mini-debate on scrapping first-past-the-post. Karen McCrimmon wants to circulate petitions to determine what people want. I suspect this would result in the people demanding a Death Star.
5:09pm. Justin Trudeau wants a ranked ballot. Joyce Murray wants to cooperate with the NDP. Mr. Trudeau happily takes the opportunity to champion a principled Liberal party. Ms. Murray challenges him to demonstrate he has a plan to defeat Stephen Harper. Mr. Trudeau happily takes the opportunity to champion the Liberal party. Here’s my question: How do you cooperate with the NDP if the NDP doesn’t want to cooperate? Are you hoping that NDP riding associations will go maverick and dare Thomas Mulcair to stop them from cooperating with Liberals?
5:16pm. I think David Bertschi just took another shot at the fact that Marc Garneau was in space while Bertschi was doing stuff on earth. How big is the anti-space vote in the Liberal party? Is this an attempt to repeat the Conservative campaign against Michael Ignatieff?
5:24pm. Mr. Takach loves the Internet. He needs to go further with this. Replace the House of Commons with gchat. Reorient our military to cyber-warfare. Give every citizen an iPhone. Turn Manitoba into a cyberworld like Tron.
5:34pm. A three-person debate about living conditions for First Nations and social housing gives Marc Garneau, Justin Trudeau and Martha Hall Findlay a chance to perform directly beside each other. All three probably come away feeling fairly good about their 90 seconds. Give those three an hour on stage together and you might get a real debate (or the sort that could shake this race up a bit).
5:44pm. There’s obviously a good reason to avoid a divisive leadership race: you want to avoid splitting the party, you don’t want to give the Conservatives or New Democrats any fodder for future attacks (remember those Conservative ads with Michael Ignatieff telling Stephane Dion that the Liberals didn’t get it done?). But the conventional wisdom here is that there’s an obvious and clear frontrunner (Mr. Trudeau). So can the other candidates resist the urge to attack him? Can they afford to (if they truly think they have a chance of winning)? Do they just hope he self destructs with his own gaffes? One possible caveat: if, say, the Garneau campaign has some sense that on the ground Mr. Trudeau’s advantage isn’t as great as the conventional wisdom assumes and that, as a result, they can win without having to tear him down.
5:54pm. Joyce Murray shouts out marijuana. More applause. How does the Marijuana Party respond to this? Their central agenda has been completely hijacked by the Liberals. Do they move on to harder drugs? Do they present the Liberals with a proposal to run joint nomination meetings ahead of 2015?
5:57pm. A question about putting a price on carbon. Deborah Coyne says “carbon tax.” Justin Trudeau says a lot of nice words about the unfortunate tenor of political discourse, notes that the Conservatives have acknowledged the need to put a price on carbon, but he doesn’t commit to how he’d put a price on carbon. George Takach says lots of nice words about political centrism and says there are “at least five ways” to put a price on carbon, one of which presumably the Liberals would go with if he was leader. I dare say the Conservatives have successfully scared the crap out of some of their rivals on this file.
6:06pm. Closing statements and that’s that. All in all, it was… fine. Nine candidates squeezed into two hours doesn’t allow for much of a debate. Probably a good day for Justin Trudeau, who showed again what he has to offer as a public figure and wasn’t obviously taken down a peg by any of the other candidates, and Marc Garneau, who made a concerted effort to set himself up as the anti-Trudeau and might’ve succeeded. See this tweet and this tweet from John Geddes. (And then this tweet from Alice Funke.) Not sure the conventional wisdom on this race changes much after this, but Mr. Garneau has to hope that, at the very least, the narrative now makes him the obvious (if still distant) second place.