Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Debate Night in New Brunswick

It's been an interesting night in New Brunswick, with the leader's debates - one in French, the other in English - showing that all five party leaders can let the sparks fly.

I watched the entirety of the English debate, and I have to say, it's not as clear-cut as you'd think. All five leaders had their moments, and there was plenty of argument to go around. But here's my short wrap-up of tonight's performance by all five leaders, in no particular order:

Kris Austin, People's Alliance - young, populist rage

This is Mr. Austin's debut as a leader in New Brunswick, as he's heading up the People's Alliance, a sort of populist spin-off of the Progressive Conservatives, angry at the two government parties for their inability to do, well, much of anything.

His performance tonight as a political neophyte was admirable, but it was far from explosively fantastic or overwhelming, as you could say about Nick Clegg's performance in the British debates. Mr. Austin was often times on the subject matter, but often times, he wasn't, instead repeating lines about his decision as leader to implement free votes in the legislature pretty much ad-naseum. Not a bad performance, and he'll get some accolades for it, but otherwise, not much to say.

David Alward, PC - old man New Brunswick

David Alward had a touch-and-go night, often times appearing to me impatient, awkward, confused, bossy, victimized, and stubborn. He stumbled over questions relating to his tenure as a minister in the Lord government, even letting it slip out that he regretted taking decisions to close down rural hospitals, all the while trying to defend it. Not a good sign.

Mostly, he just attacked Shawn Graham, and when he wasn't attacking Shawn Graham, he was attacking Kris Austin, who would in turn attack him. A good portion of the debate was taken up between Austin and Alward, with the other three party leaders waiting their turn. Alward, who as Opposition Leader and perpetual front-runner, should have been aggressive, but more often than not, he was on the defensive.

Roger Duguay, NDP - Stephane Dion in orange

Roger Duguay, who, after tonight's English debate, is clearly and painfully francophone, had a relatively OK night. Didn't stay on message, and often started invoking the name of Tommy Douglas to prove a point, but overall didn't make any gaffes.

However, he was clearly struggling with some English phrases, much in the same way that Stephane Dion did. Almost the same, exactly - their voices are almost the same. He did what NDPers do - presented themselves as the alternative to the similar-sounding Liberals and Conservatives - and not much else. Was a little aggressive, but never took part in the actual fights. As someone hoping to claw his party into legislature, he needed to look more determined.

Shawn Graham, Liberal - clearly a politician

Shawn Graham, the sitting Premier, had a very good night; he was calm, collected, and best of all, allowed Alward and Austin to beat themselves to a bloody pulp. He was aggressive when he needed to be, and defensive when attacked. He lacked substance when on the defensive, but incumbents are like that.

Graham by far had the best composure during the debate. He also had very good rhetoric, and ate a bit of humble pie, trying to fight back the "arrogant" label so often applied to him by saying that he'd made mistakes, but he'd learned from them. It's painfully obvious he's experienced at debates, giving him a leg-up on the competition. I'd call him the clear winner of tonight's debate.

Jack McDougall, Green - I'm here too

Jack had an OK night, at least when he was talking, which was not very often. Clearly a soft-spoken man, McDougall left a lot to be desired in terms of fire and passion. I often found him to be droning on, with some very good ideas, but nevertheless sounding about as exciting as wet paper.

McDougall, like Duguay, didn't really participate in the real fights, often sitting on the sidelines, and even saying at one point that he was more than happy to donate his speaking time to the other candidates. A time he did get passionate was when he was talking about Point Lepreau - but that lasted for a few seconds, and I don't think anyone was listening. Again, not a good night.

All in all, good exposure for all five leaders, but Alward is the one who should worry most. His performance was hampered by the fights with Austin, and his constant want to talk over Graham, while Graham was concilliatory and calm, struck a very noticeable difference in the styles of the two viable Premiers. Alward seemed negative, and Graham seemed positive. That may not be the best image to present for the Leader of the Opposition.


  1. Duguay wasn't on message? what message? yours?

    He was 100% on message. Silly 20 year old, think you know it all.

  2. Duguay certainly wasn't on message for half the debate, at least not in any coherent way. And I hardly have a message for Duguay to stick to - I'm from Ontario, not New Brunswick, and the issues talked about I have no real attachment to.

    Talking about Tommy Douglas and being forced off track by attacks on the Dexter government isn't what I would call "on message." Duguay certainly helped his party, but I wouldn't call him a fantastic and determined debater.