(If you missed it and are interested, take a look over my review of the first, second, and third leadership debates.)
This afternoon we saw the nine eight candidates running for leader of the Liberal Party duke it out once again, this time tackling issues ranging from Agriculture to Defense to Regional Development. Held in Halifax, in front of a really engaged and happy crowd (in no small part thanks to the presence of NS Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil), the debate wasn't quite as interesting as the Mississauga debate, mostly because I wasn't in the crowd this time, and because the candidates were a little more tame. Plus, the lack of anti-tree sentiment from George Takach really left me wanting.
Marc Garneau, if you haven't figured it out by now, will be my number one on the ballot, for the reasons outlined here (and to be further outlined in the future). This debate only served to strengthen my resolve. Marc was strong throughout the debate, giving succinct and thorough responses to the questions asked of him by the other candidates, and asking interesting questions of others. Two exchanges in the debate serve to highlight this.
The first was Marc versus Joyce Murray, whereby Marc took Joyce to task on the co-operation scheme, rightly asking Joyce how she thinks this plan could come together when everything says it will not. He rightly called it out as a "fantasy," and it was a big hit against Joyce.
The second was the very last one-on-one debate, with Trudeau asking the question and Marc answering. Trudeau not-so-subtly implied that he was "positive" unlike those that constantly attacked him, aka Marc. Well, not to be blindsided, Marc called him out on that, and gave it as good as he got, outlining that his priority was showing substance, not rhetoric. It was one of the best moments of the debate.
Marc could stand some work on the "passion" front. Compared to Trudeau, when speaking he is very calm and collected, but that also means "monotone." But, I'm still impressed and confident in Marc's chances.
Justin Trudeau, to some people's surprise, is my second choice. If Marc somehow gets knocked out of the running before the final ballot, I want my ballot to go to Justin. I like him. He knows what he's talking about, and he's quick on his feet. He has the charisma and the intelligence to be a great leader.
But... let me give an example of why I still have an issue. During the debate, specifically during the one-on-one with Garneau, Justin was asked to list what policy he's come out with. He said three main things - his stance on pipelines, on foreign takeovers, and on marijuana legalization.
He outlined those policy planks within the first month of his candidacy. That was awhile ago. As much as I hate to say it, what else does he have to show? Marc can point to ongoing policy development - Justin can't. He talks a lot of fluff about the middle class and so on, but personally, I want to see some specific ideas. I haven't, even though I'm sure Justin has great ideas floating somewhere up in his head. This is why Marc continues to be my number one.
Martha Hall Findlay thankfully didn't implode this time out. She gave a standard performance, nothing amazingly different from what she's said or done before. Her best line of the debate was noting that the topic of "Women's Issues" was not so narrow, that equality and the promotion of women in business and government is an economic and social issue as well. Its something of a play on what she was trying to get across in Mississauga with the "middle class" comments, until it blew up in her face.
Given that I like her policies so far (though I'm leaning against her position on ending supply management), and her background would be a perfect fit for the next leader of the party, she's my third choice. In order to move ahead, I'd like to see her do something different and give something more than just her standard performance. She didn't do that during this debate, but at least she didn't ruin her chances either.
Martin Cauchon definitely moved up in my personal rankings since his initial debut. Martin has an extremely interesting background as a former Chretien cabinet member, as a former provincial association president, and as someone with a clear passion for the Liberal Party. He also talks a helluva lot about policies, which I appreciate.
The biggest issue, I suppose, is that I don't really know what Martin wants to do with the party. I don't know why he's even in this race. What is the purpose, other than to make his presence known? I haven't a clue. I like what he has to say, but I want to know what his raison-d'etre is. This debate didn't illuminate anything, either.
Joyce Murray. Phew. I don't think Joyce had a very good debate tonight. From Garneau and from Trudeau, her co-operation idea was directly targeted and attacked relentlessly. Joyce didn't defend it well, either. I know the general gist of her idea, and she repeated it in the face of criticism - we need to take out Harper, majority of Canadians want co-operation (where's that polling data?), etc. She didn't actually effectively counter what Garneau and Trudeau were saying. It was a mess.
But, that being said, whenever Murray doesn't talk about the co-operation idea, I like her a lot. If she didn't have this fantasy co-operation thing going, I would have seriously considered her for the top of my ballot. When talking about job creation, women's issues, and so on in this debate, she knows what she's saying. You can tell Joyce is an experienced politician with ideas and passion - but she's unnecessarily handicapped herself with this co-op idea. If the other four were knocked out, I'd support her over the final three - but I'll say that I'm glad its highly unlikely she'll get that far.
Deborah Coyne, Karen McCrimmon, David Bertschi. The final three, the ones without any elected experience and no national profile to speak of, didn't impress me tonight. They didn't do poorly or anything, but of what I've seen of this troika (which used to include Takach), I'm not convinced that they're going to head up some groundswell of support anytime soon.
The problem with this lower-tier of candidates is that they're mediocre. Coyne has the most interesting ideas by far, McCrimmon is experienced and has a great personality, and Bertschi... well, I like him, but I don't understand why he's there. When you had these three candidates talking to each other, I almost completely tuned out. They're boring. They're not interesting. I hate to say it because I'm sure they have their hearts in this race, but I don't see the point to their candidacies anymore.
Anyways, that's my round-up. The final debate will be in Montreal, which will be interesting to see. Its the final chance for someone to break out of the pack. While yes, my mind is made up, I do want to see these people succeed. It does require that a lot of them step up their game from what we've seen so far. If they refuse to do this, then in all honest, I think they should take Takach's route. At least that way, they'll have some sort of impact on the race.
The Montreal debate is the final one before the April 6 Showcase in Toronto, which I'll be attending. ProgBlog host Scott Tribe is also hosting a meet-up, and if you're a fellow blogger in the Toronto area, I'd suggest contacting him and seeing if you can get an invite. The more the merrier, in my opinion!