Like many people in Saskatchewan, I sat down tonight to watch the Leader's Debate.
For the most part, the debate was rather reserved. Both leaders took a few small swipes at each other, but no real 'attacks' came out during the length of the debate...Which was a nice change of pace, and unexpected. So, let's spend a minute exploring the tone and nature of the debate and then we'll talk about some of the things that came out during the debate.
When the campaign started, the NDP was determined to run a positive campaign without attacking the SK Party or Brad Wall. For the most part, the NDP has succeeded on this front. Lingenfelter's tone and interaction with Wall was quite reserved and focused mostly on NDP platform issues over personal attacks.
Brad Wall was also fairly reserved during the debate, though he did use the opportunity to attack Lingenfelter on a few occasions. Wall mostly quoted the SK Party attack ad against Lingenfelter, referring to Lingenfelter's past and suspect allegations against him from actions taken from previous NDP governments. But, for the most part, Wall didn't personally attack Lingenfelter directly.
That said though, Wall seemed underprepared for the debate. Lingefelter kept his head up, eyes at the camera or the moderators or Wall; while Wall often looked down at his podium. In fact, Wall clearly was being coached through electronic methods. Look to his quote from former NDP Minister Andrew Thompson; Wall quoted it verbatim and looked down at the podium the entire time...
And given the nature of the quote and the question, Wall couldn't have prepared this statement ahead of time. So, Wall clearly was underprepared and perhaps a little worried about this debate; and it clearly comes across through his mannerisms.
That isn't to say that Lingenfelter didn't have his own stumbles in the debate. In fact, within the first ten minutes, I was concerned about the performance we were about to see from Lingenfelter. However, after a rocky start, Lingenfelter found his stride and was really able to get the NDP message across and promote the positive change that the NDP is working towards in our province.
So, in the long run (if only based on who came across as prepared) Lingenfelter clearly walked away with this debate in his corner.
That brings us to the substance of the debate.
Lingenfelter wins this category too; but before you call me biased allow me to explain. Throughout the debate, Lingenfelter constantly presented planks from the NDP platform; specifically hammering home messages of potash reviews, rent controls, and the school childrens' dental program. Now, quick, name one proposal Wall talked about.
The only one I can remember is his answer to post-secondary education; the program which would give students who qualify $500 for four years; or $2,000. Or, less than the cost of 1/2 a year of study at the University of Saskatchewan.
Other than that, Wall introduced no major campaign thoughts but talked vaguely about 'staying the course' and keeping Saskatchewan on track...Without any substance. Wall hammered Lingenfelter on costing for certain campaign promises; but Wall mentioned no promises or real ideas that would keep Saskatchewan 'on track.'
In this way, Lingenfelter presented the stronger case and better policy options in the debate. Wall brought no real ideas forward and stuck to vague talking points that provided no substance. So, that's 2 - 0 in favour of Lingenfelter.
In my opinion, Lingenfelter clearly won the debate. In a confrontation that was hyped up to be a battle between Wall's style and Lingenfelter's substance, the debate was turned on its head when Lingenfelter encompassed both and Wall was stuck looking inexperienced and at a loss.
Whether or not this translates into a bump for the NDP remains to be seen, but tonight was the night when Dwain Lingenfelter went from Leader of the Opposition to Premier of Saskatchewan.