Friday, December 7, 2012

A Word on the Fourth (Swift Current) Debate

Debate Video: LINK

As always, those interested in watching the debate in full can follow the link at the top of the page.

With the fourth debate come and gone, and indeed the fifth debate as well (which will be talked about shortly), I think we can talk a bit about what was brought up. I've given it some thought, and I think we're going to abandon the individual candidate profiles for awhile.

I say so, because as of this debate, I can't really see any room for improvement for any of the candidates. I think they've all hit their strides and the future debates will reflect that; of course, I may change my tune after watching the Melfort debate, but we'll wait and see what happens. Effectively, I won't bring them back unless there's something specific I think we need to talk about with how the candidates are presenting themselves and their policies on an individual level; I think there's some collective things to discuss, and those will be addressed in this post.

I was looking forward to the Swift Current debate; if only because it's taking place in the Premier's backyard and those kinds of events are always interesting. For the most part, Brad Wall himself was left out of a good chunk of the debate; what was surprising was the way many on stage avoided specifically mentioning the Premier by name...

It was an almost Beetlejuice-ian (sometimes you have to create words, see Shakespeare) experience, that one must wonder if they thought saying his name three times would summon him into the venue. I don't know whether it's out of courtesy that the candidates avoid specifically mentioning Wall, but it is an interesting contrast to see many of the candidates simply refer to 'this government', 'the current government', or 'the Premier'.

Perhaps it has a little to do with trying to avoid the pratfall of personally taking on Wall's persona, but I think when we discuss his record and his government's record, we can be more specific. I say this, because I've heard some criticism that the candidates haven't said much yet about how they would run an election against Wall and how they would personally deal with Wall as Leader of the Opposition; and I think there is room for him to at least be mentioned by name so we can start to see some of the underpinnings of that dynamic moving forward.

So, I think there's room for the candidates to grow by being more specific when they single out things that this government has done. Whether that's by singling out Premier Wall, or the actions of a specific Minister, is something that we need to see to get a sense of which candidate is ready to stand toe-to-toe with the Wall Government.

As for the content of the debate, there were a lot of issues that had previously come up in the prior debates, and I think all the candidates did a good job with staying on topic and addressing the issues. Since we've heard a lot from the candidates on issues such as revenue growth, health care, and housing; I think I'm going to spend a bit of time looking at some of the less common issues.

In a chance to flex a bit of intra-provincial muscle, a question regarding free trade agreements came up. I think this was a good question for pushing some of the comfort zones of the candidates, as I think its one of those that doesn't come up often during a provincial debate. I thought all the candidates handled the question fairly well, and did a good job at calling for increased transparency and openness from all levels of government when these deals are discussed.

It was a solid question, and if anything, highlights the fine collection of knowledgeable candidates that we have running (and for undecided members, further increases questions of doubt and uncertainty over which candidate to support).

I felt that the candidate to candidate question period went rather smoothly; and was quite cordial; I didn't see any exasperated looks or glances, and there wasn't any undertones of being overly aggressive; which is good to see at this point. At the same time, however, I thought there were a lot of questions that weren't the general 'soft lob' ones that we've seen at some of the debates. There was a real debate on policy and questions of substance, and I hope that we can see more of these questions as the race continues.

Yet again, I think, that you can't really declare a winner in this debate. It's hard to say someone stood ahead of the others, when at one point or another, everyone is nodding in agreement to something someone else has just said. And judging that this is now the fourth debate where we can't call a TKO for one candidate or another, I think it's likely going to be the pattern that we'll see in all of the debates...With the possible exception being the final debate during the convention.

I think all the candidates still have a lot of room for growth in helping to distinguish themselves from one another, and doing so in a respectful way, and once we see development on that front we might be able to declare a winner to one of these debates.

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