Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Better late than never, debate reaction

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I didn't get a lot of responses to last week's Twitter Debate adventure (124 entries in two hours!) but what I did get was very eloquent.Pam Tonsaker, a regular reader and email correspondent, was concerned about the new format of the debates, including the lack of opening and closing statements, and the amount of overtalking that was going on with the candidates sitting around a table instead of behind podiums:As stated earlier, this debate did not tell me how our future PM will run the country months from now. With having to defend himself almost continually, I have no more of clear idea than before this debate began. I would have liked to have closing remarks from all of the leaders for next time, at least they then could comment without being interrupted.Another reader, Laura P, was also somewhat turned off by the tone of the debate:It seemed like Harper was on trial. The other party leaders didn't have much to say for themselves, rudely interrupted all the time, it was all attack, attack... other parties. The usual Canadian political drama.And... a few of them need to learn English so the majority of Canada can understand what they're saying.I switched over to the US debate, it was much more what an election debate should be like.Marjorie Jaman has a well-organized response to the debate, listing a number of points:a) I wish I would have been able to wipe that constant, staged smile off Harper's face. Poker face with a smile. Smug as ever. Calm, cool and collected every minute the the program.b) May gave easy-to-understand responses that were to the point. She appears to know her facts and pesents them well. Even though the Greens could never hope to form a government, having a few Green members in Parliament would keep some of those guys who fudge their comments in place.c) Layton, as usual, played the aboriginal card. The "I'm your buddy and I will speak up for you" stuff is a bit stale. To me he is "Jack the Jackass".d) Unfortunately Dion was very difficult to understand. I found it difficult to follow what he was saying -- even though I generally do not have trouble with accents. I believe this is a commonly stated problem, so I cannot understand why he has not taken English pronunciation lessons so he can be more clearly understood. I do believe he is intelligent and sincere. However he is unable to get that message across because when he speaks he sound like Eliza Doolittle with a mouthful of marbles. How unfortunate!.The good folks over at Policy Frog had a brief but hard-hitting analysis:While I'm sure the party faithful will all be spinning you that their guy "won" the debate, in reality the only person to actually pick up votes tonight was Elizabeth May. Coming into this, she's the one who Canadians knew the least about, and she presented herself and her party very well. I think all the leaders did a reasonable job, but I'd give the nod to her.Last but not least, I'm pleased to pass on some of Luc Lewandoski's at-first-blush reaction. Luc is one of the best blogger analysts out there, and I was very pleased to have receive some of his first impressions:The format made for enjoyable debate, informative conversation and overall telling glimpses into the personalities of our leaders. Been writing on another message board that we should do these twice a year (Sunday of Labour Day before the fall session and during budget time) and Canadians would watch, learn and like. WE'd have a better understanding of our leader's positions and their motives.For example, tonight I was once again reminded that the Gilles/Jack/Elizabeth economic plans would literally kill Canadian economic growth. It must be nice to be able to pander like that and never have to make tough choices. Seriously. (The Macleans group posts also picked up on this.)Dion was okay but nothing special. Does what I figure which is saves Anita locally (though Simard is still dead liberal walking). Not enough to help John upset Rod.Harper has to hold his own in this type of thing and he managed without losing his temper. That's a win.Liz May was a strong debater, but filleting Harper with more ease than the others is not grounds enough for inclusion. She brought very little "new" or "different" positions to the table. (Her most independent positions was on private health care and that was not where moderate Canadians are. Ditto NAFTA.)Here's to having more debates. I think a series of three English-language debates, held in different cities, would do the ticket. But I think it would be a tough sell unless the networks threatened to hold them anyway with empty chairs if necessary.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.

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