New Brunswick Leaders' Debate - Observations on the English-language Debate
An hour and a half of live local debate just wasn't enough for me last night, so I hauled out my recorded tape of the English-language debate (I may try to watch the online version of the French version, but I have to say that I'm rather upset that the two were aired at overlapping times on CBC and Radio-Canada).
Overall, it was a very dry format, and the opportunities for candidate "debate" were poorly structured. Whoever got to speak first in the "debate" section essentially got to ramble on until he or she was forcibly interrupted by another candidate. I won't declare a winner on the night, but will give my overall impressions.
Allison Brewer (NDP): She was probably the candidate who needed to do best this evening, since the NDP is not running a high profile campaign in many ridings, and doesn't have a real internet presence. In terms of content, she raised a number of key issues, and seemed to be speaking about concrete policy options, including Northern New Brunswick development, wind power generation and pay equity. It made me want to learn more about the party platform, but there is nothing available yet. Her stage presence was, unfortunately, poor, and she would benefit from media training, as she was not looking at the camera enough, and was reading too many of her statements. The opening and closing statements, in particular, should have been memorized.
Shawn Graham (Liberal): He came across as poised and comfortable in front of the camera. The Liberals are clearly scripting their buzzwords, as there were several that appeared in the local debate as well: "Worst to First" comes to mind. The "Charter for Change" was his version of the 1993 "Red Book", and I'm not sure if that strategy will convince the voters. He did, however, come across as the attack dog candidate trying to highlight the problems with the province, and risked accusing New Brunswickers' of lacking a "can-do" attitude, which Lord tried to capitalize on. He does have to make voters upset with the current government if he's going to win. I don't think that Orimulsion is going to be the issue, whatever the waste associated with it - I'm not sure how many voters even know what he is talking about (although a google search will tell you). Car insurance might be revivable, and education performance is worth running with.
Bernard Lord (PC): Lord was relaxed and confident - perhaps a little bit smug. He is trying to run as the "good news" candidate, trumpeting his accomplishments to date. He trotted out figures and examples of his government's policies with ease, and also tried to position himself as the candidate of the "hard-working, can-do, people of New Brunswick." He certainly never seemed rattled, but he almost came across as overly complacent, and if Graham and Brewer can raise voters' concerns with the administration of the province, this image could backfire. Innovation did not seem to be a big issue for him.
It was very striking that all three leaders are younger than their respective party's candidates in my riding. It was refreshing to see younger faces in politics. I didn't come away from watching the debate thinking that any candidate had won me over completely, but neither was I alienated by anyone.
On a purely local level, I was intrigued to hear all three candidates talking about wind-power generation. The Tantramar Marsh is a likely venue for such a project, and the economic development that could result from a major initiative of this sort could completely transform this riding. I'd like to hear a lot more about how far along proposals for this have come. Recommend this Post