I think Andrea Horwath won the leaders debate last night. She got her policy out the clearest, and seemed at times refreshingly blunt on issues such as health care. She also got in a few good lines; most notably: “Isn’t that guy your leader now?” referring to Bob Rae as leader of the federal Liberal Party. Rae I think still casts a long shadow over the Ontario NDP for some voters, and it was important for her to put some distance between them, and she did that using humour.
I wonder where the Tim Hudak shown to us last night was a month ago? He was clear, and more confident on his policies than he ever has been to-date. If he was like that a month ago, this election would be a walk in the park for him. He had the oft-quoted line “Nobody trusts you anymore Mr. McGuinty.” I think that’s going to turn into a ballot question, and really resonates with voters. Because the fact is- few people do trust him anymore.
The Dalton McGuinty I watched last night was at times tentative. The hand gestures were sometimes stiff, and at others elaborate, and defensive. It’s natural to use hand gestures at times to use for all of us- when we’re excited or just to illustrate a point. But in McGuinty’s case it came across as nervous and defensive. And it was distracting from what he was saying. I wondered if he was trying to flag down Steve Paikin for the cheque or something… maybe reflecting on a past career as a rap artist nobody knows about??
In terms of substance McGuinty was weak. Where the others managed to answer the question, and get in their policy, McGuinty made a habit of answering the question he wished had been asked. The debate was full of issues it seemed he didn’t want to talk about. Green Energy- the gas-fired plant he cancelled over the weekend, and the Samsung deal. Jobs: the contentious plan to give 10 thousand to companies who hire foreign workers. The Economy? How to get rid of the $14-16 billion deficit he’s racked up. Taxes- the introduction of the HST, and the past broken promises on that subject. He seemed to fall back on his record, which, is so laden with broken promises and scandal it blots out anything he’s achieved on the positive side like reducing surgical wait times, and expanding the use of the Primecare Family Health teams.
I don’t think this debate makes much difference in terms of voting preferences. But it did crystallise where the parties stand on the issues, and helped differentiate Hudak from McGuinty a little bit more. It made Horwath a legitimate third option, and cemented this election as a three-way contest come October 6, 2011. It’s going to be a wild finish.