This Year’s Debate: Like Other Debates, but Newer
This week we were treated to two debates hosted by the always prudent, always fair, always viewer-oriented CBC. The stage was set with a geometric motif in yellow and grey, all held together by the massive orange maple leaf which consumed the centre of the floor, kicking you in the teeth with commercial patriotism. The theme was clear: The Future, circa 1973. Even the cameras played a role as they visibly chugged across the studio walls like George Jetson’s flying car. Also in the vein of 1973, the women were kindly asked to stay at home.
The leaders were all costumed in their regular stage outfits. On both nights Ignatieff wore a nice-but-not-too-nice suit with the typical Liberal red tie, Gilles Duceppe wore whatever he found at the back of his closet and Jack Layton wore his one=of-a-kind, special-occasion contact lenses, which are made from the purest stones of Siberian Lapis Lazuli for that debate-night twinkle voters love. For the English langage debates, Stephan Harper wore a boxy suit and a red, white and blue tie. While he did try to show his patriotism by wearing what we can assume was a Canadian flag pin on his label, the glare from the camera made the face of the pin indiscernible, so he kind of looked like a Republican congressman from rural Nebraska. Harper’s crowning feature was, as always, his silver helmet. During the less exciting parts of the debate (so… all of it) I amused myself by tracing the trenches in his hair, each one wrought by a single tooth of the lucky comb that last romped in Harper’s garden of pomade. My favourite shots of Stephen Harper were from the back of his head, where his hair was combed with such perfect symmetry, such subtle elegance my roommate Charlie compared it to the leaf that is poured in the foam of a five dollar cappuccino. Before I wax on too poetically, I should mention that my other roommate, Lucy, received a call from her mother the next day where all she could do was repeat in horror “His EYES!!! HIS COLD DEAD EYES!!”
Perhaps Harper should do more radio. Without Elizabeth May to compete with, last night he was clearly the best debater. This is because he is a condescending prick, mostly, and he’s really good at sounding like an adult in a room full of children. I follow politics, I know what’s been going on for the last few years, and yet when Stephan Harper gives his side of the story in a debate, even if he’s lying though his teeth, I am initially inclined to believe him because he sounds so calm and reasonable. For example, when addressed the contempt of Parliament motion during the English language debate he just sort of shrugged his shoulders and said “Well, you all really wanted this contempt of parliament motion, and you have more votes so, of course, you got it.” When I heard that found myself thinking “Yeah! They can charge him with being a baby eater if they want… no big deal!”. After that, I remembered that last time I counted the number of times Harper was in contempt of Parliament, I took off my socks.
Jack Layton was actually not as ridiculous as usual, but this seemed to be due to a lack of enthusiasm rather than the presence of reason. What was amusing was his attempts to do the classic, look-at-the camera-stare-into-the-souls-of-Canadians move while staring at the wrong camera. I also enjoyed it when Ignatieff laughed at him and called him “Jack”, reminding us all that this man who thinks he’s such a Canadian leader is actually just a funny little man with the name of a 1930s gumshoe.
Gilles Duceppe was just Gilles Duceppe. My roommate Charlie turned to me at the beginning of the debate and said “I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I think Gilles Duceppe is kind of awesome.” I turned to him sadly and said “It’s because he doesn’t want you, Charlie, it’s because he doesn’t want any of us.”
The big disappointment of the night was Michael Ignatieff. Michael Ignatieff is by far the smartest and most accomplished man to run for a major political office in a long time, and he reduced himself to borrowing from the Harper playbook circa 2006. Ignatieff has a platform with 5 major policies he’s trying to get out there, just like Harper had about five policies in 2006. Harper repeated these five things over and over and over again until everyone was forced to remember them even though they were stupid and have not helped our country at all (why did we need to cut GST? Why? I hardly notice the difference and yet, I recognise it could have done a lot of good in the governments hands) I still remember them. Ignatieff is doing the same things with his policies, which I’ll admit are better policies, but why does he have to repeat them to me, over and over again, like I’m an idiot? I know that this strategy is effective, but I wanted Ignatieff to be better than that. I wanted him to be educated, thoughtful and intelligent and I wanted him to treat me like an adult. I guess it’s kind of sad that this sort of leader is a hard sell. I will give Ignatieff two points though. I give him a point for being the first leader to sort of, kind of, pander to me. Hey, sometimes I just want to be pandered to, is that a crime? He’s the only leader to mention that youth unemployment is way higher than the national average, which is sort of, maybe, halfway to saying that young people need the governments help more than the “families” everyone can more safely pander to. The other point I give Ignatieff is for saying “thank you for watching the debate.” Thank you for acknowledging my sacrifice, Ignatieff, that shit was BRUTAL.