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This debate suck-a

By DJ Kelly February 22, 2008

Wooooooowwaaaaa… was that fun or what? Everybody loves a good shouting match. Dontcha? (Speaking of which, when are we ever going to find a debate format that allows for rebuttal but doesn’t involve mics being shut off and people talking over one another?)

Last night was the one and only (something we should apparently be thankful for) leadership debate of the 2008 Alberta Provincial election. Yesterday I offered my predictions for what would happen; today I get to gloat in how wrong I was. Actually, I was pretty close in my description but there were a few things I didn’t see coming.

Seems how education was a major topic last night I’ll offer up my opinions report card style with associated letter grades for each leader. (An A+ being reserved for a Barak Obama-esque net laid out to woo potential voters and the hearts of women everywhere.)

  • Ed Stelmach didn’t suck. That was probably the biggest news story of the night coming out Edmonton. He was well poised and took his licks fairly well. And there were a lot of licks to take too. True, he was a little ridged and didn’t go off script at all – or seem to want to go off script really judging by his smartly staying out of arguments between Taft and Mason. He didn’t win it for the PC Party but he didn’t lose the election either. He offered some details of new plans but played it as the seasoned veteran. Based on expectations going in he probably deserves an A but the voting public doesn’t give out trophies for most improved player. Instead he gets a C+.
  • Kevin Taft had a lot to lose in this debate and a lot to gain. He probably lost more than he gained. While we know Taft can be articulate last night he was off his game. He appeared more scattered in his thoughts than Stelmach and he surprisingly didn’t offer any details on any plan. This is not the way to poise yourself as the anti-Stelmach, boys and girls. While it looked like Stelmach spent a day and a half prepping for the debate to get things just right, it looked as though Taft didn’t do much prepping other than to get his suit dry-cleaned. The debate was there for Taft’s taking, he could have knocked Stelmach on his butt and become a front runner if he really, really tried. Instead he bickered too much and earns himself a C and another four years as leader of the opposition (if the Liberals will keep him as leader that long).
  • Brian Mason pretty much behaved exactly as I predicted and was the most put together and articulate of the group. He attacked Stelmach and Taft just as I thought. What choice did he have I suppose? Still I would have rather seen him ignore Taft and offer solutions to each issue the Premier fuddled around. While it wasn’t enough to earn his party too many more seats, in my book he still earned a B for his performance in the debate.
  • Paul Hinman’s performance could be considered a success right after the first question was asked to “Mr. Hinman” rather than to “that guy over there”. None the less he did a very good job staying on message (perhaps too good a job – I get it, I get it, you’ll bring “innovation”). While he was extremely short on details of what his party would do he did earn his right to be on the stage by holding his own and showing that if your politics swing to the right his party is a viable alternative. I suspect he managed to sway a number of voters, especially in rural areas, to change their vote. For that he earns a B+.

But who won the debate? That’s what everyone wants to know. Well, despite the fact I give Hinman the highest grade I don’t think anyone will argue he “won” the debate. Mason might come the closest to being the winner but I don’t think you gave give it to him either.

Well, who lost then? Certainly Stelmach could have, but the poor showing of Taft (is this a case of the tortoise and the hare?) has to take this title. It was his chance to show the province he is a better leader than Stelmach but he just didn’t do it.

More summaries of the debate are available via Alberta Election 2008, CBC’s Reporters Notebook, Alberta: Get Rich or Die Trying, albertatory, daveberta, Ken Chapman, Calgary Herald’s Pundits Corner, and The Enlightened Savage.