Just finished watching the debates.
The one thing you have to acknowledge is that Harper is calmer and better-spoken than the rest. Dion, while earnest, has trouble in English and always looks like he's about to cry. Layton, though English is his first language, seems to speak in an odd halting fashion that makes you think he might not really believe the things he's saying.
But what I find way creepier is the weird half-smiles and smirks that he seems to inject at random in to his responses. There was one right in the middle of his speech about the sadness of war, another in the middle of talking about the tragedy of crime and his desire to put 14-year-olds in jail for life.
What is that about?
It's as if the man is completely unaware of the gravity of what he's saying. Someone must have told him that he comes off as unbearably stiff in conversation. So he set a vibrating stopwatch in his vest pocket that goes off once every 57 seconds to remind him to smile. It doesn't matter what he's doing, he must smile every 57 seconds.
What else can I say about the debate? Frankly, I agree that we probably can't get those manufacturing jobs back. Not without a radical shift in the world's economy. We would have to rewrite NAFTA and disassociate ourselves from the WTO and IMF in order to seriously protect those jobs. The real problem is that we aren't retraining people to work at even better jobs (high technology, green technology etc.), we're sending them over to work for poorer pay and poorer job security at call centres and as greeters at Walmart. If people in factories could move from those jobs to less dangerous jobs for better pay, we wouldn't care about manufacturing job loss, would we?
Dion has to work on his delivery. If he wants to call Harper a liar for his assertion that the Green Shift would result in a tax increase, he's got to do it with a heavy hand and a thoroughly practiced wave of dismissal. The earnest, worried look he used lacked the real force it could have had.
What I saw when I watched that debate were four people attacking the Prime Minister. Although, on a purely technical level, the other four had platforms published that were better structured than anything from the Conservatives, the overall impression was that all five of them knew Harper had this election in the bag and they desperately trying to take a piece out of him.
The worst part is that I would actually support many of the things that Harper said (with obvious exceptions like his hard-on-youth-crime bill). I just know that the things he said have nothing to do with what he's done or what he will do. He pretends that he doesn't support the war in Iraq. He pretends that he isn't a Bay Street economist. He pretends that he doesn't think the free market can fix everything. If he were what he pretended, he'd be a worthwhile leader.
But he's really something else entirely. He's a corporate candidate who will create all kinds of tax cut loopholes for the wealthy, ingratiate himself to the Americans, put our country in to deficit and keep us at war.
The bad part is that, even with his creepy smile and empty eyes, he's got more charisma than any of the other options available. There's simply no one there that is going to provoke any widespread inspiration in the populace of Canada. It seems like Canada is dying to see a real leader who supports our ideals of peace, generosity, cooperation and ingenuity and presents those ideals with passion.
I just don't see such a leader.