Friday, September 08, 2006

"No Knockout Blows"

"No Knockout Blows" the Telegraph Journal announces.

"Leaders play it safe in debates" the Times & Transcript concurs.

The Daily Gleaner noted that "Debate dominated by Orimulsion blame game" (headlining the same Shannon Hagerman article the TJ ran), and indeed the orimulsion fiasco, as it's come to be routinely described, was the only topic that seemed to create any genuine sparks at all between the leaders.

New NDP Leader Allison Brewer got in a dig about the behaviour of the Government and the Opposition in the legislature during the last sitting - the in-fighting and political maneuvering in a closely-tied house which allowed little real work to get done. Ms. Brewer called the behaviour "shenanigans that made us the laughing stock of Canada" and she was able to highlight the point with surprising vigor. Overall, she tried to and largely held her own in the debate, which was all she had to do, being a new leader who hasn't even been elected to the House yet. It would have been easy for her to have found herself sidelined during the free-for-all "debate" sections on each topic, but she jumped in there and tried to make her points (no doubt to the rue of Mr. Graham, who seemed thisclose to getting a "zing" moment when he asked Mr. Lord point-blank if he would apologize to the people of New Brunswick for the Orimulsion mess - when Ms. Brewer interrupted and, in doing so, got Mr. Lord cleanly off the hook).

Her prepared statements were shakier, showing her lack of experience in this kind of activity. She relied heavily on notes, which her two rivals were well beyond, and she had to search for notes several times, but overall she acquitted herself pretty well.

As for Mr. Graham and Mr. Lord, their experience showed as they both stayed on-message and remained unfazed. Mr. Graham's point was that "Mr. Lord will tell you the status quo is good enough, and frankly, I don't think that is acceptable", a statement he repeated at least five times during the course of the evening.

For his part, Mr. Lord stuck to the mantra that the province's unemployment level is at its lowest in decades (partly, Mr. Graham countered, because so many people had moved west for better prospects), that "the lowest small-business taxes in Canada" continue to create jobs, and that the minimum wage has been increased twice under his mandate and will increase twice more if the Tories are elected.

All in all, little to help make up the minds of undecided voters (although Allison Brewer's call for a third party voice might resonate) and nothing at all to change the minds of decided ones.




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