The French DebateI watched the debate tonight in French, I tend to think the translation don't give you the best feel for it. You get an artificial translation that doesn't give you an accurate representation of their performance. On the whole, I tend to think the French debate had the outcome you would expect of it. Gilles Duceppe was the clear winner. He started off fairly strong, and after the first hour he was simply dominate. He responded clearly and forcefully to Paul Martin's accusations about seperatism and the illegitimacy of his presence in Ottawa forcefully and firmly. As a francophone he has a clear advantage. He consistently went after Martin over the sponsorship scandal, and called him fundamentally dishonest. He also made hay out of the fiscal imbalance. I'd rate Duceppe's performance as an A-.
I thought Paul Martin started off fairly strong, but he faded down the stretch. Paul Martin had a night were he was all hat, no cattle. I liked his vocal tone, he was animated and sounded passionate. Points awarded for that, and I think at the begining that was carrying him. However, as the two hour debate went onwards he developed a terribly annoying habit of frantically waving his hands which took away from his delivery. However, Martin's problem wasn't so much style as substance. He was clearly reading talking points from cue cards. He'd accuse Stephen Harper of implimenting two tier health care a moment after Harper actually explained his position. He went after Duceppe as well, but it was simply pointed out that Duceppe couldn't call a referendum. He also was evasive on the subject of the fiscal imbalance and I thought that left the door open for Duceppe and Harper. I'd give Martin a C+.
Stephen Harper started off fairly poorly. He struggled in the french language for a while. Hour one he got ambushed with what was pretty much a cheap shot with a question on how he'd feel about one of his children being gay. However, hour two was much better for Harper than hour one. If your going to start off slow, its preferable that you finish strong and I think Harper did that. Once he seemed to get more comfortable having spoken French for a while I thought his performance improved substantially. He was on a bit of a roll for the better part of the last hour, and I thought he handled taxes and the fiscal imbalance rather superbly especially after Martin's evasion on the question left the door open to him. Harper was fairly consistent in his objective which was to convey the Conservative's policy platform. I think Harper turned things around sufficiently that he warrants a B rating.
Jack Layton was on fire to start off the debate. For one hour, I was projecting Layton to be the surprise winner. He'd taken his bouncy demeanour that he had last year in the debates and toned it down to the point where he was simply being positive and engaging. His french was fairly solid, and he seemed to have concise to the point answers. However, the problem for Layton was this was a two hour debate, not a one hour debate. He had a tremendous first half, and then absolutely dissapeared. It seemed like he was prepared for the topics that came up at first, and later he was struggling with his French. He seemed tentative and hesitant. If I was an NDP supporter I'd feel let down, as it seemed he was poised to be the winner and then simply tanked it. I'd give Layton a C, a B+ for hour one and a D for hour two.