Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Harper wins English debate

Analysis: who won the debate?
Canadian federal election leaders' debate

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, right, gestures to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the debate during the English language federal election debate in Ottawa Ont., on Tuesday, April 12, 2011.
Photograph by: Adrian Wyld, CP Images
Dr. Royce Koop is a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Studies at Queen's University. Royce is an expert in the structures and operations of political parties in Canada. His areas of expertise include how members of Parliament construct, maintain and benefit from the local party organizations in their constituencies.

Sandford Borins is Professor of Strategic Management in the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. He has been a visiting professor at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley, and Scholar-in-Residence in the Ontario Cabinet Office. Professor Borins is the author of eight books, numerous articles on public management and a blog on information technology, politics, and government.

How well did the four leaders present their points?

Dr. Royce Koop: Harper is very effective at getting his message across. He is very clear, disciplined, and it's tough to knock him off his game. Ignatieff is not communicating as well as I thought he would. He's clearly new to this debate format.

Were there any knockout blows?

Dr. Royce Koop: There have not been any knockout blows thus far and I don't expect there to be any. There have been a few opportunities for Ignatieff to land some real blows on Harper, but he hasn't taken the opportunity. He is new to this debate forum and I do not think that he recognizes these opportunities when they present themselves.

Who were the clear aggressors and/or defenders throughout the debate?

Dr. Royce Koop: As can be expected, the three opposition leaders are the aggressors and Harper is the defender. However, Duceppe has distinguished himself as an aggressor. His opening comment was a strong, sharp attack of Harper. However, Harper is effectively defending himself in this debate. His strength is being disciplined, and he's keeping his cool very well.

Who preformed best?

Dr. Royce Koop: Harper behaved like the PM-in-waiting. These debate formats actually favour the incumbent PM. Everyone is attacking them, and so they are able to rise above it all and act prime-ministerial. This is how Chretien survived the debates in 1997 and 2000, by riding above all the attacks, and Harper is doing so very effectively tonight.

What was your impression of the Harper-Ignatieff face-off? Who won that tete-a-tete?

Dr. Royce Koop: I think that Harper won that exchange, but it was a close call. Ignatieff has to be able to knock Harper off his game, and he hasn't been able to do so effectively. He came close at the conclusion of the first exchange between them, but Harper came out on top.

Did anything unusual or surprising jump out at you during the debate?

Dr. Royce Koop: I was surprised that Duceppe was as aggressive as he was. It was clear that he was injecting issues into the debate that he intends to pick up in tomorrow's French debate. But it's clear that he perceives the Tories as a threat in this election, and his conduct in this debate proves that.

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