There was nothing parliamentary about tonight's televised French-language debate - at least when it came to the set. The faux stone podiums looked like they had been imported from imperial Rome. And the four leaders standing behind them were clearly in a gladatorial mood. The following are some of Public Eye's notes from that debate.
- Prime Minister Paul Martin, his blotchy skin evened-out with makeup, mistook the debate for a television commercial. He addressed the camera rather than his competitors. His message: a vote for the Bloc Quebecois is a vote for the Conservatives. And, according to Prime Minister Martin, a Conservative government would be against "the values of Quebec."
- Canada's party leader may be old and white. But Prime Minister Martin seemed to be dancing to a ghetto beat during the debate. The Liberal leader held off interrupters by forcing them to talk-to-his-hand.
- The Liberals adopted former separatists as part of their campaign team. But it was Jack Layton and his mustache who looked like he wanted to marry Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe. The New Democrat leader told Mr. Duceppe the healthcare crisis was one reason he wanted to, "build with Quebec a progressive alternative across Canada - a pan-Canadian approach," presumably with the Bloc Quebecois.
- Mr. Layton managed to come across as enthusiastic and prissy at the same time. The New Democrat leader accessorized his jaunty grin with sharp yet florid hand movements. Add a translator with a lisp and the result was positively flamboyant.
- Mr. Duceppe's hearing must not be very good because, regardless of the question under debate, his answer always seemed to have something to do with Liberal mismanagement and corruption. The best example: when Mr. Layton asked the Bloc Quebecois leader whether he supported proportion representation, Mr. Duceppe said yes and then launched into an attack on Paul Martin's shipping company, Canadian Steamship Lines Inc., and its decision to move its headquarters to Barbados, a tax haven. A commanding performance by a general in friendly territory.
- Conservative leader Stephen Harper, who looked prime ministerial but sounded canned (which could be the same thing), seemed to have trouble remembering he was speaking to Quebecers not Texans. Rather than following former prime minister Pierre Trudeau's lead and saying "governing stops at the master bedroom door," Mr. Harper stated he would put same-sex marriage up for a vote in Parliament - not reassuring for the 59 percent of Quebecers who support those unions, the highest level in Canada according to Ipsos-Reid Corp. The Conservative leader also voiced his unequivocable support for the Star Wars anti-missile defense system - not the best position to take in a province where Ipsos-Reid polling shows 84 percent think American president George W. Bush, the chief advocate for that system, isn't Canada's friend.
- Prime Minister Martin and Mr. Harper courted the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois as minority government partners. But Messrs. Layton and Duceppe would have none of it, rebuffing their wanton advances. For example, when Prime Minister Martin said the New Democrat leader agreed with his environmental platform, Mr. Layton said, "We do not agree at all because you were in government for ten years when we were asking for action on the environment. And the air now is a lot worse then it was ten years ago. Drinking water is a big problem throughout Canada. This is your government’s file and we have seen no action."