The prime minister was the clear winner in last night’s English-language debate with four in 10 viewers saying Conservative leader Stephen Harper won the event. This according to an Ipsos Reid poll conducted in the half-hour immediately following the televised debate.
The poll found that 42 per cent of viewers saw PM Harper as the winner, with Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff in a virtual tie (25 per cent and 23 per cent of viewers respectively) for a rather distant second place. Only two per cent of viewers thought Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe won.
There might not have been a knockout punch—there rarely is in these debates—but there was a clear winner, PM Stephen Harper, and a clear loser, separatist Gilles Duceppe. How sweet is that?
This is great news for the conservative movement in Canada as it solidifies Stephen Harper’s lead in the campaign and makes it less likely we’ll have Michael Ignatieff as our next prime minister or Gilles Duceppe deciding who should govern Canada.
Ignatieff—with his Harvard-honed, vaunted debating skills and countless hours of on-camera experience as host and guest on television shows in the United Kingdom, the United States and here in Canada—was badly wounded by Jack Layton, who remarked that Ignatieff had missed 70 per cent of the votes in the House of Commons (apparently it was really 59 per cent), and pointed out that for ordinary Canadians, if “they don’t show up for work, they don’t get a promotion.” Ignatieff couldn’t manage a meaningful response to Layton’s jab and visibly faded in the remainder of the debate—some of his later answers were barely coherent, especially during an exchange he had with Duceppe on a question about crime.
The prime minister remained focused throughout, sticking to central themes of the need for majority government and the importance of a healthy economy. He was the clear—at times only—target of the three opposition leaders, but never was he a punching bag. His level gaze at the camera never faltered. He was, well, prime ministerial.
It was a near miss, of course, for had Ignatieff lived up to his reputation as a skilled debater, we would be facing the prospect of having a virtual foreigner as prime minister. Ignatieff was born in 1947, making him 64 this May. He has spent over 30 of his years studying and working abroad—virtually all of his adult life.
Ignatieff is a foreigner in all but an accident of his birthplace. For most of the 1970s he attended universities abroad—Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge—with a 2-year career in Canada sandwiched in between. He lived fulltime in the United Kingdom from 1978 until he moved the United States where he lived from 2000 to 2005.
So ensconced was he in Brittain, that he even voted in, at least, one election there. After moving to the United States, he seemed to fully self-identify with that nation, at one point telling the Glasgow Herald: “I am not a neo-con, I am an American Democrat. I will vote for Kerry in November .” Notably, Ignatieff will only admit to voting in “a couple” of Canadian elections when he was living overseas.
Apparently, Michael Ignatieff had become so disconnected from Canada, he has been trying desperately to catch up since becoming leader of the Grits. And this has cost him precious time in the House of Commons—he has one of the worst attendance records of any MP, missing almost 60 per cent of the votes. While he was touring the country “re-learning” our ways, he was not present in Ottawa doing his job as Leader of the Official Opposition.
PM Harper’s win in the debates may have saved the day for all Canadians.