Despite the barrage of questions and accusations aimed at Conservative leader Stephen Harper during tonight’s federal debate, his image won’t be tarnished, says one political analyst.
Patrick Gossage, founder of Media Profile and long-time political commentator, says Harper’s opposition didn’t argue well enough.
Harper, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe squared off in the English leaders’ debate, televised tonight on CBC.
And Gossage said Harper didn’t lose.
“That’s the most important thing. Nobody laid a finger on him,” Gossage said. “Layton and Ignatieff got their points out but not in any sort of dramatic way.”
Nelson Wiseman, professor of politics at the University of Toronto, said Harper neither won nor lost the debate. He spent most of the debate defending alleged problems with the Conservative party pointed at him by his opponents and didn’t have much time to make his own accusations.
In Ignatieff’s one-on-one debate with Harper, the Liberal leader used the short allotted time to fight Harper’s desire for a majority government.
“Mr. Harper, you haven’t earned a majority,” Ignatieff said. “And you haven’t earned the trust of the Canadian people because you don’t trust them.”
The two top party leaders also argued over semantics. Harper accused his opponents of “bickering” during both the debate and in Parliament. Ignatieff said politicians don’t bicker in Parliament but that it is about democracy.
“Parliament isn’t some pesky irrelevance that gets in the way of your power,” Ignatieff said to Harper.
Exchanges such as this led Gossage to say the televised debate was nothing amazing.
“There were certainly no great moments in it that will change anybody’s mind,” Gossage said. “It was a very staged and dodgy debate.”
Wiseman said the debate isn’t going to swing many opinions or affect any of the leaders very much.
”I think it’s going to help hold the NDP vote up. I’m not sure it’s going to do that much for the Liberal vote,” Wiseman said. “On the other hand, Ignatieff had such a low estimation of him. I’m not sure it’ll go any lower. And Duceppe was irrelevant. I don’t think he should have even been in the debate.”
Wiseman praised Layton for his performance despite his health issues and need of a crutch.
“I thought Layton was by far the smoothest debater,” Wiseman said. “His ideas on healthcare were the most positive and the most inclusive. “Layton was the most effective and passionate and focused.”