Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sask. leaders' debate observations

Last night, the Saskatchewan election leaders' debate took place in Regina between Brad Wall (Sask. Party), David Karwacki (Liberal) and Lorne Calvert (NDP and incumbent premier).

Here is what I noticed last night, written in point form:
1. The format of the debate must have ticked a lot of people off.
      While the statement speeches were handled quite well, I felt that the bickering that occurred during the actual debate times must have turned off people who already had a hunch that politics is 'skum-bag' sport.
2. Brad Wall focused much more on the NDP's history and his independent review than his actual policy.
      Last night, Wall focused on two broad points: a) his platform has had an independent review by an economist (and that economist said it was balanced); and b) Saskatchewan pretty much is falling apart under Calvert. However, Wall really didn't mention much about his exact ideas and—for the ones he did bring up—how those ideas will make Saskatchewan better. I think if people should know exactly what this change that's being proposed to them is, and how this change is actually constructive and will make everyone's lives better (i.e. that the change is not like switching from sugar-packed Lucky Charms cereal to sugar-packed Captain Crunch cereal).
3. David Karwacki did surprisingly well.
      While I am in no way handing my support to Karwacki's platform, I was surprised how well Karwacki did in the debate. He didn't seem like the unelected leader of a third party who-has-no-current-MLAs type of guy. He did truly seem like a real contender who has a good chance.
4. Lorne Calvert ought to have made the point more clearly that the boom was started under his government.
      While Calvert did mention several times that Saskatchewan is experiencing a boom and has increased prosperity, I never actually heard him take credit for that. The job boom logically means that there is more jobs, meaning that either companies are starting here or are expanding here, meaning that the business climate is good here, and since the jobs are getting filled, it means that people have a desire to live here. That is definitely something worth taking credit for; all of this did happen under this NDP government.
5. Karwacki was fixed on Saskatoon.
      While Wall and Calvert gave a pretty provincial take on things and issues, Karwacki's points were very much Saskatoon-centric. He was talking about Saskatoon crime, Saskatoon traffic and infrastructure, Saskatoon as a young people magnet, and Saskatoon people who he talked to during the campaign. While it is true that his own constituency where he is running is in Saskatoon, and his party's only real shot is in some select Saskatoon constituencies, it really doesn't make him look fit to be a party leader—never mind a premier—who actually has the interests of such foreign places like Estevan and Regina in mind (kinda reminds me of Gilles Duceppe's 'geographical bias').
6. The taped questions by Saskatchewan residents often had a bias against the NDP.
      I noticed that many of the questions asked by the people had a strong, obvious bias against the status quo (a.k.a. the NDP). For instance, one guy from Swift Current said that the roads in Saskatchewan are terrible and that it's impossible to drive somewhere without stuff falling off your car. Since it's currently the NDP who is in charge of the roads, and is backing up their track record on highways, that question is completely out of line. The question itself shouldn't have a political position.

And finally my number seven point, which, while not really having much to do with anything, is something I still think should be said for those who missed the debate. I noticed that after the first question (which was asked by an older guy in Regina with the subject of what are you damned politicians going to do with my hard-earned money), Karwacki actually laughed a bit (this was caught on tape because he was the first one to answer the question). I think this was because, with absolutely no offence to the questioner, the guy did have a kind of 'funny' or 'different' voice/vocal expression. I am not at all saying that Karwacki is losing all electoral chances to do this, but it does make him look like a snobby jerk.

Despite my above points, there was enough substance in last night's debate. However, I do not believe that there was an actual winner; no one really screwed up or said anything down-right stupid. A week until the election … isn't it all so exciting?


Shane said...

On your first point I agree 100%, the mediation for the open debate portion was very poorly done and it was impossible to get any worthwhile information out of this portion of the debate.

As for your second point I only agree partially. Wall did talk very little about his own platform during the debate but i think that this was very much due to the time constraints and the way the debate was leading (nobody really talked much about their own platform and only talked down everyone else) however, Wall did attempt to mention above the bickering that their entire platform is posted on the internet for anyone to view, along with an independent economic analysis of the platform. If anyone is interested here is the link:

For point 3 and 5 Karwacki did well for what he was intending to do. He well realizes that there is 0 chance of the liberals forming government and he only intended to try to earn a couple of seats. Although I believe that this was an intelligent strategy on his behalf I do not agree with his being allowed in the debate in the first place. The debate is meant for the leaders of the top parties in the province, yet the liberals have no seats currently, I do not see how they can justify having Karwacki participating in the debate and excluding the leaders of the Green Party or even the Marijuana Party for that matter. I believe that this was a mistake on the behalf of the coordinators of this debate and it took much away from the debate with Karwacki constantly clipping and talking over the other 2 participants of the debate.

I agree with you that Calvert should have taken credit for the 'boom' however I believe there is a reason behind his backseat aproach to this. Almost all of Saskatchewan residents believe that we are experiencing an economic boom right now; however, the number of employed persons in Saskatchewan has had very little change over the last couple of years. According to Statistics Canada, from September 2006-September 2007 employment only increased by 1 percent and the number of people self-employed decreased by 5.9 percent. However, in this same time period the price of housing (by purchase) has grown by 17.9%. This indicates to me that this rapid increase in housing prices is due to artificial demand created by the perception of a 'boom' and could cause Saskatchewan serious problems in the future as this high cost of housing will drove many people away from Saskatchewan as one of our main attractive features used to be an affordable cost of living. I believe that Calvert was avoiding these statistics by taking a back seat on this topic and not allowing the other two participants of the debate to question the 'boom' being experienced.

Lastly, with regards to the questions, it is inevitable to avoid a question biased against the party in power. People are never going to ask how the future premier will keep things the same, they will ask how things will change, and they will always want to know how they will change for the better. This will always lead to questions regarding what the current party in power has been inefficient at addressing. This happens in any election and is due solely to human nature, I don't see this approach changing anytime soon.

Overall, I thought the debate went as well as could be expected given the format and time constraints. I would have like for it to have been longer; however that often results in many people growing uninterested and I don't think anyone who watched wasn't at least entertained by the whole ordeal.

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