Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Canadians Welcome Debate

Stephane Dion’s little debate challenge, is turning into a useful talking point and strategic pivot. Dion is now armed with the sentiment that “Canadians overwhelming want us to debate”:
An overwhelming majority of Canadians want to see Stéphane Dion and Prime Minister Stephen Harper square off in a televised debate on the Liberals' proposal for a carbon tax, a new poll shows.
"Canadians appear to be ready to see Harper and Dion discussing policy away of the confines of the House of Commons, and this might help Dion," said Mario Canseco, director of global studies for Angus Reid Strategies.
Almost 70 per cent of Canadians are keen to see that debate happen, according to the Toronto Star/Angus Reid poll released yesterday.
Canseco said the political duel could work to Dion's advantage as he tries to pitch his party's carbon tax proposal to voters.
"More than anything, it gives Dion an opportunity to shed the label of weakness," Canseco said

The money quote:
"Harper might never agree to this debate, but Dion will have a chance to say that he was willing to meet him anytime, and that the onus is on the Prime Minister," Canseco said.

And there it is, whether Harper agrees or not is a side issue, what does matter is the optics. Dion wanting a debate, the public agrees and Harper is on the defensive. That is a terrific position to be in for Dion, because he does address the “weakness” factor and it is left to Harper to find excuses, or agree. I hope the formal letter includes the “will of Canadians”, it would be a nice touch :)


Anonymous said...

Let's see who's ready to rumble when a confidence vote comes up in the house next fall, that's put up or shut up time.

Tomm said...



On this issue, at this time, Dion is on the side of God and the angels. It is going to be difficult for Harper to to get on the up side of this issue, unless he debates Dion.

It was a good strategic move to suggest a debate.

Anonymous said...


I doubt there will be any abstaining come the next confidence vote that "comes up". Don't you "get it"? The Libs are on the move - under the strong LEADERSHIP of M. Dion.

penlan said...

The above comment was posted by me but for some reason it put "anon" as the commenter.

penlan (just to be sure it doesn't happen again) ;)

jarrid said...

Anon 9:34

I get it. Every time a poll comes along with the Liberals trailing either Dion or his caucus, curiously at different times, gets cold feet and avoids Parliament Hill like the plague when the bells start tolling summoning the MP's for a vote.

So if the polls aren't pointing to a Liberal resurgence we'll hear things like "People don't fully understand our Green Plan yet, we need more time." or "We're waiting for the earth to get warmer." etc.

Steve V said...

Personally, I think it's a done deal that we go in the fall.

Anonymous said...

I agree Dion will go in the fall on this, his strongest issue. If you were Harper would you want to debate Dion? It's hard to quote facts from a non-plan.

Steve V said...

"It's hard to quote facts from a non-plan."

Not to mention, no support from anybody.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! Dion and Co. have the whole summer to explain the green plan. I'm with Steve on this. A fall election is coming. It will follow close on the heels of another summer of "bad air days" in the Great Lakes basin. In Ontario alone, bad air days are blamed for 9000+ deaths per year. Conservative estimates are as low as 3000. Those premature deaths are accompanied by many times that number of avoidable hospital visits. Most of these negative effects of environmental negligence occur in the summer.

In the fall, voters will choose the parties that they trust to deal with the environment. The issue is not going away. As the effects of our disregard for Mother Earth pile up, things will keep getting worse and the issue will gain more and more prominence.


Steve V said...

Just another point to consider, in reference to the fall. From everything I've read, and this is speculation of course, energy prices are expected to wane in the fall, after we get through the summer driving season and the hurricane season winds down. If prices do drop, that should favor the Liberals, as things might look relatively as bad as they do at present.

I wonder if the Cons don't try and fast track their regulations regime, so they at least have something concrete to offer, as opposed to hollow theoreticals and childish fear mongering.

JB, maybe not just the GL basin, because last year, on my latest sojourn into BC, I was struck by the brown goop cloud hanging over Vancouver on the way back from the island ferry. Seemed worse than I'd ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I think that a poll showing that most Canadians would like to see a debate is just about the most irrelevant thing I've ever seen. It's like asking "do you support or oppose people talking?

Let's have a debate between Layton and Dion on whether or not Canada should keep fighting in Afghanistan - sure why not?

What about a debate between Bob Rae and Mike Harris on who had a worse record as Premier of Ontario in the 90s? Sure, why not - pass me the popcorn!

Steve V said...

"I think that a poll showing that most Canadians would like to see a debate is just about the most irrelevant thing I've ever seen. It's like asking "do you support or oppose people talking?"

The poll just confirms the obvious, people would like to see their politicians engaged in meaningful discussion. It's not irrelevant, because Dion can use this as another talking point to stay on the offensive.

Anonymous said...

If Dion hadn't been too much of a coward to vote down the government, we could have had a whole series of leaders' debates in the context of a federal election campaign.

The Count said...


Sure, but what is Dion's angle? You're obviously not considering his nefarious motives in calling for such a debate: namely, he's trying to undermine the established Canadian tradition of ignoring all matters of policy substance and focusing exclusively on political optics.

This whole "debate proposal" carries the substantial risk of informing Canadians about an important policy issue and where the respective leaders stand in relation to it.

What's next? A political culture of accountability where leaders actually have to back up their glib soundbites with substantive arguments? Can our democracy really withstand such a fundamental blow to the well worn Question Period practice of non sequiturs and name calling?

Steve V said...


That was perfect!


"If Dion hadn't been too much of a coward to vote down the government, we could have had a whole series of leaders' debates in the context of a federal election campaign."

Yes, but who's the COWARD now??

Anonymous said...

Dion knows you will eventually beat the guy who underestimates you by taking him on on your terms.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the word "debate" is a bit of a red herring here. The moment you say "debate" is implies the kind of theatre we come to expect in leaders's debates and in QP in Parliament.

Instead of a "debate" let's have a series of round-table discussions between the party leaders on a series of issues: environment, health care, the economy, poverty, foreign policy, equity issues, national unity.

With regard to climate change why not have Harper, Layton and Dion sitting around a table and they can discuss their respective plans on this issue and we can all compare and contrast carbon tax vs. cap and trade vs. doing nothing.

Anonymous said...

Harper will never agree to a debate on an issue that he does not care about or fully understand.

Anonymous said...

What do you make of the fact that according to this Angus Reid poll - ONE HALF of people who say they would vote for the Green Party also don't believe that global warming even exists???

Makes me think that support for the Green party is actually very disconnected from the environment and is more of a general "none of the above" sentiment.

Blues Clair said...

Well, Dion won the first round. His call for a debate reminds me of Hillary's successful debate challenges to Obama. Made Obama seem weak. Chantal Hébert has once again written that this Green Shift could help alter Dion's image in Quebec. Anyone following Dion's career knows that Hébert is one his harshest critics, so that is a very positive sign.

Steve V said...

Two fair Chantal columns in a row, that must be a good sign.

Anonymous said...

Both Jack Layton and Elizabeth May have said that they would be willing to debate Dion on climate change policy anytime anywhere this summer. Dion refuses. I guess he must be scared of being pummeled by the other leaders.

countvonoliphant said...


Two fair Chantal columns in a row, that must be a good sign.

I hadn't been made aware that "fair" is now synonymous with "favourable to Dion". Stranger still, some Blogging Tories are operating under the assumption that "fair" actually means "favourable to Harper". I don't know what to make of this strange disagreement on the fundamental definition of the word. :)

Joseph said...

Actually, I think Steve was pretty concise. "Fair" seems to mean fair - period.

Suppose someone goes out of their way to slam you or your ideas in a work-related setting every week at a staff meeting. Then for a couple of weeks the person actually listens to your ideas and addresses them in a way that indicates they didn't pre-judge them before they walked into the room.

Does that mean they now our "favourable" to you? Or does it simply mean they are acting fairly?

It appears to me you are looking for a bias in Steve's comment where one wasn't expressed.

Fair is fair - nothing more, nothing less. And if Chantal is being fair in her columns, that is a good thing.

countvonoliphant said...


First of all, my aim was in giving Steve a good natured hard time.

Second of all, I was pointing out the inexplicable correlation, in the estimation of some, between when Hebert says something positive about Dion and when she is deemed "fair". It's almost as if the two - a subjective interpretation and an objective standard - were causally related, which would make no sense whatsoever, unless Dion was always right about everything, and never in the slightest bit misguided or otherwise worthy of criticism.

One wonders why all of a sudden and for no apparent reason, she has become fair minded, where as before she was hopefully biased. Then one wonders, what event would signify that she has again lost all objectivity? Perhaps, not viewing Dion positively in every light, as is so objectively the case?

In any case, I was just kidding around. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

Steve V said...


If you read the two columns in question, they aren't exactly heaping praise, as a matter of fact, there are the usual digs. I used "fair" because there seemed a balanced presentation, which is generally lacking. I wouldn't characterize either piece as pro-Dion. In the link here, she basically says Dion is a drag on the Liberal brand, and this is as "good as it gets". Basically, all she says is Dion could get limited traction with this plan, which isn't a puff piece.

Steve V said...

" I guess he must be scared of being pummeled by the other leaders."

Actually, if memory serves Dion is the only leader to argue that May be included in the national debates. Yes, what a scaredy cat. Please.

countvonoliphant said...


If it includes her "usual digs", how can it be "fair" or "balanced"?

Besides, if I actually "read" the two columns to which I referred, my smart-ass comment would have made little sense, now wouldn't've it? I don't know what kind of new fangled 'informed opinion' standard you're trying to promote here, but it sounds a little Dionesque for my liking.

Joseph said...

Gee, you're just a barrel of contagious laughter, count.

You're also the kind of acquaintance I leave off my party list so as to keep the "good-natured ribbing" to a minimum . . . so other guests don't end up throwing drinks across the room at him.

Let's have a quick show of hands. Was Steve's use of the word "fair" appropriate or did he actually mean "favourable" (though he deliberately avoided that specific word)?

And, as a follow up, does it indicate that Steve is initiating a new universal definition of "informed consent" for all future pundit descriptions or was it just a personal choice of word?

And, lastly, what the hell does "Dionesque" mean anyway, in everyone's opinion?

We're just having a little fun here, right?

countvonoliphant said...


And, lastly, what the hell does "Dionesque" mean anyway, in everyone's opinion?

We're just having a little fun here, right?

Apparently not. One thing I do know, however, is that someone who is almost satirically hypersensitive and takes every glib comment - however innocent, facetious, or unrelated to them personally - as an insult worthy of careful refutation and righteous condemnation, is at the top of everyones list of party attendees. Girls want to be with him, and guys want to be him.

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...

What actually is funny, count, is I had intended to answer your first response with an apology because I hadn't seen the little smiley at the end of your initial post.

But then I read your continued smart-ass remarks and quibbling with Steve and got off track . . . honest truth.

Let's make a deal. You agree to let the blogger determine his own appropriate adjectives . . . he seems to be a smart fellow capable of finding the words for his own assessments.

And in return I won't call you an ass when you won't let go of his leg ; ).

(see, I can do smileys too ; ).

sexy11 said...