Friday, April 13, 2012

Alberta leaders' debate - Holding On

My quick take on last night's TV debate:

General Comments:

  • At least it was somewhat exciting as compared to the other debates in the last million years
  • Great to see two women debating--how many other provinces, states, and countries can say that?
  • All four leaders were poised and articulate
  • Too bad Glenn Taylor wasn't invited--he could have syphoned even more votes from the PCs
  • Podium positioning with the cameras was off.  One camera angle showed the back of Brian Mason's head while he was talking to Redford, but we only saw Sherman's face. The podiums should have been in more of a semi-circle with better camera angles
  • What's with calling each other by their first names?  Only Smith called each by their last name.
  • The panel questions were good but lots of issues weren't even brought up--energy, environment, infrastructure, cities, transportation

Brian Mason (NDP):
How can you not like this man?  His policy positions were clear--you know what you're gonna get.  I was texting live with his son, who's a friend of mine, and said he should be proud of his dad.  During the open debates, I liked the way Brian interrupted right at the end of each leader's talk so as to not give them the thunder but not seem rude.  I liked how he attacked Raj Sherman's Liberals as well and had Redford step into a contradiction on health care.  His steadiness may continue to peel some Liberal votes to swing 1 or 2 ridings to the NDP in Edmonton.  That's about it.  I think after this election, he'll step down as leader and Rachel Notley will take over which will mean three party leaders in the Legislature who are women.

Raj Sherman (Liberal):
I also like Raj.  He's a good man with good intentions.  He seemed a tad awkward at times but carried himself well.  I thought the "This is Alberta not Alabama" comment wasn't necessary, albeit a bit funny.  He then asked Redford to step down right there which seemed odd.  If  public health care is your issue, Raj did a good job in convincing you that he's your man.

Danielle Smith (Wildrose):
Very poised and articulate--her TV experience shining through no doubt.  Some bloggers say there weren't knockout punches, but I felt Danielle had two on Alison Redford.  One was calling her out to rollback the MLA and cabinet wage hike and the other was when Redford attacked her on the Wildrose paying off floor crossing MLAs but Smith quickly spun it back by saying Elections Alberta is too busy investigating over 50 cases of illegal donations to the PCs.  Zing!  Overall, more importantly, if you were thinking of voting Wildrose and weren't sure about Smith, you're more likely to vote Wildrose now after seeing her very good debate performance.

Alison Redford (PC):
She did a lot better than I expected in fending off attacks from the left, centre, and right.  Her body language at times looked like she got tripped up but she remained steady.  You have to admit that she was in a very difficult position to begin with in dealing with PC ghosts of the past, and her own recent record which was rightfully the bulk of the focus.  The PC attack regarding the Wildrose transferring money to the constituency when PC MLAs crossed the floor is a terribly desperate and weak argument.  There were so many other things she could have attacked Smith on to hold Edmonton seats--airport lands, LRT, museum but she didn't.

In summary...

All that said, I think all four leaders did a good job of solidifying their base, although the PC conservative base is gone.  The Wildrose may get a couple more points over the PCs as a result and the NDP may get a one point bump.  Redford failed in making anything stick to Smith.  With the Wildrose riding high in majority territory, Smith wins the debate by holding the party poll standing and with two knockouts on Redford.

With nine days to go until the election, I think the odds of a Wildrose majority are slightly higher than a minority with the NDP holding the balance of power.  Many Edmonton ridings are in play now and I'm hearing that Redford might not even keep her seat.  If that's the case, the PCs will have a lot of self-reflection to do.  A Wildrose gov't will likely discover a lot of questionable practices that the PC gov't had but we didn't know about... call it a hunch I have.  PC support will dramatically drop.  Progressive support might corral around the Alberta Party if and only if Glenn Taylor can get out there (and only if he wins his seat).

And then I'm going to make a "wild" prediction (pun intended) where in a new leadership race, a PC candidate will look at merging with the Wildrose but they'll propose to drop the "Progressive" name--much like what happened federally.  Just throwing it out there!

Now who said Alberta provincial politics was boring?

Wait, I think we all did at one point.

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