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December 16, 2005
Canadian Debate Piles On Martin

It may have been a four-way affair, but at the beginning of the first national televised debate in the Canadian elections, it looked more like a tag-team wrestling match, with the three opposition parties taking turns reminding voters exactly why Paul Martin and his Liberals have to go. Martin, for his part, appeared to focus on Bloc Quebecois's separatist sympathies in his rebuttals rather than address the Adscam corruption that stripped him of his grip on power:

The early section of the debate was dominated by the sponsorship scandal. It took just seconds for sponsorship to become a cudgel in the hands of the prime minister's political rivals as they took turns pounding Martin on the topic. Duceppe, in his element in French, led the charge against Martin's scandal-plagued Liberal government, which he described as having "lost the moral authority" to govern.

"The sponsorship scandal is an incontestable issue," Duceppe said during a two-hour question-answer session that was largely civil, focused on policy and devoid of the kind of angry back-forth exchanges that have defined past debates. "Justice (John) Gomery ruled that the Liberal party brought itself into dishonour and that a system of bribes was in place."

Martin shot back that Duceppe and the Bloc were interested in capitalizing on the scandal only so long as it serves to tear apart the country. "They want to put an end to this Canada that generations of Canadians and Quebecers have built, this Canada that is the envy of the world."

Harper may have done himself the most good after giving the Francophones their best look at him for this election. Given a tough question about what he would do if he found out one of his children was gay, he replied that he would love his children unconditionally regardless of their orientation. He also pledged to avoid using the constitution to block gay marriage and to abide by whatever resulted from a free Commons vote on the issue -- a far cry from the radical reactionary that Liberals had attempted to make him on the campaign trail. (A "free" vote is one in which the party does not demand unity from its members, I believe, allowing each MP to vote his or her conscience rather than support a party platform.)

Harper may have performed well enough to shake off some doubt about his readiness to lead Canada. Martin, on the other hand, keeps moving from rage to rage in a transparent attempt to shake off the stain of corruption. Will that work? Not for long, I suspect, especially with the other three leaders apparently determined to hold his feet to the Gomery fires.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 16, 2005 6:34 AM

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