No, I didn’t watch the first leaders’ debate. And judging from the feedback, I didn’t miss all that much.
Michael Den Tandt of the National Post was the earliest mainstream pundit to declare a winner — except, actually, he didn’t. He noted, in his text, that Justin Trudeau was a technical winner mainly because he exceeded some very low expectations. (And, yes, he had his trousers on, so such a win was predicted.)
Warren Kinsella, of course, is a bit more involved with Canadian politics, so his verdict is worth paying attention to.
And naturally, the Guardian’s Nicky Woolf declared two winners: Elizabeth May for the night, and Tom Mulcair for the win. But then, it’s the Guardian, so everything that’s noted, including the PM being “rattled” and Justin being “lame,” can be discounted.
Which is really the problem with having a debate this early in the election campaign. All it really is, is a testing ground for each leader’s campaign themes and partisan attacks. Any incident even approaching the level of a “knockout punch” will have lost its impact by October, because by then people will have their interest distracted by the latest incident or gaffe that the leaders will have been involved in.
And in the meantime, the partisans who’d be voting for their party anyway will have declared their guy (or Ms. May) the clear winner, the punditocracy will be busy with their thesauri to find new ways of saying nothing’s really changed, and everyone else will be looking up the weather and planning what they want to do this weekend.
Insofar as any debate matters, it’ll be the last one, as well as any event happening within 2-3 weeks of voting day. That timeframe means the spin doctors won’t be able to undo the damage of a gaffe, or even begin to stop a rise stemming from a Game Changing Moment. (It’s also when people like me will really start paying attention to what the parties are up to, to get themselves into Parliament.)