Monday, October 6, 2008

Haldimand "Federal Election 2008 Candidate Debate for Haldimand and Hamilton on Cable 14"

Spectator political columnist Andrew Dreschel took in six hours of local candidates' debates and tells you who won and who lost

October 06, 2008 Andrew DreschelThe Hamilton Spectator(Oct 6, 2008)

Winner: Gary McHale, Independent
Loser: Eric Hoskins, Liberal

With Conservative incumbent Diane Finley apparently chickening out, the stage was set for star Liberal candidate Eric Hoskins to shine.

But the well-spoken Rhodes Scholar and war zone humanitarian was upstaged by Gary McHale, the well-known Caledonia activist (or, if you prefer, rabble rouser) who is running as an Independent.

Hoskins undermined his own position by first identifying the native land claims as the most urgent issue facing the riding, but offered no solution other than a deadline for negotiations which would be tepidly followed by mediation in case of an impasse. Gee, that would be different.
By contrast, McHale promised to rattle cages and maintain a media spotlight on the issue until it was solved, threatening to be the worst nightmare for the OPP and provincial and federal powers that be.

While Hoskins responsibly offered more of the same, McHale dared frustrated voters to take a risky walk with him along the edge.

Winner: Dean Allison, Conservative
Loser: David Heatley, NDP

As the incumbent MP, Allison is the champ. It's not enough to pummel him, you have to knock him on his can. Liberal Heather Carter threw a flurry of mostly ineffectual jabs that neither rocked Allison nor wiped the slightly smug smile off his face.

Heck, Allison was so jovially confident, he even took to trading barbs with hecklers in the audience.

New Democrat Heatley lost out by falling for Allison's jolly suggestion to tell the folks why his party is opposed to the Liberal carbon tax. When the two of them turned to trading quips about Bob Rae's defection to the Liberals, they were like a tag team.

An honourable mention goes to Dave Blysma of the Christian Heritage Party for his courageous tilting at windmills. He's so far right he thinks the Conservatives are "Liberal lite."

Liberal or Tory, same old story, according to Blysma.

Winner: Peter Ormond, Green Party
Loser: Arlene MacFarlane-VanderBeek, Liberal

Conservative incumbent David Sweet was competent, conscientious and up on every file thrown his way.

But Sweet's mild manner was overshadowed by the Green's Ormond, who has mastered the simple art of speaking directly and clearly into the microphone, filling dead space with his big voice and repetitive thoughts on climate change, renewable energy, and the green economy.
It's not at all clear if Ormond has a grasp on issues beyond the environment, but he dominated the debate.

Liberal Vanderbeek was the loser by virtue of having little to say for herself. Given that the Liberals are the only party that can threaten the Conservative hold on this riding, you'd think she'd have roared rather than snored her way through the open forum.

Winner: David Christopherson, New Democrat.
Loser: the seven other candidates

Incumbent Christopherson has been representing Hamiltonians in one forum or another for 30 years. He's a career politician. A pro's pro.

He's got electioneering down to an art form. Wind him up, watch him go.
The subject doesn't matter: immigration, education, affordable housing, jobs. It's always the same.

Christopherson starts off slow, his voice and tempo gradually rising until -- he's fully possessed by passion and conviction.

It's a shtick, but it's a winning, unbeatable one.

And that's why all the other candidates are losers. They're amateurs who don't stand a chance against this old smoothie who knows when to be assertive, respectful, humourous, and even, believe it or not, when to clam up.

Still, let's give Liberal Helen Wilson a nod for gamely stepping into the breach after the original Grit candidate took a last-minute powder.

Winner: Larry Di Ianni, Liberal
Loser: Frank Rukavina, Conservative

This was a tough one. A lively, boisterous debate that was almost a split decision between Liberal Di Ianni and NDP incumbent Wayne Marston.

The knock against Marston is he's too soft. But he's clearly grown in the role of MP since narrowly capturing the riding from the Liberals in 2006, easily going toe-to-toe against the experienced former mayor.

But Di Ianni gets the nod for his defence of Stephane Dion's frequently questioned abilities as party leader. Di Ianni said Dion's not your usual backslapping politician. He's a team leader and a man of principle, whose English language skills can be improved. It was a simple, straightforward and honest answer to a question that troubles many voters.

For his part, Rukavina was too easily sidelined and tended to dodge questions rather than meet them head on.

Winner: No one
Loser: No one

A high-spirited, stimulating debate resulting in no clear winner, indicative of a tight three-way race between NDP incumbent Chris Charlton, Conservative Terry Anderson, and Liberal Tyler Banham.

Charlton coolly bagged away at the Harper government for muzzling backbenchers and the Liberals for changing priorities.

The unflappable Anderson pushed back at NDP criticisms of corporate tax cuts, pointing out that the idea is to generate jobs.

The fast-talking Banham was all about grassroot connections, fresh ideas and positioning himself as the face of the new Liberal party.

The best line went to Green's Stephen Brotherston, who pointed out that during the various debates he had heard all parties take credit for driving the cleanup of Randle Reef.

Brotherston neglected to say, however, that none of the mainstream parties took responsibility for any past failings or shortcomings.

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