6:30pm: Time to live blog the Ontario leaders debate. Because making quick, snarky and sarcastic comments is easier than doing in depth analysis. I've got a plate of pizza bagels, a rum and coke (because it worked so well last time). So, let's go.
6:32pm: Steve Pakin is back as host, I liked him during the federal debate. Instead of opening statements they're doing videos? I like change, but not change for change sake. Seems too commercially. McGuinty's video tackles head-on the broken promise on taxes and the health premium, explains and apologizes. I like it, defuse it up front, and take responsibility too. The NDP's ad is a positive message, and I like it. I wonder though, those workers that said Howard was the only one that helped them with their plant closed, how exactly did he help? Tory, surprise surprise, is once again harshly negative. Criminals set free by Dalton McGuinty's catch and release justice program? This is U.S. Republican-style smeers. I'm not sure if Tory's negativism is because he's desperate, or if it's just because he doesn't have anything positive to say at all. I'd ask if maybe he's a jerk, but everyone that has met him from all parties seems to think he's a good guy personally
6:35pm: A question on Tory's faith-based education plan. Unity, inclusiveness and equality doesn't mean a balkanization of the school system John, that doesn't make sense.
6:38pm: Howard does seem off, maybe he is under the weather.
6:39pm: Dalton and John go at it over public education and faith-based private schools; Hampton has to push his way in, we'd forgotten about him for a minute. He's right though, we should focus on improving the public system. I think Dalton agrees with that too (and has been), but Tory's plan is such a loser how can he resist taking shots.
6:43pm: Second question is on education too. Dalton keeps brining up the Harris record, which is good, He isn't mentioning Harris' name though, which is bad. Howard acknowledges McGuinty has raised funding, but says most of it has gone to “government pet projects.” But he doesn't say where. He says he'll fix the funding formula. But he doesn't say how. Tory doesn't say how he'll do it either, nor explain how he'll fix things while taking $500 million out of the system to add the faith-based schools.
6:52pm: Question on transit, first to Howard. He promises to upload 50 per cent of transit costs to the province, I like that but that's a huge dollar amount, how could you pay for it? He also seems to want to kill the York subway expansion, the students won't like that. Tory wants more long-term, stable funding, I can agree with that. It's not just capital funds that's needed, it is stable operating funds like he said. Dalton keeps talking about public transit plans. That's great, and very needed. But what about operating funds? All the capital spending in the world is no good if you don't have the funds to operate that snazzy equipment. The situation right now with the TTC illustrates that. The gax tax is good though. But we need more operating funds Dalton.
6:56pm: Question to Tory on downloading to municipalities, with a shot at Conservative offloading. Tory says McGuinty is continuing the trend of not doing anything...whose trend John? Your party's trend. Opps. Dalton says picking-up from the mess Tory's friends left isn't easy, but they're working on it. Howard says not only is that not happening, things are worse. He's going to upload even more stuff, I wonder if anyone is keeping a tab on the cost of all this. In the Q&A, Tory gives a shout-out to the rural towns, then returns to a running theme of McGuinty leaving everything until the end of his mandate. Would love to do everything at once and magically, says Dalton, but you stuck us with a huge deficit. You can blame your predecessor for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, says Tory, but no more. Has he told Steve Harper that? Why haven't I heard the name Mike Harris yet? Dalton doesn't like Howard's comments, but he needs to watch the muttering while someone else is speaking.
7:03pm: Broken promises, a voter video asks about recall legislation. We have in it B.C., it doesn't work. Dalton says he opposes it, we have recalls: elections. And apologizes again for the health premium thing. John Tory says everyone knew Ernie Eves was full of shit when the Cons said they'd balanced the budget, so why'd he believe him. Smirk. Tory doesn't say if he'd support recall or not, but says shouldn't be needed if people were nice. If only were so, John. Dalton says John has been calling him names, be tougher Dalton. Howard gangs-up on him too on broken promises, McGuinty outlines the progress he has made. Tory looks comfortable, but a bit smug. It's a fine line between confident and smarmy. McGuinty says Tory promises your cake and eating it too, that's what the last guy said too. Last guy. Say it: Mike Harris!
7:10pm: Question to Howard on the economy and manufacturing jobs, with a reference to the last NDP government's poor economic record. Howard seems stunned, he ignores the NDP record and instead discusses his plan. Tory says the health care tax killed manufacturing jobs? And says next to nothing concrete, Hampton was more specific on his plans. Dalton says it's not all bad. Talks about an auto industry strategy that is saving and creating jobs, a plan the Cons opposed. 1300 jobs a week lost under NDP, 1800 jobs gained under Liberals. Tory seems unwilling to defend the Conservative record. Unsurprising, this is the John Tory Team, not the Conservative Party.
7:16 pm: A question for Daddy Warbucks, John Tory, on fighting poverty. It seems he used to hang-out in disadvantaged neighborhoods all the time while running Rogers. And hey, he mentions the name of his party, emphasis on the Progressive. McGuinty outlines his accomplishments, plan and tosses in the word progressive too with a little smile for John. Howard wants to raise the minimum wage to $10/hour, I agree. He takes a shot at the MPP pay raise, that's lame. Tory commends McGuinty on the Child Tax Benefit. He said something positive. Stop the presses! Then he goes back to the health care tax, Dalton corrects him: low income families are exempt. Then we veer away from poverty into health care. Tory doesn't buy it, Dalton comes back with Tory's push for bringing private health care into the public system Interestingly, Howard helps John and brings it back to attacking McGuinty on the health tax.
7:24pm: Question for Dalton on crime, it's going down but still a concern for people, feel too many repeat offenders on the streets. McGuinty has funded police, courts, strategy on gangs, and programs to address root causes, and opportunities for youth. Howard wants more funding for outreach/root causes, and attacks Conservative cuts to those programs. Tory says it's gang warfare in the streets and it's McGuinty's fault. He hasn't “fixed” the justice system, but Tory magically will, whatever that entails. Dalton says Ontario crime rates are actually lowest in Canada, but still more to do, and says he wants Harper to ban handguns, and wants Tory's support in that. And wants to do it in Ontario. Tory says they're banned already, says need more enforcement at the border. Call up Harper for that John. God, his crime messaging is really so ridiculous. Willie Horton much?
7:29pm: We need a commercial so I can refresh my beverage.
7:30pm: Question for Howard on university tuition, should be an easy pitch for a Dipper, and he likes the question. He want a rollback of tuition to 2003 levels and a freeze, among other things, including public investment. I hope he doesn't pull a Rae and get elected, to pay for all his promises (nice as they are) the deficit will be huge. Tory wants more grants, and to look at ancillary fees. Grants aren't the answer if tuition keeps increasing, he's right on fee creep though. Dalton is going to infuse $6 billion. Said no government ever froze tuition for two years like he did – I believe B.C. did under Harcourt actually.
7:36pm: Question on nuclear for Tory, he says we need them and goes after Dalton for not closing coal plants like he said he would. He liked solar power too he says. McGuinty says the Cons nearly killed the hydro system, says nuclear is needed but downplays it to talk about renewable energy. Howard doesn't like nuclear, wants more efficiency, loans to retrofit homes and buy efficient appliances. That's good Howard, but it's not going to go far enough to address the supply issue. Dalton says Tory is making stuff up, smirk. He wonders how Howard would eliminate half of the system's supply without things collapsing, it's not realistic and its right. I wonder too. Howard points to California.
7:43pm: Question for Dalton, what are you doing with our health premium money? He says it's half of our program spending, but we're doing a lot, and lists is. He's obviously memorized a lot of statistics ad is throwing them at us, I wonder if its a bit too much. Howard wants long-term care and home care for seniors, that's good. Tory asks if we're better off today on health care than when Dalton came into government? I think so, but no one has “fixed” health care, and I haven't heard much concrete from Tory. John brings up the slush fund – during a discussion on health care. And jabbers about a secret phone number or something. Seems an odd place to jam that in. Why no talk here of Tory's private care musings? Howard brings it up, and tries to link McGuinty to it too. John Tory doesn't trust doctors on wait times. Dammed statistics! I'm not clear on what Dalton's saying Tory is taking $3 billion out of the system is about.
7:49pm: Question for Howard, is Ontario still great? There's some good stuff, is the answer, but he'd rather talk about why it sucks. So would Tory, and lists a bunch of ways that he thinks we suck. The answer: leadership, of course, and lots of negative advertising. Dalton says Tory won't fight for Ontario with the feds and the provinces, but he will. Got money from Martin for immigrant settlement. Ontario must assert itself. Howard is pack to the minimum wage, and the MPP pay raise. Dalton decides to address the raise issue and explains the process. Says the NDP's minimum wage plan is too fast. Tory is trying to say leader as many times as possible. I went back and rewound the PVR: four times in less than 20 seconds. McGuinty hits Tory again on private clinics and faith-based schools. Tory firmly commits to private health care with your health card.
7:56pm: Howard's closing statement, quick shot at McGuinty and Tory before moving to what he'd do, with specifics, I like that. Six commitments you can count on. I don't like the third-person referral though.
7:57pm: Dalton thanks the other two leaders, classy, and focuses on the progrress he has made and his plan moving forward. We've come a loing way. I like it.
7:58pm: John says it's a clear choice. Says why he's there, but no specifics on what he'd do. Leadership, blah blah. Doesn't say anything specific, but at least it's positive.
8:00pm: Pakin signs off, says hopefully you found it useful. I have my doubts.
Final thoughts: No knock-out punches that I could see. Tory continued with his harsh negativity, at least in debates that's expected. Howard seemed fine, I liked some of his policies but there's no way he could ever pay for everything he'd like to do. Dalton did well for being attacked on both sides all night. He tried to strike a line between humility and pride in the record. I thought he was a bit too stat heavy at times. And I'm shocked, shocked, that I don't recall him saying the name Mike Haris. He talked about “the conservative record” enough, why not say Harris? It was so striking it had to be a strategic decision.
Anyway, not an overly exciting hour and a half, but these things rarely are. At least no one made any stupid-ass promises like a constitutional amendment never to use the notwithstanding clause.
Time for me to rustle-up some dinner. Live blogging complete.
8:18pm: Except for a brief update because something just occured to me: no one ever mentioned MMP, or the referendum. I mean, really, a question on recall legislation but nothing on the very real referendum on electoral reform? What up with that? I could see Dalton and John, not bringing it up, but why not Howard? And why not Steve Pakin?