Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bubble-boy Stephen Harper chickens out of his own debate challenge

If you thought that Stephen Harper's move Wednesday to challenge Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to debate mano-a-mano was an odd play by the Conservatives, it will soon make a little more sense. After the news that the shadowy "broadcast consortium" has ruled-out a head to head bout which I mentioned earlier, now the truth seems to be coming out: it was all a Conservative fake, and Harper is too chicken to really take on Ignatieff solo.

Paul Wells has the scoop, via Twitter (and Wherry):

Liberals wanted SH-MI debate in addition to 4-leader. Conservatives proposed replacing 4-leader with 2-leader debate. Libs declined.

CTV's Robert Fife also tweets the Conservative backd0wn:
Robert Fife
Tory campaign insiders say Harper won't take up Ignatieff challenge of separate one on one TV debate. #elxn41 #cdnpoli
The Conservative strategy is now abundantly clear: they never wanted Ignatieff to accept the challenge and were determined to put blocks in place to make sure he didn't. Realistically, any debate had to be in addition to the full leader's debate; not in replacement of it. It makes no sense and it's fundamentally undemocratic to exclude the other parties from having any debates. 

There's no way the Conservatives ever seriously expected the Liberals to agree to jettison the major parties debate; their offer simply wasn't genuine. Harper doesn't really want to get into a one-on-one debate with Ignatieff; it's just too much risk for someone running a bubble-boy campaign. If we had three debates, one in each language for the major parties and a bilingual Harper/Ignatieff tilt, it's too much risk for the bubble campaign. Angry Steve may make an untimely appearance.

“I look forward to debating the federal party leaders on April 12 and 14. I am disappointed, however, by the broadcasters’ consortium’s decision to exclude Green Party Leader Elizabeth May from the debate. The Liberal Party of Canada advocated for her inclusion in negotiations with the consortium.

“Now that the broadcasters’ consortium has chosen their dates for the multi-party debate, I reiterate my challenge to Mr. Harper: I am ready and willing to debate him one-on-one – any time, any place.

“Mr. Harper expressed his desire to debate me as the leader of the only party that can replace him in government. All that remains is to agree upon a time and place – and many respected potential hosts have offered to assist.

“A one-on-one debate with Mr. Harper should not replace multi-party leaders’ debates. A real debate is needed, however, on the different visions of leadership between the only two people with a real opportunity to become prime minister of this country at the end of this election.”

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Michael said...

LOL How is going up to someone and challenging them to a fight, saying "I want a fight between either you or your gang, not both", "chickening out" against either? As Wherry said, all they wanted was to replace a 4 leader debate with a 2 leader debate, not to never have the 1VS1 debate at all.

You guys are losing it.

JF said...

Of course it was obvious from Harpers initial statement that he was only proposing this as some way to try a trick people into eating up his Coalition Mumbo-Jumbo... no way would he ever agree to anything else.

JF said...

Of course, it was pretty obvious from Harper's initial statement that he only wanted to do that in order to get people to eat up his fake Coalition scare mumbo-jumbo... no way would he ever debate Iggy 1-on-1 if he couldn't.

rockfish said...

Harper's offer was a faux accompli, never meant to be taken to conclusion but to look on the attack. Ignatieff's stance that he won't sacrifice an all-party debate is shrewd but also a powerful angle to pursue.
He's got to push that for a couple of days -- how democracy is about having choice and stephen Harper wants you to see the world in black and white; he wants you to follow him or not care. Canadians come from the corners of the globe, they bring with them the experiences that don't match a black-and-white world. While I'm (MI) the best means to defeat a Harper government, Canadians have the right, and should be encouraged to, to search out and measure what suits them. Stephen Harper wants to limit your choice to fear and anger. The Liberal party is looking at a future of hope and opportunity for Canadians.
Oops, sorry, got in first-draft speech mode. How's the local campaign going?

Rotterdam said...

Chantel Hebert

A one-on-one debate between the Liberal and Conservative leaders would be completely divorced from the electoral reality of regions such as Quebec and the Prairies.

In a pre-election CROP poll, the Liberals barely beat the Greens for support in francophone Quebec.

In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, shifting votes from the NDP to the Liberals is usually a formula for electing more Conservatives.

Jeff said...


Harper said I want to debate Ignatieff. Ignatieff said any place, any time. Harper said I'll do it but we need to cancel the other debate. Ignatieff said no, I'll debate you but we can't cancel the other debate. Harper said fine then, I won't debate you.

If Harper wants to debate Ignatieff, he can. But asking to replace the main debate isn't a serious offer. It exposes the Harper challenge for the utter farce it was. What is Harper afraid of? Why does he want to limit debates?


I'd counter by asking Chantal how the BQ is polling outside Quebec, and if that's reason to exclude Gilles from the national English-language debate.