I watched the debate last night with interest. Howard Hampton was suffering from a cold, but most observers say that calmed him down enough to actually make him more effective. I noticed how much more subdued he was, and I liked it right up until his closing remarks when it seemed like he was going to cry. As it turns out, because of his cold, the poor guy could barely breathe. Nevertheless, he was extremely effective in getting his points across.
Big question: where was Frank de Jong? As leader of the Green Party of Ontario, he is just as relevant as Howard Hampton given that the Green Party these days is running only about 2 percentage points behind the NDP in the polls.
Dalton McGuinty was stuck in the middle and, as the incumbent, forced to defend his record. This barrage was well defended with statistics. We all know about statistics and how they can be selectively chosen to illustrate almost any point, but it still was an admirable set of responses to some pretty withering attacks. McGuinty clearly articulated his policies and tried to be reasonably up front about his broken promises. I personally think a promise is sacred, but in a democracy it seems to be necessary to promise people things even if there is no real chance of being able to follow through. If you don’t promise, you will have NO chance to follow through because you won’t be elected. One example of McGuinty’s slightly lacking defense was when asked about his broken promise to eliminate the $1500 clawback for children. He said that his government did “something better” in their Child Tax Benefit of $1100. I am sure for a tax accountant it could be demonstrated how one is better than the other (probably because of the difference between post-tax and pre-tax dollars). But to me, it just came across as a $400 discrepancy speaking against his action.
I have the bias you can see from my previous post, but I believe John Tory won the debate, if only by a very small margin. The key areas were on the “privatization” and “segregation” of both education and health care. I think that getting the kids currently enrolled in private faith-based schools to adhere to the public school curriculum is a laudable goal. It is being done in other provinces. I have a huge amount of skepticism about it, but again I turn to Tory’s integrity and have to believe that he is rationally and ethically motivated, as well as being capable enough to potentially surprise us with results. On the health care side, having private clinics which you pay for through your OHIP card is not materially different from the current model of having your doctor bill OHIP for your visit. The doctors are essentially independent businesspeople anyway.
What it comes down to is: which leader most effectively spoke to the things you care most about? In that, I am undecided. More than anything, I hate paying taxes and having my government waste the money they collect. I didn’t get a strong sense from ANY of the leaders that they will treat my money with miserly care.