4:30pm. And we’re done. Plenty there to dwell upon if the press gallery is so motivated. For instance: What precisely would Thomas Mulcair do differently? What specific policies or stances would he change or pursue? If Peggy Nash thinks the rich might pay more, why not say so now? If she’s worried about what the Conservatives will say, how will she ever address the issue? What are Brian Topp’s chances in Quebec? What does history and current polling tell us about his path to a seat? What does Paul Dewar mean by “issue-based campaigning? And how does he square that with his aversion to negative politics?
4:16pm. Closing arguments. In short.
Mr. Dewar: Winning as New Democrats, people, a woman in Brandon, a teacher in Montreal, the out-of-work Caterpillar operators in London, the community in Attawapiskat, a future to believe in.
Mr. Cullen: The Ottawa bubble doesn’t get it, new thinking, the values and the issues, new politics, a progressive majority, the clear and present danger of Stephen Harper, fighting the pipeline, a more perfect future.
Mr. Mulcair: What a great frontbench we’ll make, not about disagreement or division, uniting progressives, Quebec, wheat farmers in Saskatchewan, fishermen in Quebec, Conservatives divide progressives, this is our chance to end that, make a social democratic government a reality.
Mr. Topp: Remember the work done here in Winnipeg, sacrifices of the past to make the country a better place, we’re so close, go forward not sideways, a higher purpose, bilingual Quebecker, worked with Jack Layton, worked with financially response, social progressive, electorally successful government, hard work, if we remember why people donated those nickels and dimes it’ll be worth it.
Ms. Nash: Uniting progressives, our values, the environment, quality jobs, peace in the world, Stephen Harper doesn’t share any of that, a positive campaign, bring these candidates and this party together, a party that unites progressives, first NDP woman prime minister.
4:12pm. Mr. Topp: Take them on, right between the eyes. Mr. Mulcair: Stand up to Stephen Harper, define as he has defined. Ms. Nash respond strongly, forcefully. I confess I appreciate public admissions that politics is about something other than buying the world a Coke.
4:10pm. Last question: Aren’t these allegations of voter suppression terrible? What should we do about it? Probably could’ve just asked everyone on stage to hum the national anthem.
4:09pm. Ms. Nash says Mr. Topp is asking party members to take a big risk by electing him leader because he doesn’t have a seat. Mr. Topp argues there’s no perfect candidate, just as big a risk to pick a candidate with no experience in government. Experience in government being something that Mr. Topp has.
4:05pm. Mr. Topp goes into his own tax plan. Mr. Harper has broken the government he says. Mitt Romney would pay lower taxes here. Does Ms. Nash think rebalancing the tax system should be at the centre of the NDP’s plan? Ms. Nash allows that top earners should probably be paying more, but she doesn’t want to throw out “speculative” numbers because that would feed the Conservative spin machine. But, she says, the NDP under her leadership would have a progressive tax platform in the next election.
4:04pm. Mr. Singh again states that Mr. Topp’s tax plan will impact a woman’s right-to-choose. This for the purposes of asking Ms. Nash a question.
4:01pm. Ms. Ashton goes after Mr. Mulcair on the gun registry: Does he want to bring it back? Mr. Mulcair says the gun registry has to come back. Ms. Ashton says the federal party has to listen to NDP provincial governments that don’t want to bring it back.
3:59pm. Mr. Cullen, sounding like Mr. Topp at the first debate, says Mr. Dewar needs to demonstrate how an NDP government would pay for its agenda. Mr. Dewar lists his priorities: corporate taxes, tax havens and a financial transaction tax. Mr. Cullen is withering: If that’s your plan, I’m a bit worried that that’s it. Then he wonders where Mr. Dewar’s female deputy leader is. Mr. Dewar defends the soundness of his plan and his recruitment of Charlie Angus.
3:57pm. Mr. Mulcair says he can’t find Mr. Cullen’s urban policy platform on Mr. Cullen’s website. Mr. Cullen suggests Mr. Mulcair look harder. Mr. Mulcair tries again. Mr. Cullen says he’ll send Mr. Mulcair the link.
3:56pm. A second pick-a-fight round. Mr. Dewar asks Mr. Mulcair an anodyne question about fundraising as a setup to smack Mr. Mulcair on his fundraising history. Mr. Mulcair puts on his quiet scolding voice and dismisses Mr. Dewar’s premise.
3:54pm. A couple tweets from Libby Davies.
Good question from @nikiashton to Mulcair about his poor comments in toronto star and now he gives a patronizing answer to her – no go!
3:49pm. “What would you do differently?” seems like the big question for Mr. Mulcair at this point in the campaign. And Ms. Nash asking that question is the most interesting moment in this debate so far. At least from where I’m sitting. (For the record: I’m sitting in my living room la-z-boy.)
3:43pm. Ms. Ashton challenges Mr. Mulcair’s rhetoric on the NDP and the NDP’s rhetoric. Mr. Mulcair repeats that he warned Mr. Layton to stop using the phrase “ordinary Canadians” in Quebec. Ms. Ashton reminds Mr. Mulcair that he said the NDP was perhaps terrified of forming government. Mr. Mulcair is wonderfully patronizing in response. Ms. Nash then hits Mr. Mulcair on the idea that the party hasn’t renewed. Mr. Mulcair says a lot of the party’s rhetoric and policy is anchored in the past. Ms. Nash asks what Mr. Mulcair would do different. Mr. Mulcair, who says the party won’t defeat Stephen Harper with a slogan, refers positively to the slogan the party used in Quebec during the last election. He then refers to the party’s “state of mind,” but otherwise avoids saying what exactly he’d do differently.
3:40pm. Mr. Singh challenges Mr. Topp on capital gains and charities. Mr. Singh somehow brings a woman’s right to choose into this. Mr. Topp sticks to his argument for tax fairness. I think it’s fair to guess Mr. Singh won’t be voting for Mr. Topp.
3:38pm. Mr. Cullen challenges Mr. Mulcair on debate attendance. Mr. Dewar challenges Ms. Nash on taxes.
3:32pm. Mr. Mulcair suggests Mr. Dewar’s Next 70 plan is self-limiting. Mr. Dewar tries to say he’s focused on more than 70 ridings, he just knows the NDP needs 70 more to win government. Mr. Mulcair says you can’t limit yourself, otherwise something like the Orange Wave wouldn’t have happened in Quebec. (Can you really argue that what happened with the NDP in Quebec was anything other than a once-in-a-generation shift in popular sentiment? Doesn’t the presence of so many candidates who weren’t running to win undermine the idea that any kind of foresight or planning was involved?)
3:31pm. One more reference by Mr. Mulcair to Mr. Saganash and then we move on to the pick-a-fight round.
3:29pm. Mr. Mulcair waxes romantic about the impact of his “friend” Romeo Saganash.
3:28pm. Granted, the other candidates are happy to discuss Mr. Cullen’s proposal because it gives them an easy opportunity to a) disagree with something and b) tout their faith in the party.
3:18pm. Mr. Topp argues that the NDP has to rise above the voter suppression and division of the Conservatives. Mr. Dewar says the NDP has to avoid the politics of division. Mr. Cullen says Mr. Topp’s criticism of other candidates is wedge politics. Mr. Topp lists all the ways Mr. Cullen’s proposal for joint nomination meetings doesn’t make sense. Martin Singh jumps in to dump on the Cullen plan. Mr. Dewar compares Mr. Cullen’s proposal to a Shamwow commercial and says it will divide people at the riding level. Mr. Cullen makes the argument that post-election cooperation is analogous. Mr. Topp, speaking as someone involved in those post-election negotiations, again dismisses Mr. Cullen’s plan, deems him pessimistic. It’s amazing that Mr. Cullen is still able to suck his opponents into debating his proposal at length. It comes up at every debate, despite the fact that six of seven candidates dismiss it entirely. It’d be like the primary conflict of every Republican debate being Ron Paul’s desire to eliminate the Federal Reserve.
3:10pm. First question goes right to this issue. Mr. Topp argues that the NDP is on the cusp of major gains in the West, that outreach and policy are important and that the party has several fronts on which it can argue Mr. Harper has failed. Mr. Mulcair talks about roots and trees and says the NDP needs to reach out beyond the base. Ms. Nash and Mr. Topp seem to be more or less on the same page. Mr. Cullen notes that he was able to beat a Conservative MP in his riding and takes the opportunity to pitch joint nomination meetings. (But couldn’t you argue that his ability to beat a Conservative proves New Democrats don’t need to join with other parties to win?) Mr. Dewar pitches his Next 70 plan and “issue-based campaigning.” (Isn’t that another way of saying wedge politics?)
3:08pm. Peggy Nash goes with an argument for electoral reform. An NDP audience in the Prairies is the place to make this argument. The numbers in Saskatchewan are glaring.
3:06pm. Brian Topp goes with the Winnipeg Jets reference. And then he repeats his mantra about not becoming another Liberal party. In other words, vote for me or Mr. Mulcair is going to do bad things to the NDP.
3:04pm. Paul Dewar goes with a Vic Toews joke. Mr. Dewar’s argument is for experience, energy and passion. I dare say a lot of his appeal is based on those last two adjectives.
3:02pm. Mr. Mulcair makes the first robocall joke. He makes the argument that where other parties have taken certain regions for granted (Northern Ontario, Quebec), the NDP has stepped in and made gains. That’s apparently the argument for the NDP in the West.
3:00pm. And we’re off. Today’s theme: “Connecting people and regions.” You know what’s good for connecting with people in disparate regions? Robocalls.
The seven candidates for NDP leader will be debating each other in Winnipeg this afternoon starting at 3pm EST. The proceedings can be streamed online here and here. The debate will also be televised live on CPAC. We’ll get the live blog going shortly.