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Searching for democracy on a Sunday night – Liveblogging an Ottawa Centre all candidates’ debate


 

Check back at 7pm for full coverage of the Ottawa Centre Federal Candidates Forum, hosted by community associations representing Hampton-Iona, Hintonburg, Westboro, Westboro Beach and West Wellington, and moderated by CBC Radio’s Rita Celli. 

The candidates are:  NDP incumbent Paul Dewar, Penny Collenette (Liberal), Jennifer Hunter (Green Party), Brian McGarry (Conservative) and two independents: Pierre Soubliere and John Akpata. 

Full riding profile available here, courtesy of Pundits’ Guide. 

6:43:37 PM
Greetings from the Churchill Community Centre, y’all! Are you ready for some hot local-candidate-on-candidate debating action? I hope so, because we’ve sacrificed a night of lounging on the couch watching Alan Ball’s surreal take on Southern vampire culture to venture deep into the heart of Westboro Village to cover the latest skirmish in the Battle of Ottawa Centre. If you’re not up on the latest twists and turns, check the link above for a full riding profile, courtesy of the Pundit Guide.
First impressions – which I’ll try to squeeze in before the debate gets underway – the crowd is actually pretty damned impressive for a Sunday night — I don’t think there’s an empty seat in the room. More importantly, most of the people here seem to be actual voters, which is always refreshing to see, although along the opposite wall from where the media have set up camp, there are tables full of propaganda from each of the five campaigns on the scene tonight.

With less than ten minutes to go, the incumbent, Paul Dewar, looks surprisingly relaxed; he’s chatting with supporters who keep flocking to the front of the room. All five candidates seem to be in their seats already – the two women, Liberal Penny Collenette and the Greens’ Jen Hunter sandwiched in between Dewar and his Tory rival, Brian McGarry.

Best of all, from ITQ’s perspective, that is, though, is the fact that not just one but both independents are here. Oh, please let one of them be crazy — or at least eccentric. Is that so much to ask from democracy, really?

Okay, the string quartet over the loudspeaker was a good idea in theory, but y’all, it’s just deafening – and that was before the feedback sent us all into catatonic shock.

6:57:03 PM
The organizer is now apologizing for the lack of space — apparently they were serious when they said seating would be limited, because there are still people waiting outside. She assures the crowd that there will be more debates, so don’t despair if you can’t make it to this one.

6:59:47 PM
Ooh, with less than a minute to go, those sneaky candidates have swapped chairs on me. Curses! Thankfully, unlike committee members, they’re not so interchangeable as to be unidentifiable without nameplates (which they have, but I can’t see from this angle) – now McGarry is on the far right (literally, not figuratively), with Dewar to his immediate left, followed by John Akpata, Penny Dewar, Jen Hunter and Pierre Soubliere.

Meanwhile, beside me, a man without any identifiable buttonry is looking over a list of “our’ questions – who, exactly, the “us” of this “our” might be isn’t clear, but the questions have to do with land use.

I wonder just how many times tonight the candidates are going to have to apologetically explain that someone’s pet issue – parking meters, litter, those cryptofascist cat-leash laws – are, sadly, not under federal jurisdiction. My guess is at least once each, but we’ll see.

7:04:55 PM
Ooh, we’re on – and just so you don’t worry that this will turn into a committee meeting, with endless filibustering by loquacious candidates instead of Tory MPs, the organizers are armed with flourescent warning paddles – one of which denotes 20 seconds left, the other that time’s up – which, I’m assuming, can also be used to suppress those unwilling to shut up.

7:07:13 PM
Okay, here’s the format: each of the community associations involved in organizing the event get two questions, which they can put to whatever candidate they like, and the rest of the forum will be dedicated to questions from the audience. If the candidates go over the allotted time, the mic gets cut.

Ooh, so it’s Ethics committee rules. Harsh.

7:10:59 PM
And with that, it’s on.

7:12:20 PM
The first one-minute opening statement goes to Pierre Soubliere, who isn’t, in fact, an independent – he’s running for the Marxist-Leninist Party. Oh, I didn’t even dare hope that I’d be this lucky. A vote for the Marxist Leninist Party, you’ll be interested to know, is a vote to give power to the people. Yeeeaaahhhh!!

Polite smattering of applause, and over to Greenie Jen Hunter, who is wearing the cutest gingham skirt, and has exactly the sort of blonde mane that you’d expect. She touts the balanced platform her party offers – from the environment to the economy to social justice – and gets a distinctly more enthusiastic reaction.

7:15:29 PM
Penny Collenette tells us that Stephane Dion has a plan, and reminds the crowd that this election is only happening because the PM “broke his own election law”, and then – oh, can life really be this perfect? – John Akpata takes the floor and introduces himself as a third-time candidate with the Marijuana Party. “Don’t do what doesn’t make sense” is the upshot of his opener, which is right up there with “Don’t do what Johnny Don’t Does” as far as catchy slogans, and then it’s time for Paul Dewar to dare the crowd to put him on the spot, and Brian McGarry to tell us how much the Conservatives have done in just 36 months.

7:18:46 PM
Okay, the crowd loved McGarry – biggest round of applause of the night, which makes me wonder, cynic that I am, if that means he was most successful in stacking the room with supporters. (Yes I’d say that regardless of which candidate inspired such a lively response.)

7:19:48 PM
And a question from the Hampton Community Group about the Civic Hospital; McGarry agrees that it is “ludicrous” to move the hospital out of the West End — is someone proposing that? huh — which seems to be the right answer, as far as the audience is concerned.

The audio system, on the other hand, is clearly not impressed; the microphones keep producing earbleedingly shrill flashes of feedback.

Dewar, the Marijuana Party and Penny Collenette also agree that it is absurd to even consider moving the Civic, although Collenette notes that this is one of the few instances where she might support using greenbelt land — in this case, land across the street from the existing building – in order to keep the hospital here.

Jen Hunter stresses the need to preserve green space, and Soubliere, the Marxist-Leninist, bemoans how health care is seen as a cost, not a right.

7:25:15 PM
And now, the first question from the audience! After a gentle warning from Celli to be succinct – only a minute per question, no exceptions – the co-founder of Grandmothers for Africa asks whether McGarry and Collenette support Canada meeting the 0.7% goal for foreign aid – and if so, how they plan on achieving that.

McGarry begins by basically disassociating himself and his party from the last forty years — “you remember who has been in power,” he says. “We’re a new party.” – and the gist of his response is — give us a stronger mandate — ideally a four year mandate — and we’ll see what we can do.

Penny Collenette, meanwhile, reminds the crowd that it was Lester B. Pearson who got the ball rolling, and points to commitments to increasing foreign aid in the Liberal platform.

Oh, and Soubliere pops in to remind everyone that the Conservatives have a “twisted’ idea of foreign aid, and that we’re in Afghanistan “illegally.” Which produces a range of responses, from applause to boos.

7:30:16 PM
A tricky question from the audience – small and medium-sized enterprises bidding on federal contracts – gets an enthusiastic, if entirely vague response from McGarry, who insists that he will stand up for small business – if anyone will, he will. “Whooooo!” yell his supporters.

Dewar, meanwhile, rolls his eyes at the chest-thumpery, and points to various million dollar contracts that have flowed outside the local economy. “Shame on the Conservatives for letting this file get out of their hands,” he says, to wild applause.

In response, McGarry would rather condemn the NDP platform for reimposing various corporate taxes. “Good plan, Jack,” he snarls.

7:33:51 PM
Another question for McGarry and Dewar – who seem to be seen as the main contenders here, interestingly, although the Conservative candidate came a distant third in the last election – on infrastructure, which seems to be a backhanded attack on the NDP. Dewar is ready for it, though, and rhymes off some of the spending plans from the party’s platform. Meanwhile, McGarry, who is weirdly complacent considering that he’s a challenger, once again goes after Dewar for the NDP’s tax plan. “This isn’t the party of Ed Broadbent,” he says “this is the party of Jack Layton”. He then delivers a rousing defence of corporate welfare bums – a Broadbentism, ironically – who, we’re to understand, are being given an unfair rap by those Laytonian socialists.

I have to say this is a weird tack for McGarry to take in front of this particular audience.

7:37:32 PM
Dewar, not surprisingly, takes issue with the suggestion that he’s out to get “small business”, and notes that Ed Broadbent is a member of the party to this day, and supports the platform.

Penny Collenette, meanwhile, wants us all to know that the Liberals “get it” – on cities, on small businesses, on municipal funding; you name it.

Marijuana Party candidate Akpata – whose name I cannot, for some reason, remember – commiserates; he’s from Windsor, where small business has been hit hard too – and he doesn’t believe politicians who claim to care about the community either — not without proof. Lots of nodding and cheering at that. 

7:41:42 PM
Holy crap, there is a line of questioners that is, quite literally, out the door – and at the head right now is a gorgeous, and righteously outraged woman who is eviscerating McGarry over the cuts to arts funding. McGarry reminds her that – oh, man that was really bad – he reminded her that under the Conservative plan, she can take time off to have a baby, and be covered by maternity leave. Her lip curls, and her eyebrow goes up; the room titters at the exquisite inappropriateness of his response. Yes, the young, independent artist and entrepreneur really wanted to hear that she can get help from the government if she has a baby, and wants to stay home for a year to take care of it. (AFTERNOTE: He also points out that she would be eligible for employment insurance, which, I’m sure, is just what an idealistic young artist wants to hear.) 

Akpata, on the other hand, congratulates her for being an artist, praises the Canada Council, and just generally gives a barnstormer of a response. He even gets off a crowdpleaser line about the newly approved porn channel. Penny Collenette pokes her head into the audience-Akpata love-in to remind everyone that the Liberals would double funding for the Canada Council.

Oh, and then McGarry tries to do damage control by shaking his fist at the crowd and reminding them that not all artists grub for money from the government.

Wow. This guy – wow. I’m kind of stunned by how politically tone deaf he seems to be. When the Marijuana Party candidate is killing you on audience reaction, you have a serious problem reading the crowd.

7:48:11 PM
And now, a painfully dull question from a community association that has something to do with funding, and is far too specific for a meeting like this.

Everyone gives carefully generic answers, except for Akpata, who goes on a rant about the operational secrecy of the NCC, and predicts that if they don’t do something soon, the Rochester Fields “will turn into condos” – Isn’t that what always happens?

Paul Dewar declares himself a protector of Rochester Fields, but McGarry isn’t willing to go that far, but he admits that he doesn’t always see eye to eye with the NCC.

7:53:49 PM
And a question about the possibility of a coalition between the NDP and the Liberals: the answer, from both Dewar and Collenette, is no – although Dewar does bring up the whole “well, we wouldn’t close the door to working with other parties once elected to goverment” line. “Are you satisfied?” Celli asks the questioner. “Satisfied-ish,” he says.

7:56:47 PM
After a long, rambling question about water quality, Collenette leaps at the chance to once again tout past examples of her leader’s commitment to the environment – she’s just so eager, it’s hard not to give her the points for effort – and Dewar points out that his party brought in private members’ bills to deal with tailing ponds – I think that’s how you spell it – in Alberta, but also stresses the need for a clean water act. Don’t we have one of those? At least one? I’m sure I’ve sat through endless House debates over it.

8:01:10 PM
Sewage question – I missed the beginning, but it appears to have been mostly related to matters of not-federal-jurisdiction, although Dewar seizes the chance to brag about the fact that he was all over the toxic dumping before John Baird even knew what was happening with the Ottawa River. Brian McGarry reminds us that every single problem isn’t the fault of the Conservatives – “who have only been in power for two years,” and implores the audience to show a little love for his “brand new government.” What about all the good things they’ve been doing in the North, huh? What about that? Why all the blame? Not, he adds hastily, after suddenly realizing that he’s basically picking a fight with a random voter, that the questioner was doing that.

Does he really think going on the defensive is a good tactic? Because – it really, really isn’t.

Penny Collenette says something immediately forgettable about the Liberals, and then John Akpata gives a wildly entertaining mini-lecture on pigs, and how toxic they are, yet how tasty and delicious. He veers into crazyland with an aside on the evils of flouride in our drinking water, mistakes a supportive giggle from Green Jen as mocking laughter, and generally continues to make this entire debate worth sitting through.

Green Jen assures him she was laughing with him, not at him, and then the Marxist Leninist – who has been left out for the last half hour or so – reminds us that we can never forget who is taking advantage of our “natural wealth”. The running dog capitalists, that’s who! (Note: that was me, not him. But I’m sure it was the right answer.)

8:09:23 PM
Ahh, the inevitable question on proportional representation, and the futility of “participatory democracy” in a first-past-the-post system. Penny Collenette gamely takes first crack at answering it, and reminds the questioner that it was debated at the provincial level last year. She admits that she’s not yet convinced it’s the way to go, but says that if elected, she’ll make it the subject of her first “conversation” with constituents.

Brian McGarry, who is getting cranky, agrees that “we don’t want Toronto running the country” but doesn’t seem to have anything else to say on the subject, other than acknowledge that there is an imbalance.
John Akpata, who may, in fact, actually be Wikipedia wandering the earth disguised in human form, reels off a bunch of stats about who does and doesn’t vote, and how so many people vote for parties other than the main six. Finally, Comrade Soubliere seems to concur on the basic unfairness of it all.

8:13:47 PM
And now, a transparent attack on the NDP from a Tory plant, who excoriates Dewar for its support of the infamous Durban conference on anti-racism – “which turned into a gongshow” – and then quotes Warren Kinsella’s blog to back up whatever it is he’s trying to allege, which seems to be that the NDP supports gongshows, even those of an anti-semitic bent.

Dewar reminds him that Canada is one of only two countries to pull out of the “prepcon” for the upcoming conference – Durban II – completely, and gives a fairly measured explanation of what, exactly, he and his party have recommended.

McGarry, meanwhile, says he’s “damned proud” that Canada isn’t going to the conference. He also notes that he’s “just become aware” of a disturbing statistic — that a group representing just 1% of the population suffers from more than 20% of the abuse. Of course, he doesn’t say what that group is, so the whole line just hangs there sounding — odd. I mean, I’m assuming he’s talking about anti-semitic incidents, but he doesn’t actually say that. He just gives his line and scowls. 

8:18:14 PM
And a plant for Akpata with a question about Health Canada’s track record on providing medicinal marijuana – Collenette admits she isn’t well briefed on the issue, McGarry grumbles, Akpata offers to brief everyone, Green Jen is cute as a button and has a mom who has benefited from medicinal marijuana, and then Akpata gets his moment to rant on his favourite subject.

8:20:13 PM
Well, that’s sweet – a questioner just offered an open invitation to two of the candidates to clarify something in their respective party’s platform that has been misrepresented in the media. Green Jen takes on the controversy over “strategic voting”, which – she says – her leader never endorsed; Penny Collenette wants everyone to know that her party won’t spend the country into deficit.

8:22:21 PM
Ooh, a wee troublemaker at the mic – she demands to know why Dewar’s campaign website lists one of his achievements as “keeping the portrait gallery in Ottawa” – which is by no means a sure thing. Dewar explains that he was the one who filed the ATI requet that revealed the secret backroom machinations that would otherwise have resulted in the decision going ahead without the bidding process.

McGarry also wants the gallery to stay here, but dismisses the rallies and other efforts by the community to keep it here – “this gallery won’t be kept here by photo ops or skating up the canal” – the only way, he says, is by electing him to government, which produces open snickers from the crowd. He then delivers a rousing defence of Calgary, unwisely attempts to employ sarcasm, and then is mercifully cut off by the Time Paddle. Penny Collenette gives a rah-rah for the gallery, and that’s about it.

8:29:26 PM
If there’s one thing that the whole panel can agree on – and actually, there may only be this one thing – it is that the National Capital Commission is a shadowy and very probably sinister organization, and no good can come of its nefarious backroom dealmaking.

Penny Collenette, brightly, suggests looking at the enabling act itself to see if it could use some tweaking, since it hasn’t been amended since original drafting, back in the 1950s, and doesn’t even include the concept of “green space.”

8:32:13 PM
Awesomely, Comrade Soubliere just disproved my above point by defending the NCC. Go state!

8:33:21 PM
Our latest questioner has a dilemna – he wants to vote for Penny, because he loves the Green Shift, but he also has a soft spot for Paul Dewar. What is he to do? Penny sweetly says it’s too bad they aren’t running together – I can hear the howls of horror from the respective war rooms from here – but humbly suggests that he vote for her, because even though she can’t promise she’ll be at the cabinet table, like McGarry – who, I fear, may be headed for crushing disappointment on the off-chance that he pulls off a win in this riding. Dewar suggests abolishing the Senate, which isn’t actually as non sequiteurial as it sounds, since the question was about proportional representation and democratic reform.

8:36:50 PM
Oh, this is going to be fun: a question for McGarry on decriminalization of marijuana, and he once again goes on the defensive, and snarls that he doesn’t support it, period. The questioner then reveals that she has epilepsy, and looks forward to being put in jail for seeking out effective treatment for her condition. Oh, and to not voting for Brian McGarry, but that part probably wasn’t sarcastic.

Akpata gives the usual streets-paved-with-hempbased-gold speech on how our GDP would quintuple if only the ganja was legalized – to snickers from the audience – but doesn’t seem fussed by the sceptics.

“Laugh away – it’s true, you can look it up.”

8:40:08 PM
A copyright question – usual digital rights management umbrella query – and Dewar comes out strongly in favour of user rights. Penny Collenette agrees that “balance” is important, but agrees with Dewar that the now-all-but-dead bill introduced by the Conservatives during the last session isn’t the answer.

8:41:25 PM
Another question from our community association sponsors – this time, on substance abuse prevention and treatment, particularly in Hintonberg, and adding alcohol as a treatable substance. Akpata condemns the practice of criminalizing abusers – and says that we need to change the programs, not just keep doing the same.

Brian McGarry, you will be shocked to learn, doesn’t support safe injection sites, but agrees that alcohol is a problem too. “Just ask Senatoer Marjorie Lebreton about that,” he suggests. Uh. He probably should have given some context to that comment, if the reaction of the girl sitting next to me is any indication of the lack of understanding amongst the audience, which has a lot of youngish people.

8:47:22 PM
A followup question on addiction and crime – sorry, falling behind here – which produces the by now predictable answers from the candidates – Akpata blames criminalization of behaviour, Green Jen wants to invest in programs and hug people, Penny Collenette is delighted by her party’s commitment to spent more on treatment.

8:49:22 PM
A man who appears on the verge of losing faith in democracy implores all candidates to commit to working together, even if there is a minority government, and not turn it into a dysfunctional snakepit like the last one. Penny Collenette meekly suggests that she’ll do her best, and McGarry mistakes the question for an attack — specifically for breaking the “fixed election date” law – and turns into David Tilson. Seriously. Totally cranky and only tangentially on topic.

8:52:50 PM
A gotcha moment – a questioner who tells the panel that she likes both the Greens and the Liberals, but can’t help but notice that the only candidate with a reusable water bottle is Paul Dewar. What gives?

The two of them both cop to bad optics – although each does her best to assure this is entirely uncharacteristic; Green Jen reuses glasses, bottles, you name it; Penny Collenette carries one with her everywhere she goes, but left it in her car.

Brian McGarry, meanwhile, would like to interject the fact that both he and his wife drive hybrids; they plant over a thousand trees a year, and you know those “green funerals” you may have heard of? Well, stay tuned.

8:56:44 PM
An admittedly long, rambly and hard to follow tirade/question on air pollution, and why neither the Liberals or the Tories have taken action to reduce the cancerous effects of diesel fuel, and McGarry manages to insult the questioner yet again when he says that he’s “not as well versed on the subject as [the questioner] is, because I’m a small business owner.”

He then blames the Liberals for doing nothing, and reminds everyone that cancer has struck his family three times. I’m sure somewhere in there he talked about the Conservatives’ Turning the Corner plan, but I probably missed it.

9:01:03 PM
“Two years is not a long time for a government,” McGarry begins what may be his final answer of the night, to a question that I couldn’t actually here, but I suspect that I won’t be able to figure out from the context, given McGarry’s now familiar style.

In those two years, though, his party has reduced taxes and the debt. The Liberals are “not the party of Lester B. Pearson,” Jack Layton “scoffs at free enterprise,” and I haven’t the slightest idea what the question actually was, because the answer is so weird, aggressive and — random.

9:03:52 PM
And – last question, I’m thinking, on the collapse of the US economy, and its effect on Canada. The questioner is sceptical of the PM’s statement that there isn’t likely to be a “spillover” effect on Canada, and McGarry picks a fight with him over the quote. “That’s not what he said,” he insists. “He said there might be a spillover.” After a few seconds, It becomes clear that this is what Harper apparently told McGarry, personally, when he ‘sat down with him’ and talked about it, so “don’t quote from the Globe and Mail” – quite frankly, he doesn’t care about it, even though I’m not sure how he thinks the rest of us are supposed to know what the PM did or didn’t say when he “sat down with the man.”  McGarry goes on along those lines for the rest of the allotted time, at which point the host steps in to thank the audience, and the candidates, and especially the radiant Rita Celli – and that’s it.

Wow. I think I have a crush on democracy. This was awesome. But now – I think I hear the sweet sounds of the True Blood theme music calling my name. Til tomorrow!


 

Searching for democracy on a Sunday night – Liveblogging an Ottawa Centre all candidates’ debate

  1. Our all-candidates debate is taking place in the Hungarian Hall- come for the politics, stay for the perogies!
    It should be interesting- hell hath no fury like a Finley scorned, and the voters of Haldimand-Norfolk are a-scorning her.

  2. I was ready to run out the door when I saw there was a debate here tonight. Then I saw that I wasn’t going to be able to walk there in less than 10 minutes. My interest waned.

  3. Any plans to do the Québec-side ones (e.g., Gatineau, Hull-Aylmer, Pontiac)? They might wind up being more interesting than many of the Ontario-side ones in the NCR.

  4. That’s going to be fun Kady. I love all candidates debates, they are great.

    The one I attended a few weeks ago they allowed the crowd to ask questions and it was so funny. These candidates have dreams of Ottawa and how they are going to change the country and then they get asked about what are they going to do about street urchins in downtown area or cigarette butts on sidewalk and my fav was a lady asked what they would do about her noisy neighbour. The candidates dreams and idealism took a hit that night, I’m sure.

  5. I thought John Akpata was with the Marijauna Party? He always spices up the debates, that’s for sure!

  6. “Okay, the string quartet over the loudspeaker was a good idea in theory, but y’all, it’s just deafening – and that was before the feedback sent us all into catatonic shock.”

    LOL…

  7. You are so lucky, Kady, that you’re getting to see the fringe candidates. In my riding, we have two communist parties, libertarian, Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party(???), Marijuana Party, Independent but they were not allowed at the all candidates debate, only the major parties and Greens were there.

    I was so disappointed, I went to debate hoping for freak show but no such luck, it was rather tame.

  8. “McGarry begins by basically disassociating himself and his party from the last forty years — “you remember who has been in power,” he says. “We’re a new party.” – and the gist of his response is — give us a stronger mandate — ideally a four year mandate — and we’ll see what we can do.”

    *SHUDDER*

  9. “…righteously outraged woman who is eviscerating McGarry over the cuts to arts funding. McGarry reminds her that – oh, man that was really bad – he reminded her that under the Conservative plan, she can take time off to have a baby, and be covered by maternity leave.”

    Unbelievable! Answered in true Reform/Alliance/Con style.

  10. “Oh, and then McGarry tries to do damage control by shaking his fist at the crowd and reminding them that not all artists grub for money from the government.”
    That was a joke.
    Please tell me that was a joke.
    I suggest we all go hang out at the debate with the free peroguies. My all-candidates meeting was fun- I think we had 6 or 7 candidates there. Lots of crazies, no peroguies.

  11. McGarry is a little silly here. I am not surprised. Paul and Penny likely are the crowd favs tonight. I expect McGarry’s response is an example as to why they are usually not allowed to attend debates.

  12. This Akpata guy sounds like quite a fellow.

  13. I’m outside the back of the room with the rest of the late-arriving citizenry and it’s not clear to me that anyone is a crowd favourite, although the pot guy will be signing autographs later at the rate this is going. He’s very relaxed and funny. I can’t imagine where he got that from.

  14. Wow! getting wild now – animalistic. Dogs, pigs – what’s next? ducks?

  15. Handy rule of thumb, wherever you are in time or space: the Marxist-Leninist is NEVER funny.

  16. It sounds too funny. I would love to be there. I expect the crowd is loving it. Maybe i need some of the stuff thats making that guy so funny!

  17. The feedback is punishing. And Rita Celli is SO NICE to everyone. She makes Paikin look cynical.

  18. Mawkish moment: it’s just about always heartening to see people come out to crowd a biggish room (which I’m finally actually in) and talk seriously about the polity.

    Democratic reform is a really strong running theme tonight. I can never get excited about the issue, but a lot of people, and not just here tonight, are basically saying they don’t feel like they can say what they want to say with a vote in the current system.

  19. Kady, you are truly in own league when it comes to documenting the political squirm. And live, no less. (I know — you wouldn’t have it any other way.)

  20. Man, I wonder if Akpata could really break the 1000-vote ceiling at this point – has any MP candidate ever done that? Sounds like the guy just has to go door-to-door and he’s there! Dude!

  21. “means he was most successful in stacking the”

    That was just a sly reminder of the undertaker in the debate, right, Kady? As in stacking the bodies, hmmmmm…..

  22. Oh, how the Liberals miss the days of Mac Harb in O-centre.

  23. McGarry hasn’t won any votes here. *snicker*

  24. Kady,

    Will you be blogging the all candidates debate in Ottawa South on Wednesday morning? If it’s anything like the last one I attended, you should have a crazy or two.

    Does anyone know if Ottawa West Nepean will have an all candidates meeting?

  25. That was fun. Thanks Kady!

    Hope your ears heal soon from:

    “the microphones keep producing earbleedingly shrill flashes of feedback.”

    Ouch.

  26. Paul

    thank you for this. It was interesting and fun. I have kept a few folks entertained here over a fabulous beef fondue dinner with your writings!

    cheers

  27. Oh Gawd–the motherlode of inspira-a-a-a-tion! Let me take a breath! (I still have a beer left from the last rant I posted–yeah it was a McCain “Canadian” brown from Denver.)

    “Okay, the string quartet over the loudspeaker was a good idea in theory, but y’all, it’s just deafening – and that was before the feedback sent us all into catatonic shock.”

    Kady; catatonia is never shocking, it just isn’t.

  28. Aw Shucks Kady, you’re such a kinda girl leprechaun…how could anyone miss that smile?

  29. Miss as in “fail to notice”. Helen sank a thousand ships with a look. Kady’s smile goes–and the entire Canadian blogosphere mourns.

  30. best line of the night is “that not all artists grub for money from the government.”

    I almost can’t believe after all the duct tape sent to handlers of the conservative party candidates that they ran out of it tonight!

    ROTFL

  31. McGarry doesn’t need to win over the room. He just needs more votes than any of the other candidates once all the votes are counted And, I believe he can do that given the split among the left in Ottawa Centre.

    On proportional rep why didn’t any of the candidates just note that we’ve had at least three provincial referenda in the past few years (PEI, BC and Ontario) and that the voters have turned it down. Why is this still an issue?

  32. Oh CRAP! Can’t resist. ABC RULES!

    I hear Warren Buffet has dispatched the paparazzi to Ottawa with instructions to snap a photo of Steve when he realizes the Conservatives have lost the election.

    Not because he cares about our Canadian election–only because he can’t buy Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and he’s angling for second best.

  33. Noticed that McGarry snuck out the back door. Says a lot about his campaign, IMHO. His reaction to the woman with epilepsy was disgusting.

  34. Two Cents:

    “On proportional rep why didn’t any of the candidates just note that we’ve had at least three provincial referenda in the past few years (PEI, BC and Ontario) and that the voters have turned it down. Why is this still an issue?”

    I dunno. Could it be because you insist on adding your Two Cents?

  35. Two Cents:

    I can’t resist. Here’s my Two Cents:

    McGarry, McCullough, McDuff
    You think being Scottish is rough?
    Try being Stephane

    Had enough?

  36. Was this videotaped? I would be curious to see some of the segments on the news.

  37. Great coverage, Kady. I hope you’ll do more of these. I take it the Polymorph Conservative Reform Party candidate didn’t impress many.(if any)I find the, “we’ll make things better, if we have to kill you to do it,” philosophy doesn’t impress. Incidentally, was he wearing a ‘flysticka’ on his brown shirt? I looked at the Tru Blood intro; Interesting contrast between the religious fundamentalists and the baaaad, baaaad, hedonistic crowd. I’m more into “Thirty Helens Agree,” myself.

    [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDTZcj8Xink] [0 :34] 30 Helens Agree

    L8R

  38. McGarry doesn’t need to win over the room. He just needs more votes than any of the other candidates once all the votes are counted And, I believe he can do that given the split among the left in Ottawa Centre.

    The split that made the Conservatives finish an extremely distant third in 2006? Is that the split you’re talking about? There’s no way McGarry comes close in this riding. It’s between Collenette and Dewar, and it’s going to be extremely close.

    And thanks for the live-blog, Kady! I was disappointed I had to miss this, even thought it was down the street from my house, so this made up for it!

  39. We may have huge voter apathy, but it seems the voters who want to be engaged want strongly to be engaged. At my riding’s debate (fortunately for me, televised) the room was also too small for the number of people wishing to attend. Again, the line of questioners far out-paced the time allotted.

    Someone here a while back had the brilliant idea of each of us live-blogging our riding debates. I know my excuse was a lack of a blackberry, but what about everybody else?

  40. I too would like to see the video, particularly when the Conservative candidate recommended childbirth over a career in the Arts.

  41. Thanks for the kind words.
    Here are some statistics:

    99.5% of canadians who file their taxes make zero contributions to political parties. This means that .5% of the taxpayers pay for 100% of the politics that we get.

    38% of eligible voters do not vote.
    50% of males 18 – 24 do not vote.
    75% of females 18 – 24 do not vote.

    1 of 6 canadians voted for the conservatives.
    2 of 6 canadians did not vote at all.
    3 of 6 canadians split their votes between 15 other parties.
    5 of 6 canadians did not vote conservative.

    much respect to everyone who participated. many thanks to the organizers and volunteers.
    peace
    john akpata

  42. great statistics john akpata and it’s only right and proper that canadians generally make no political contributions (voluntarily). blood sucking leeches

  43. why is it that the conservatives – and NO other party – gets compared to the nazis? Why is that? Maybe because they are the only party that spews toughguy rhetoric and orwellian doublespeak. No other party is doing that – only the Harperites….

  44. “And a question from the Hampton Community Group about the Civic Hospital; McGarry agrees that it is “ludicrous” to move the hospital out of the West End — is someone proposing that? huh — which seems to be the right answer, as far as the audience is concerned.”

    – yes, Kady. Moving the Civic Hospital is on the table. No, the room did not appreciate McGarry’s ignorance. Next time, Macleans might send a blogger who understands the issues facing the communities in question. Expecting leash law questions in Kitchissippi displays a stunning lack of respect for the political engagement in these communities.

    What I didn’t get from this squib was any substantive analysis, at all, about where the candidates fall on the issues that dominated the evening: the NCC, the arts, and the environment.

    Either blogging a debate just won’t work, or Maclean’s sent the wrong writer. Frustrating.

  45. great coverage Cady.
    in 2 hours of debate Mr. McGarry according to your “non biased” coverage, never answered a question correctly with any substance.

    This is getting laughable
    (you are being paid to be “unbiased” but you are far from it).

    P.S. get your name in quick for communications adviser for elected Lieberal MP’s. I hear there are only 22 positions available

  46. Inmate, this blog is all about national politics, mostly for people with a keen interest in the subject, particularly the insider side of politics. That’s why it’s called “Inside the Queensway.”

    Anyway, if you’re looking for coverage of local issues, you might be better off reading a local newspaper than this particular blog.

    – JV

  47. Thanks, Visiting. Clearly O’Malley is more comfortable covering the Hill, but Macleans could have done our communities a great service by offering another view of the debate than that provided by the local papers. It’s a lost opportunity. As for “insider”, I’m not even sure the writer has any sense of riding history or politics. What’s McGarry getting out of running? Clearly this is Dipper/Liberal territory. The Tories have for several years run earnest and well-meaning candidates in Ottawa-Centre who don’t have much to lose by running. I think Guzzo was the last guy with any profile. Why are they running McGarry? The poor guy slit his own throat last night. If O’Malley is an insider, at least give me some insight as to what reward awaits him. With respect to the NCC, which was absolutely predictable as a dominant theme given the Civic Hospital question as well as ongoing resident concerns about the beach, the greenspace etc., why didn’t O’Malley point out that Collenette did not once talk about Mahoney’s work on that front?

    I honestly don’t think O’Malley has any clue what’s going on “inside the Queensway” except for what’s going on “inside the area from the Canal to Bank. St. north of Cooper”. Sending her to a community-association-sponsored debate just seems to underscore how out of touch the Press Gallery is with what Canadians are really concerned about.

  48. Inmate – I’m sorry; I’m really not up on all the local issues, and though I’ll try to do a better job when I go to my next all-candidates’ debate, I very much doubt I’m going to be able to give you the detailed, thorough analysis that you like. I’m mostly doing these to give people a sense of what it’s like on the floor for those who aren’t there, but who enjoy the cut and thrust of political debate, even when they’re not necessarily familiar with the subject at hand.

    As for riding history and politics – that’s for another post, and one I’d love to write, if I can find the time – not something to be squeezed into a liveblog, which by its very nature requires the writer to follow an event in realtime. If there’d been a break in a proceeding, I would have been able to explore the “Why this guy?” question, but there just wasn’t.

  49. Oh, and on your specific complaints – that you didn’t get an idea of where the candidates stood on the NCC, the arts and the environment:

    On the NCC:
    8:29:26 PM
    If there’s one thing that the whole panel can agree on – and actually, there may only be this one thing – it is that the National Capital Commission is a shadowy and very probably sinister organization, and no good can come of its nefarious backroom dealmaking.

    Penny Collenette, brightly, suggests looking at the enabling act itself to see if it could use some tweaking, since it hasn’t been amended since original drafting, back in the 1950s, and doesn’t even include the concept of “green space.”

    8:32:13 PM
    Awesomely, Comrade Soubliere just disproved my above point by defending the NCC. Go state!

    On arts funding:
    7:41:42 PM
    Holy crap, there is a line of questioners that is, quite literally, out the door – and at the head right now is a gorgeous, and righteously outraged woman who is eviscerating McGarry over the cuts to arts funding. McGarry reminds her that – oh, man that was really bad – he reminded her that under the Conservative plan, she can take time off to have a baby, and be covered by maternity leave. Her lip curls, and her eyebrow goes up; the room titters at the exquisite inappropriateness of his response. Yes, the young, independent artist and entrepreneur really wanted to hear that she can get help from the government if she has a baby, and wants to stay home for a year to take care of it. (AFTERNOTE: He also points out that she would be eligible for employment insurance, which, I’m sure, is just what an idealistic young artist wants to hear.)

    Akpata, on the other hand, congratulates her for being an artist, praises the Canada Council, and just generally gives a barnstormer of a response. He even gets off a crowdpleaser line about the newly approved porn channel. Penny Collenette pokes her head into the audience-Akpata love-in to remind everyone that the Liberals would double funding for the Canada Council.

    Oh, and then McGarry tries to do damage control by shaking his fist at the crowd and reminding them that not all artists grub for money from the government.

    On the environment:
    8:01:10 PM
    Sewage question – I missed the beginning, but it appears to have been mostly related to matters of not-federal-jurisdiction, although Dewar seizes the chance to brag about the fact that he was all over the toxic dumping before John Baird even knew what was happening with the Ottawa River. Brian McGarry reminds us that every single problem isn’t the fault of the Conservatives – “who have only been in power for two years,” and implores the audience to show a little love for his “brand new government.” What about all the good things they’ve been doing in the North, huh? What about that? Why all the blame? Not, he adds hastily, after suddenly realizing that he’s basically picking a fight with a random voter, that the questioner was doing that.

    Does he really think going on the defensive is a good tactic? Because – it really, really isn’t.

    Penny Collenette says something immediately forgettable about the Liberals, and then John Akpata gives a wildly entertaining mini-lecture on pigs, and how toxic they are, yet how tasty and delicious. He veers into crazyland with an aside on the evils of flouride in our drinking water, mistakes a supportive giggle from Green Jen as mocking laughter, and generally continues to make this entire debate worth sitting through.

    Green Jen assures him she was laughing with him, not at him, and then the Marxist Leninist – who has been left out for the last half hour or so – reminds us that we can never forget who is taking advantage of our “natural wealth”. The running dog capitalists, that’s who! (Note: that was me, not him. But I’m sure it was the right answer.)

    […]

    8:52:50 PM
    A gotcha moment – a questioner who tells the panel that she likes both the Greens and the Liberals, but can’t help but notice that the only candidate with a reusable water bottle is Paul Dewar. What gives?

    The two of them both cop to bad optics – although each does her best to assure this is entirely uncharacteristic; Green Jen reuses glasses, bottles, you name it; Penny Collenette carries one with her everywhere she goes, but left it in her car.

    Brian McGarry, meanwhile, would like to interject the fact that both he and his wife drive hybrids; they plant over a thousand trees a year, and you know those “green funerals” you may have heard of? Well, stay tuned.

    If you want to know more, however, I’d suggest you check out the candidates’ webpages, since that will have all the information you could ever want on their respective positions.

  50. Thanks, Kady. I guess it’s a question of degree – hard for you, I’m sure, given that only Collenette seemed to have any concrete proposals (double CCA funding, $40 million to drug treatment, legislative changes to improve NCC). Leaning toward Dewar simply on the basis that Kitchissippi hasn’t had effective constituency people at all three levels of government for probably 20 years until just the past two years, and no one wants to rock that boat, I was very impressed with Collenette’s responses on the basis of what she said – not whether someone arched an eyebrow or not.

    I also enjoyed the cut-and-thrust, and loved reading this piece. It was very well written and in parts hilarious. But, ultimately voters deserve a more substantive treatment. Unfortunately, the trend of big media is to concentrate more on politics as theatre and gossip, and it;s left to people to try to muddle through the grunt work of analysis on their own.

    Again, thanks, Kady. I’ll read your posts in the spirit in which they were intended from now on.

  51. Sounds exciting Kady…
    Did McGarry wear Tina Fey glasses – just asking?
    As for McGarry turning into David Tilson…not possible…there is – and thank the Lord – there will never be more than one David Tilson!!
    In my former riding – Simcoe-Grey – (next door to Tilson’s) the Tory candidate – a Sarah Palin -like Helena Guergis – has indicated she will NOT participate in all candidate debates (I guess they won’t let her bring her crib notes this time)…

  52. Inmate – I’m not sure if I’ll have a chance to do another Ottawa Centre debate – the plan is to do one for every local riding, but annoyingly, there seem to be a lot of scheduling conflicts – but if I do, I’ll do my best to capture both substance *and* colour.

    I have to admit that, for me, the audience is often as fascinating as the candidates, since I so rarely get to see our politicians interacting with regular human beings. That’s probably why I tend to document every curl of the lip or round of slightly puzzled applause — it’s such a nice change from the events I normally cover.

  53. I can’t believe how the Liberals took such a solid Liberal riding, and then allowed the NDP to take them to the cleaners.

    Collenette seems to be “nice”, but doesn’t seem to be that assertive at all. Her and Paul Dewar seem to be like old buddies when on stage together.

    While it’s nice and heartwarming, I want to see an MP who is a bit tough. She’s not it.

    My vote sadly goes Green, because I can’t vote Conservative, and I surely can’t vote for Collenette. Wish Mac Harb was back.

  54. it sounds like the independents weren’t needed, as McGarry provided plenty of laughs! This is a perfect summary of the event, very cleverly written.

    Incidently, way up at the beg. of the post, there is a reference to “Penny Dewar”–hopefully there were no quick divorces and sudden elopment. Or perhaps it was an unintentional allusion to coalition? :)

  55. Great job of minute-by-minute reporting! It gives those folks who didn’t get in a taste of what took place. Once again, Ottawa Centre voters are blessed with a wide range of candidates on the ballot, and Kady’s reporting has helped me strike at least two names off my own list of possibilities. Plus, it was darn funny. Thanks for sacrificing your Sunday night so I didn’t have to.

    As for providing in-depth analysis AND play-by-play at the same time: don’t know how you’d manage it, short of cloning yourself or getting a colour commentator like they do on the sports shows. Too bad Harb’s busy in the Senate, he’d be perfect…

  56. I videotaped many of the responses and posted them here:
    http://ca.youtube.com/user/mikegifford

    There were some excellent questions there and great to see a live blog of the event.

    I didn’t tape the questions, so your blog will be quite useful to fill in the blanks.

  57. I liked the style and approach of this piece. I was suitably entertained.

  58. He said: “On proportional rep why didn’t any of the candidates just
    note that we’ve had at least three provincial referenda in the past
    few years (PEI, BC and Ontario) and that the voters have turned it
    down. Why is this still an issue?”

    That’s an odd question. Voters also voted out all kinds of Liberals and
    NDP last election – many with far worse showing than any proportional
    rep vote – yet the NDP and Liberals are “still an issue” this election.
    Are you saying that once something is “turned down”, voted out, defeated,
    we should just keep the winning idea for the rest of eternity?

    I expect even giving women the right to vote was defeated a bunch of
    times before it finally became law. Some good ideas just take longer
    to catch on. That’s why proportional representation is “still an issue”.

    * In 2000, 2.3 million Liberal voters in Ontario elect 100 Liberal
    MPs while the other 2.2 million Ontario voters elect only 3 MPs from
    other parties.

    * In 2004, more than 500,000 Green voters fail to elect a single MP
    anywhere, while fewer than 500,000 Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada
    alone elect 22 Liberal MPs.

    (*) Source: http://fairvote.ca/node/148

  59. Helena Guergis is far from the only incumbent who will skip all-candidates meetings. Having the incumbent bail on them is a long standing tradition in Canadian politics. Inevitably, their opponents will try to make hay of it, as in, “Ohhh – candidate X is afraid to debate!” And you know what? It usually doesn’t matter a bit, as the incumbent usually wins again anyway.

    Example — in 1997, I saw a Reform incumbent in my riding, Ted White, skip a big all-candidates meeting that had been organized by a community association with whom he had crossed swords. The community association was outraged, and all of the other candidates spent the entire evening clucking their tongues at how terrible it all was. Know what? No one else in the riding cared. He was re-elected handily, and as loathe as I am to admit it he was probably smart to skip a meeting at which he would have spent the night getting barbecued.

    All-candidates meetings are a total waste of time for a mainstream party candidate. There are no votes to be won at them – the room is packed to the rafters with partisans. Now, many of those partisans will show up at the microphones later, making a lame attempt at playing the part of an undecided voter. (An “undecided voter” who, quite by accident, happens to have a well scriped, loaded, gotcha-style question for one of the frontrunners.) The notion that a truly undecided voter has decided to spend his or her evening at a political forum to decide their vote is pure fiction, and always has been.

    At the end of the two or three hours of chanting, heckling, and catcalls, your candidate has wasted an entire evening that could have been spent door knocking, mainstreeting, or making calls. No campaign manager worth their salt would allow their candidate to waste too much of their time at those, especially if your candidate is the incumbent.

    If I am running the campaign of a mainstream party candidate, I would agree to do perhaps one of those meetings – the one that is run by the local community cable outlet. If it is on TV, there is at least a chance that an undecided voter might take the time to watch for a few moments. Besides, those ones are usually well run and moderated, and less likely to degenerate into the kind of partisan zoo the others can become. All the other meetings that are sponsored by various special interest groups in the riding could get lost.

  60. I’ve never attended an All Candidate’s meeting before. I think the live-blog resembled what I saw and heard, together with a lot of the follow up comments posted here. Its not supposed to be Hansard. I was staggered by the nature of McGarry’s comments. Collenette was out of her depth, the Green just as ineffective. All Dewar had to do was play it with a straight bat and he won hands down. We even had a a Court Jester in Akpata who kept us all amused.

  61. Apologies for my earlier postings. I was put off at the start by the expectation that just because we’re not living in the Press Gallery bubble, that our questions would be banal and off-topic. We take our politics seriously in this neck of the woods!

    Having had a coffee or three, I’m happy to acknowledge that this was a brilliant piece of writing which, when taken for what it is, was a wonderful capture of the evening’s events. It’s tempting to think that with material the likes of which McGarry was providing, that it should have been a cake walk, but Kady’s perspective was laugh-out-loud funny.

    For those of you who were there till the bitter end, I hope there’s some footage of the Young Tories boxing up their stuff. Classic.

    And, at the end of the day, the self-destructive McGarry replies and reaction to his audience are, after all, relevant. I don’t know how anyone could have witnessed his performance and come away thinking this guy has any business at all “at the table”. I don’t dislike Tories on principle – at all, actually – but in this case, I’m happy to make an exception. Looking forward to more blogs like these to see whether he’s an aberration, or if the Tories are running more of his ilk elsewhere.

  62. To add to Ian! D Allen’s point, here in BC the last referendum on electoral reform received 57.7% support among the electorate. (Just shy of the 60% required to pass) We’ll be having another referendum next May, and I would not be surprised to see the Yes side increase their share of the vote.

  63. Dewar will win the riding in a cakewalk. McGarry will come in second though..there are CPC lawn signs on my downtown street for the first time ever!

  64. For those who think Kady was biased against the Conservatives in her reporting – trust me, she was mild. Several of Brian’s comments drew open laughter and derision from the audience, and he was just defensive and off-point at the end. That EI/pregnancy comment was just offensive – there was a stunned silence from the crowd after that one. His comments about needing to elect a Tory to get anything done for the riding did not go down well, either.

    Before this debate, McGarry was a very distant 4th on my list. After this debate, he slipped to a very distant 5th, barely above the Marxist-Leninist party.

  65. Thank you for condensing a long evening into an enjoyable read. I sat through the entire thing and took notes, and I didn’t manage to get nearly as much detail in mine as you did in your blog, and mine wasn’t in the least bit funny. I was actually feeling a little depressed at the fact that a couple of the candidates hadn’t bothered to spend much time learning about the local issues, let alone some of the national ones. Then I read your blog today, and it made me laugh out loud. You reported on what happened accurately enough – people shouldn’t expect you to do the analysis for them. Keep it coming, Kady.

  66. I can’t believe how the Liberals took such a solid Liberal riding, and then allowed the NDP to take them to the cleaners.

    It wasn’t the NDP as a Party that won the riding as much as it was Ed Broadbent. Dewar got elected on Broadbent’s coattails, and was helped by having some last name recognition. Given that Collenette has been working the riding for the last two years, I think this one’s going to be pretty tight.

    And as for:
    McGarry will come in second though..there are CPC lawn signs on my downtown street for the first time ever!

    I’m going to go out on limb and guess that those signs are the ones outside his campaign office. Apart from those, McGarry is getting crushed in the sign war…he was the first one to get his signs up, but in terms of signs on private property, it’s pretty even between Dewar and Collenette.

  67. Yes Kady – the conservatives are definitely stacking the rooms. At last night’s all candidates meeting hosted by Ottawa City Councillors, the blue-clad right sat on the left (strangely), leaving the late-coming liberal contingent on the right. The cheers and whoops elicited from the crowd by regional Minister Baird’s stand-in – wunderkind Pierre Poilievre – was substantial and required polite intervention by the mediator. A real re-play of last week in Ottawa West Nepean where Baird brought a SEA of Conservatives who booed, hissed, and whooped on cue (even hissing down David Pratt’s mention of David Suzuki and Al Gore!?!).
    The downside of last night’s meeting – one question from the community, the rest from Councillors. The City of Ottawa really hogged the spotlight at this event – Paul Dewar acknowledged this and encouraged the crowd to come out to other events and ask away.
    The highlight – a guy wearing a chicken suit outside City Hall with the word ACCOUNTABILITY written on his chest, holding a sign wondering “Where’s John Baird?”.

  68. I too was concerned by the lack of knowledge that Kady displayed about the riding. If she is writing “Inside the Queensway”, she should realize that not only is Parliament Hill located inside the Queensway but so are a few hundred thousand people. Perhaps no more so than in Ottawa Centre are we affected by what the Federal Government does in its day to day operations. The Federal Government is our largest employer, one of our largest landowners and the single largest payer of property taxes (ok, they pay a grant in lieu of taxes which they set themselves). As such, our parks, streets and location of our hospitals are impacted by what the Feds do or don’t do.

    I would have to agree that Dewer and Colinette did well and it is Dewer’s riding to lose. It would be hard to vote conservative if you voted on the basis of the candidate.

    Regarding those looking for proportional representation, we’ve had it for the past 2 and 1/2 years and I don’t think that many on the left were happy with it. Instead of a bunch of small left wing parties controlling the what the Liberals or Conservatives could do, the Liberals backed up the Conservatives. As such, the past government actually was based on about 70% of the last vote. Even if the Greens had gotten a few seats, the Conservatives could still have ruled with the Liberals. Careful for what you wish for, it might not always turn out the way you want.

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