Live-blogging the NDP Halifax debate

2:16pm. Candidates get 90 seconds for closing statements. They should get five.

Mr. Mulcair name drops Alexa McDonough, Darrell Dexter and Robert Chisholm. He says the NDP must present a “credible” alternative, move “forwards not backwards” (and always twirling, twirling?) and “reach out to those who haven’t supported us in the past.”

Mr. Dewar quotes Tommy Douglas, says the party must “go to the next level” and “build up the grassroots” so that it can “take on the next 70 seats.” He pitches unity and harmony, to realize “Tommy’s dream” and form a government that champions taking “better care of each other.”

Ms. Nash asks “who is the person to bring all this together?” “We need someone with real world experience,” she says, detailing her work at the bargaining table, negotiating child care and same-sex benefits. Says the party needs “real world builder,” referencing the NDP’s success in Toronto and a “proven builder,” referencing her time as party president.

Mr. Topp describes himself as a “bilingual Quebecer who has worked across this country,” who worked closely with Jack Layton as the party built over the last seven years and who worked at the heart of a fiscally responsible NDP government that was reelected four times (he doesn’t say so, but he means Saskatchewan). He says New Democrats don’t have to be Liberals, that, as New Democrats, they can defeat Stephen Harper and, as New Democrats, they can get the job done.

And that’s that. Much better show than the first outing in Ottawa. More discussion to be had on finances, still a bit short on specifics and serious debates (picking on Mr. Cullen is a bit too easy), but this sets up an interesting two months.

2:15pm. And now the candidates have 15 seconds each to explain what practical steps they’d take to ensure the OAS system is sustainable. Because apparently that’s an easy question to answer.

2:09pm. So that was two questions for Mr. Mulcair, two questions for Mr. Dewar, two questions for Mr. Cullen, one question for Mr. Topp and one question for Mr. Singh. Ms. Nash, Ms. Ashton and Mr. Saganash go unchallenged. Make of that what you will.

2:05pm. And now Ms. Nash goes after Mr. Cullen on the same topic. Mr. Cullen is undaunted. The crowd in Toronto a couple weeks ago really liked Mr. Cullen. He was charming and funny and smooth. And then he had to defend this idea and there were grumbles and boos. He just won a little applause here, but I’m starting to think he’s the NDP’s Ron Paul: generally liked by all and enthusiastically supported by a certain group of people who like his idea, but ultimately held back by that idea.

2:02pm. Mr. Mulcair challenges Mr. Cullen on joint nomination meetings and accuses him of lowering his expectations and “not believing” in the NDP. Mr. Cullen says “no one” can question his “faith.” He also endorses a mixed-member proportional system, winning illicit applause from the crowd.

1:59pm. Mr. Saganash says Mr. Topp’s proposal to raise personal income taxes would make the NDP vulnerable to Conservative attacks. Mr. Topp says the NDP “needs to get on the ice,” take on the Conservatives and win this argument. Mr. Saganash says he agrees with Mr. Topp on corporate taxes and capital gains, but would rather go after subsidies and boutique tax credits. (Editor’s note: Wouldn’t rescinding all those boutqiue tax credits win you as much scorn from the Conservatives?) Mr. Topp says the tax system is regressive and it needs to be fixed.

1:56pm. Mr. Singh goes after Mr. Dewar on costing his platform. Mr. Dewar says he’s in favour of “tax justice.” Apparently this means closing loopholes, a financial business tariff and rescinding the corporate tax cuts. Mr. Singh says he needs to explain the costing of his platform. Mr. Dewar says he has.

1:52pm. Mr. Cullen challenges Mr. Dewar on gender equality and the fact that Mr. Dewar named Charlie Angus his deputy leader. Mr. Dewar says the party currently has two deputy leaders and “stay tuned.” Mr. Cullen wonders why he picked another Ontario MP and why he made the choice so soon. Mr. Dewar defends the choice as a wise one. This business of naming Mr. Dewar naming Mr. Angus his deputy is a small point, but not an uninteresting one.

1:50pm. Mr. Dewar goes after Mr. Mulcair on bulk water exports. Mr. Mulcair seems to sidestep. Mr. Dewar tries again. Mr. Mulcair states categorically he’s opposed to bulk water exports and he chastises Mr. Dewar for challenging him on this front. That was fun.

1:47pm. The candidates get a chance to ask another candidate a question. Mr. Topp asks Mr. Mulcair if Mr. Mulcair agrees with Mr. Topp’s tax proposals. Mr. Mulcair avoids it. Mr. Topp asks Mr. Mulcair about capital gains taxes. Mr. Mulcair almost seems to agree with him, but then seems to hedge.

1:43pm. A couple points on process. Dan Leger is being a more activist moderator, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, the audience has apparently been instructed to withhold applause. At the risk of agreeing with Newt Gingrich, I’d rather hear how the crowd reacts. It’s helpful—at least for my selfish purposes—for judging how well the candidates can engage an audience. As it is, we can only tell which candidates tell the best jokes (the crowd is apparently allowed to laugh).

1:37pm. Suffice it to say, everyone here is in favour of a more activist federal government when it comes to health care, pensions and child care. Also: Paul Dewar was once a stay-at-home dad.

1:32pm. Mr. Singh challenges Mr. Cullen on joint nominations. Mr. Cullen doesn’t back down: the choice is apparently eight years of Stephen Harper or joint nominations with other progressive parties. Mr. Mulcair seems unpersuaded.

1:29pm. If the NDP ever launches a late night talk show, Nathan Cullen will be the frontrunner to host it.

1:24pm. On cue, Mr. Topp mentions paying for all this. Ms. Ashton says rescind the corporate tax cuts. And then the discussion wanders off to other matters.

1:20pm. The candidates are asked what they wouldn’t cut from the budget and what they would. Few of them seem prepared to answer the latter. Mr. Topp says rescind the corporate tax cuts and tax the top one percent. Niki Ashton seems to suggest she’d cut the military. Romeo Saganash says he’d cut the money spent fighting aboriginal rights. Mr. Dewar identifies a $24-million contract awarded to a private firm for advice on streamlining government and says he’d cut the money spent on consultants. Martin Singh seems to sidestep this question, except to say he’d link corporate tax cuts to employing young people. Mr. Mulcair says companies shouldn’t be allowed to use the oil sands as a dumping ground and that he’d introduce cap-and-trade. Nathan Cullen says he’d rescind subsidies to the oil sector (or corporate tax cuts?) and stop imposing costs on the provinces. Ms. Nash says she’d target tax havens. Somewhere in all that is the debate Mr. Topp wants to have: how are you going to pay for the things you want to do?

1:08pm. There’s Thomas Mulcair’s pitch: I’ll hold Quebec and make gains elsewhere. There’s Brian Topp’s pitch: I’ll fight Stephen Harper and we’ll win as New Democrats.

1:05pm. Peggy Nash goes with a pop culture reference. The Prime Minister is Leave It To Beaver. She’s Modern Family. Leaves a big opening for the next Liberal leader to claim the Cosby Show.

1:01 pm. Paul Dewar opens with a Peter MacKay joke. Well played.

1:00pm. And we’re off, sadly minus one of those Monday Night Football openings that CNN uses for the Republican debates. I was kind of looking forward to each candidate being introduced with an over-simplified gimmick or nickname.

The second official debate of the NDP leadership race starts at 1pm EST. CPAC and the CBC are carrying the debate live on television and you can stream the debate online via the NDP, CPAC or the CBC.

Our live-blog will commence shortly.

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