13 September 2013

Moments from the Liberal Debate #nlpoli

Here are some quick observations from the Thursday night Liberal leadership debate on VOCM:
Best Opening:  Danny Dumaresque.  It is not what he said but how he said it.  Dumaresque’s experience as a public speaker shone through as he skipped over the endless and needless “thank you”s to launch into his speech.

People who were bored by the first few speakers got entertained all of a sudden as Dumaresque told a story.  The others could learn a lot by listening to Dumaresque.

Best Closing:  Jim Bennett.  He stole from Bob Rae and fumbled the story as he told it but Jim Bennett elicited the first laugh from the audience and gained spontaneous applause as he wrapped up. 

The story he told was about how Rae defined Liberals in comparison to New Democrats and Conservatives.  The party on the left knows how to distribute the pie but they are lousy at making them.  Conservatives make lovely pies but the won’t share.  Liberals on the other hand can made decent pies and make sure that everyone gets their fair share.

What the story did was give people a definition of the Liberal ideals that other people can accept as their own.  That stands in stark contrast to the others who talked about themselves. The technique Jim Bennett used entertains the audience, drawing them in as it tells them a story.  The technique invites people to join in or associate themselves with the image without being really crass about it.

Most interesting idea:  Asked about unfunded liability in public sector pensions, Jim Bennett suggested turning the pensions over to the unions to manage.  Other provinces have done it, creating significant pools of private sector investment cash in the process of getting the liability off the public books. 

Expect the Conservatives to be pissed they didn’t think of it first. The New Democrats will likely line up to criticise it because the idea would force the union leaders to be accountable to their own members rather than pawn off the blame for the mess on others.

Most Skillful Kill Shot: Talk all you want about the fact that this debate was tame and people didn’t talk over each other.  Right after Cathy Bennett proclaimed her love of openness and transparency, Dwight Ball asked her why she didn’t insist on that when she was chair of Nalcor during the Muskrat Falls debate.

He asked a simple question in a calm voice but it was the speed of the blow that stood out.  Ball hit so fast that all Bennett could do was suck air. The silence was audible.  Given a chance to respond by the moderator, Bennett declined.  She was dead before she knew what hit her.

Early on,  your humble e-scribbler said that Ball need to show there was steel inside the velvet glove. Well, there is and it has a scalpel’s edge to it.  Ask Cathy Bennett.

Most embarrassing moment:  A tie.  At one point, Cathy Bennett claimed that Nalcor’s consolidated, condensed annual report that lumps together the financial performance of the parent company and all its subsidiaries told people all they needed to know.  That elicited groans and laughter from the audience who recognised it for the bullshit it was.  Danny Dumaresque scored on Bennett on the same issue.  The whole thing was painful to watch.

The second most embarrassing moment came when Dwight Ball and Paul Antle faced off about Labrador.  Antle said he would create a Labrador Affairs secretariat to make sure that the region’s interests were always looked after.

Like no government before had done that.

In reply, Ball quietly explained that in the way government is organized, a secretariat is less than a department and that the current administration already had a minister at the cabinet table representing Labrador affairs.  making a secretariat for Labrador be a step backward.  Ball didn’t come off as a condescending know-it-all but he made it plain that Antle was out of his depth.  Antle recovered but he was still left holding the bleeding stump of his dignity.