The first Toronto Centre “Some Candidates” debate took place Wednesday evening November 13. Those who missed the debate will have a chance to see one of the replays.
The participants were:
Green Party Candidate – John Deverell
Conservative Candidate – Geoff Pollock
Liberal Candidate – Chrystia Freeland
NDP Candidate – Linda McQuaig
The other Toronto Centre candidates were excluded from the debates but did provide video statements introducing themselves after the four participating candidates had “gone home”.
In any event, here are some thoughts on the performances of the four participating candidates. In evaluating the debate, I did something I have never done before. I watched the debate twice:
The first time with the volume turned off so that I could only see the candidates.
The second time with the volume on so that I could see and hear the candidates.
It occurs to me that in the future I should also listen to the debate without seeing the candidates.
Here are my perceptions based on the following four categories of evaluation:
2. Visual without sound
3. Visual with sound
4. Overall content
I should also say that although the moderator was adequate, the moderation was not of the calibre of Dale Goldhawk (who has moderated Rogers debates in the past).
1. Expectations – whether rational or irrational
Goeff Pollock – Initial expectation low – He far exceeded my expectations (perhaps because my expectations were low).
John Deverell – Initial expectation neutral – On the one hand the Green Party has consistently attracted strong candidates, but I know nothing about Mr. Deverell. – He underperformed largely because he gave the same non-answer to every question (it all comes down to electoral reform).
Chrystia Freeland – Expectations high – She is/was the hand picked candidate of Justin Trudeau (on second thought, maybe that means I should have had a low expectation). My feelings about her are a now a bit more mixed for reasons I will explain in the summary.
Linda McQuaig – Expectations high – Celebrated author, journalist, etc. In my opinion (and this is only my opinion) this debate did NOT improve her chances of winning.
Moral of the story: The expectations one has of a candidate do influence one’s reaction to a debate performance.
Verdict: Perhaps unfair because the initial expectations were low, but Geoff Pollock is the one who was able to turn the level of expectations to his advantage.
2. Visual Without Sound
Geoff Pollock was the clear clear winner here. Why? He was the only one who looked at the audience. He talked to the audience. You won’t connect with somebody if you don’t look at them. There was nothing distracting about his clothes or demeanor. Neutral colours and calm demeanor.
John Deverell was the candidate most comfortable in his own skin. It’s too bad that he didn’t work harder at attempting to engage with the audience. Casual dress was consistent with a casual approach.
Chrystia Freeland – She was the loser here.
First, she was NOT looking at the audience.
Second, she needs fewer hand and head motions. This is NOT a boxing match.
Third, although red is the colour of the Liberal Party, not sure if it was the right colour for a television debate …
It was just too much visual stimulus.
Linda McQuaig – She was not looking at the audience. Something about her demeanor that seems unfriendly.
Verdict: Debate prep should include an analysis of body language. Geoff Pollock had the most to gain and he did gain. Chrystia Freeland had the most to lose, and she lost it.
3. Visual with sound
Geoff Pollock – Definitely held his own. Good voice, confident demeanor, respectful tone and by ignoring the other candidates he reinforced his connection with the audience.
John Deverell – The man has a strong, calming presence. The bad news it that he was the candidate who didn’t engage with the audience or with the other candidates.
Chrystia Freeland – Definitely redeemed herself. The head and hand movements (that are so irritating without sound) were transformed into enthusiasm and conviction. Still, she needs to remember that this is about connecting with the audience and not with the moderator or the other candidates.
Linda McQuaig – Cold and aloof. Gives impression that she is NOT there to engage but there to lecture (sorry but that’s my impression). Also, seemed more interested in engaging with Chrystia Freeland, when as the ad says:
“The audience is listening”.
Verdict: Chrystia Freeland and Geoff Pollock seemed to lead the other two candidates when the sound was on.
Goeff Pollock – Weak content. But did his job of being an enthusiastic and proud supporter of the Harper Government. “It’s about the jobs and economy stupid!”
John Deverell – There is good news and bad news. The good news is that he is absolutely right about the necessity of electoral reform and concern for the climate. The bad news is that other questions were asked which he made no attempt to answer. It’s about more than electoral reform and the environment.
Chrystia Freeland – As I write this, I have trouble remembering much of her content (perhaps John Deverell is right in giving the same answer to every question). But, I was left with the overall impression of somebody with reasonably “good judgment”. The last question of the evening was a “call in'” (probably a plant) that asked about her U.S. connection (subtext, are you the reincarnation of Michael Ignatieff?). She did a good job answering the question pointing out that fifty percent of Toronto residents have spent considerable time outside of Canada. She clearly anticipated that question.
Linda McQuaig – This woman (whether true or not) gives the impression of disliking the upper middle class and corporations. What this means is that as a candidate she has limited growth potential. She attempted to draw Chrystia Freeland into the two person debate that she sought. Both McQuaig and Freeland claim to want to help the middle class.
One has the impression that:
Freeland wants to focus on helping the middle class by strengthening the middle class.
McQuaig wants to help the middle class by hurting the upper middle class and corporations.
Final thoughts – Winners, losers and change of position
I don’t think there was a winner or loser of the overall debate (nor can there be). Nevertheless, I think that the candidates had varying degrees of success in achieving their objectives.
Geoff Pollock – Winner – He seemed credible as a candidate and by implication bolstered the Conservative Party
John Deverell – Loser – The job of the Green Party Candidate is to improve the stature of the Green Party relative to the other parties. By focusing on only one issue he failed to do this.
Chrystia Freeland – Winner – Her job was to demonstrate that she is a better candidate than Linda McQuaig. She didn’t need to perform well (and actually didn’t). She just needed to perform better than Linda McQuaig. She (in my opinion) achieved that.
Linda McQuaig – She needs to engage with the audience. She has at least three more chances to do that. Advice: A debate is about communication and communication is about dialogue.
Finally, these thoughts are nothing but my own.
Epilogue – came across this video report after having written the above:
- Linda McQuaig plays the ‘Just Visiting’ card against Chrystia Freeland (torontocentredebates.wordpress.com)
- @CAFreeland @GeoffPollock @LindaMcQuaig invited to true “All” Candidates debate (torontocentredebates.wordpress.com)
- Father Rayond J. DeSouza – Time for ecomics debate in #TorCen election (torontocentredebates.wordpress.com)
- Liberal byelection candidate Chrystia Freeland is still thinking about the U.S. (o.canada.com)
- Canada’s Charter of Rights – Political Debates and #TorCen Debates (torontocentredebates.wordpress.com)
- What would Jack Layton say about @LindaMcQuaig push for two-person debate? (torontocentredebates.wordpress.com)
- Toronto Centre NDP candidate claims opponents are avoiding debate (torontocentredebates.wordpress.com)