Monday, December 19, 2005

Master Debaters!

There's been plenty blogged about the French and English debates last week. So I'll only add this:

On Friday night, I had a bet with Sarah Marchildon that Stephen Harper would say, "Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays." She thought he would just say "Merry Christmas."

She won the bet. (Though Harper did add, "... and a Happy New Year.")

Again, on Friday night, I wondered if Jack Layton would end his closing speech with a long P.C. list of holiday wishes - "Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah, etc." - or just the neutral, "Happy Holidays."

He didn't do either. All he said was Merry Christmas.

My conclusion from Harper and Layton's respective sign-offs? I think we're going to see another Liberal minority and I think we're going to see more NDP MPs sent back to the House of Commons this election.

If you think I'm reading way too much into this, you are absolutely correct. But Layton is doing exactly what the NDP needs him to do: Appear as if he is the confident leader of a mainstream party. The fact that he and his speechwriters didn't "overthink" the seasonal greeting tells me that they are focusing on more important issues -- and that the party's leadership has successfully moved away from the over-sensitive identity politics in which the Left was mired for so long.

As for Harper, this was a brief moment where he could have signalled that the Conservatives aren't "scary", that they can be sensitive and inclusive, that they embrace the multicultural nature of Canada, that they aren't the hidden-agendaed Christian activists they are so often portrayed as in the media... But he and his strategists didn't take advantage of it. A tiny wasted opportunity, but symptomatic of his larger image (and substance) problem and reluctance to play the game.

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