The following article submission was suggested by Young Canadians Vote contributor Deanna McArthur. The article is an excerpt of a piece which appeared in the Metro News chain. To view the full article click here.
OTTAWA – The fireworks lighting up the Ottawa sky across the street from Wednesday’s feisty French-language leaders’ debate provided the exclamation point to a colourful, explosive evening.
Four federal party leaders sparred across a broad canvas of Canadian issues, touching on everything from crime and punishment to health care, tax policy and U.S. political imports.
On the line were Quebec’s coveted 75 seats, fully a quarter of the seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives held 11 of them at dissolution, and desperately need to hang on to them.
But it was a blast from the past that truly lit up the 1970s-style debate studio in the same grand old Ottawa rail station that once housed the failed 1990 Meech Lake constitutional deliberations.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff tried to wrap himself in the Canadian flag, suggesting at one point that Quebecers are no longer concerned about the country’s long-standing constitutional battles.
“Nobody ever talked to me about the Constitution; nobody ever mentioned it,” Ignatieff said of his extensive travels through Quebec last summer.
“Quebecers are concerned about other issues.”
“In 2011 it doesn’t matter anymore? Is that what you’re saying?” he said.
“That’s the same thing Pierre Trudeau was saying back in 1976.”
The fiery exchange allowed Prime Minister Stephen Harper to get off perhaps his best line of an evening otherwise dominated by his opponents. The Conservative leader has been pounding on the hypothetical scenario of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition throughout the election campaign.
“Imagine, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, looking directly into the camera, “another minority parliament with these three parties trying to form a government.
“The same old constitutional and linguistic squabbles.”
After Tuesday’s comparatively stiff and staid English debate — which pundits appeared to give Harper on points — the four party leaders ramped up the rhetoric in a two-hour French-language donnybrook.
Not even the resonant boom of the fireworks, clearly audible in the studio as they celebrated the debut of the new Ottawa Conference Centre next door, could drown out the exchanges.
Ignatieff, looking more animated and engaged than he did in his maiden debate, got into several pitched battles with his rivals, notably Duceppe and NDP Leader Jack Layton.
Harper frequently appeared to be the odd man out.
“The battle, I think, was between Mr. Duceppe and Mr. Ignatieff,” said Guy Lachapelle, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal.
“If I had to guess tonight, I would probably say that Mr. Ignatieff goes and gets the hearts of those traditional (Quebec) Liberals …. But it’s a very divided house.”
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