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Leaders English language debate in Montreal

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe. Liberal Leader Paul Martin and NDP Leader Jack Layton, left to right, reach out to shake hands at the English leaders' debate, Jan. 9, 2005 in Montreal.. (CP photo)
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Jack Layton, Liberal Leader Paul Martin and Bloc Qu�b�cois Leader Gilles Duceppe squared off for the second of two English-language debates on Monday night.

Here are some of your thoughts on how the debate went and who were the winners and losers.

Your letters:

As Stephen Harper's Stock rises, little or no discussion is being undertaken in the mass media on his recent broken election pledge. He simply evaded the question in last night�s debate.

Mr. Harper was clear at the commencement of his campaign that he would maintain the Martin government tax cuts for 2005 and into 2006. Now that he has in mind targeted groups for a wealth of tax cuts the lower income earners are being left in the cold - shades of the Mulroney years.

Senior citizens are now dreading just how many more broken pledges there will be once he has a comfortable majority government.

We have calculated that we need to spend $40,000 a year to save enough on a 2% cut in GST to gain the same tax break under the Martin tax cut. Clearly a sum we can't afford.

—Brian Martin | Elora, ON

To me, the national child-care system can be as important to Canada as the public health care system. Regulated child-care can bring profound changes in our society. It can also reduce poverty in the long term. Citizens need their politicians to concentrate their energy on this issue. It is vitally important.

—Marie Rahman | Toronto, ON

Many lives have been saved by not joining the Iraq war and billions of dollar have been saved by not entering the missile defence. We should give the Liberals a second chance.

—Joe Chau | Toronto, ON

I am a bilingual (English and French speaking) Canadian woman who has lived exactly half of my life - the most recent and most productive part, in Quebec. I recently moved to Lethbridge, Alberta to take a university teaching position here.

If I had my way, I would be able to "cherry pick" the strongest policies that each party has to offer. Why can't there be more cooperation in policy development? Each party does have some good ideas that could work in concert with those of other parties but none has it all covered.

I would like to hear a reiteration of the fundamental importance of the separation of church and state, a reassertion of human rights, and a head-on address of bigotry and racism in every corner of the country.

There are issues that are very important to me that are never adequately addressed by any party vying for power.

We need a real, urgent, immediate and concrete plan to protect and sustain the environmental health of water, soil, and ecosystems in this country. Poverty among children and First Nations people must be addressed with concrete solutions. Urban planning, land use and environmental intelligence in our big cities must be a federal issue. And, finally, same-sex couples should once and for all be offered not only the right to "go live together and shut up about it", but full equality before the law, to raise families if we choose, and to share our benefits in peace with our nearest and dearest, not because this is a gay country, but because that is the only decent way to treat fellow humans, gay or straight.

—Annie Martin | Lethbridge, AB

I find it terrifying that the Conservatives are leading in the polls and threaten to form the next Government of Canada. Has everyone forgotten Brian Mulroney? Harper has gone on record stating that he has met with Mulroney and asked his advice!

The Mulroney decade left us in a huge mess. Then he jumped ship before the Conservatives were annihilated in the next election.

Harper has made so many financial promises but does not propose how he will pay for them.

Our country is in good shape. The Liberals have brought us back from the brink of disaster.

Thank you for allowing Canadians to sound off.

—Kathryn Seaker | BC

I watched the debate as was not surprised to see how flustered Paul Martin was. He did not answer any question fully and he always managed to change the subject or criticize Mr Harper or the other candidates.

I hope our people will see the damage the Liberals have done to our country. It is time for Canadians to demand to know where our tax dollars are going, and put Paul Martin out to pasture.

It is time for a change.

—Jackie Scott | Holland Landing, ON

If Mr. Martin truly wants to be known as a leader, then perhaps he should actually lead!

On the not withstanding clause issue he continuously claims the high ground while deriding the Conservatives on this. Mr. Martin is so quick to say what a human rights activist he is by enshrining same-sex marriage, which was already allowed by law in this country. What he actually did was find a way to take away part of my identity as a white heterosexual man with a wife and kids.

Where are my rights? Who is standing up for the rest of the 95% or so of the heterosexuals who believe that marriage is sacred and should have been protected?

Mr. Martin, your tactics are old, your party is bloated on years of trough-feeding and it is time for a real change. You do not have my values. You do not speak for me or my family. You speak as and act as a ruling class aristocracy that we should not have as a democratic society.

Mr. Harper has a vision, has integrity. I hope that you can understand that you were given a mandate and have been found lacking in several ways Mr. Martin. Next time, perhaps you should get in touch with the rest of the country and find out what a wonderful nation you actually live in!

—James Dondo | Winnipeg, MB

I tuned into last night's debate to see if any of the leaders could persuade me to vote for them. I've been toying with the idea of a Conservative vote simply because of the Liberals' actions over the past several years.

However, I'm afraid Mr. Harper lost any chance of my vote last evening. He was pointedly accused by Martin of supporting the American Republican agenda here in Canada. I waited with baited breath for Harper's rebuttal. Even the moderator rephrased Martin's attack before putting it to Harper. Unfortunately, Harper took the coward's way out. He wrapped himself in the Canadian flag, and in no way did he rebut the accusation.

By not doing so, he avoided the question that I was waiting to be answered. By not doing so, he left me to assume that Martin's accusation was correct. How else could I take it?

Sorry, Mr. Harper. You had a good shot at another vote. You lost it. I'm still unsure where to put my X, but it will not be in support of the Conservative agenda.

—Deborah Burton | Mount Pearl, NL

The Liberals cannot be trusted. It was the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau that in 1982 agreed to the notwithstanding clause in order to reach agreement on the Constitution. Now, Martin wants to pull the plug on the very item that guaranteed the Constitution's existence and protects all Canadians from a high court that seems to be headed in its own direction.

On top of all the scandals, this statement is the final nail in the coffin of mistrust that the Liberals have built since 1993.

—Brian Furtney

Why were there no questions on climate change when throughout the country (and the world) we see an unprecedented warming trend? There are floods in California, wildfires in Texas, cold weather deaths in India, heavy snowfall in Europe and Japan, and large climactic instability caused by human activity.

People are shot in Toronto even though crime rates nationally are down and everyone talks about crime. I�m not saying that crime is less important, but crime affects the current mood the society; sustainability of the planet will affect the future viability of the economy and the viability of the spending and tax cut pledges all parties have made.

They are each different and very important for the viability of Canadian Society.

—D. Tam | Toronto, ON

Gilles Duceppe would like to renegotiate the terms between Canada and Quebec (which is essentially a contract) because he feels the "contract" is unfair and one-sided.

Given his assertion for fairness, then how come Quebec will not renegotiate the Upper Churchill deal with Newfoundland and Labrador whereby Quebec makes billions of dollars from a Labrador resource, while the people of Newfoundland and Labrador receive only a pittance?

This is an example of Quebec wanting its cake and eating it too. Will the BQ push to have Quebec renegotiate the Upper Churchill contract?

—Stephen Green

Rather then another debate, I propose that we change it to a speech that must be available in print and online so we can compare the parties.

The speech would be required to cover certain major topics such as security, education, economy, health, homelessness, trade, aid, aboriginal issues, nationalism, three levels of government working together, infrastructure, environment, crime, disaster preparedness, fiscal imbalance, arts and sports and then a few of their own choice topics.

I believe many that do not vote now would have a great deal of information available and to compare.

—Lea | Vancouver, BC

It's too bad Layton backs the wrong party.

He's the most believable fellow, and the best international Canadian representative, hands down.

But his social programs would scare business away and bankrupt Canada. At best, Harper will win a minority, the Liberals will clean up their act, then Harper will screw up one too many times, and then another election will bring a Liberal majority and continued growth in Canada. A tough few years ahead, I'm afraid.

—Rodney | Williams Lake, BC

It bothers me that we should be discussing which leader won the debate. I feel very strongly that these debates go only so far as to reflect how disconnected our leaders are from the country.

While no one can deny that the leaders feel their hearts are in the right place, it disgusts me that our politicians are playing with Canadians� future while they jockey themselves into position for election.

The philosophy of �politics of the moment� rather than �politics of the future� is destroying the fabric of this country! Why as a society do we continue to accept the masks that our politicians feed us?

If we greatly injure ourselves, do we not accept the surgery to repair the damage rather than swallow the pills, which only mask the pain? Why then do we accept the notion that our leaders can repair Canada�s failing system of healthcare when the solution is to hire more physicians that do not exist? Would it not serve this country to invest in the prevention of disease rather then the greater expenses associated with cures?

It is time to elect those scientists, engineers, and economists (not politicians) who hold the actual knowledge required to govern this country and who do not concern themselves with playing political games! Vote the Green Party!

—Nick Boileau | Whitby, ON

As I read the comments defending the Liberal attitude of Canadian parents I am absolutely outraged. You cannot convince me in any way that children are better off having strangers raise them than a stay at home parent.

I have a university education and my husband and I came to the decision that we wanted me to stay home with them until school. I CHOSE to have children; I CHOSE to stay at home and make do with one income. I CHOSE to not have the fancy house or new car or yearly vacation.

Most double income parents CHOOSE to work; CHOOSE the extras they enjoy. This is their right as I have mine. The government should not reward one parents' choice over another. Are we encouraging more parents to seek daycare?

And as for beer and popcorn? If we receive $1200/yr x 2 children until age 6 and let that accumulate until they graduate high school that will pay for a good portion of their post-secondary education. We'll have at least $20000.

Now don't you think if every child had $10000 towards education our country would be a lot better off? This is a plan for the future so our children's children will experience less poverty.

—Jaime Lynch | Surrey, BC

Voting for Stephen Harper is, in our opinion, voting for another Brian Mulroney. What you see is not what you get. Be ready for some big surprises if the Conservatives get in.
Don't forget which party brought us the GST and the Free Trade Agreement.

Vote for Steven Harper and his Conservative Party, and you'll get a big military budget (like the USA) - and the next thing you know our country will be heading into battle alongside our American neighbours.

We will be abandoning our peacekeeping role, admired throughout the world and will be responding to the American political agenda. If Stephen Harper's Conservatives had been in power when the Americans invaded Iraq, do you think he would have said NO to American pressure to become directly involved? By now, we would have hundreds of Canadian families grieving the loss of their sons and daughters, in a terrible war, which the United Nations and most of the world, does not support.

The Conservatives are only free enterprisers when it suits them. Some of the worst government spending and giveaways to corporations have sprung out of Conservative politics. As well, public institutions such as universities have had to pass on the increased costs to people who can least afford it, such as students.

Since much of the conservative platform is inspired by right-wing American politics, be prepared for the increased privatization of our health care, in one way or another. Studies have shown, over and over, around the world, that private healthcare does not deliver better or cheaper services for the public.

Don't be fooled by a few tax cuts and baby bonuses trotted out to tempt us - like candy being thrown for children in a parade. Watch out for the Stephen Harper Conservative agenda. History has shown that the Conservatives are good at taking down programs and institutions, that temporarily save some money, but create a void that is always expensive to deal with, and these public supports are usually impossible to rebuild.

—Guy and Charlene Pierce | Marshall, SK

The debate last night was a clear format for the big four to present their plans for Canada. So, here is what I saw from them last night - Duceppe wants to break up the country and make Quebec a sovereign nation, so I will forget about him.

Harper is a dull man with no vision for one of the best countries in the world, he has no leadership abilities to rally the country and lead the nation into the 21 st century, a wannabe leader with a messy, take some tax - give some tax agenda that includes selling Canada out to the Americans.

Paul Martin is a man who can't be trusted, he has used his tax business savvy to make millions of dollars for his once owned shipping company while flying the Liberian flag and taking advantage to line his pockets with hidden tax holes in other countries, however, he has proved that he can keep the financial books of the country in the black.

—Christopher Healy | Toronto

Monday night's debate at times reached unprecedented levels of triviality. The greater part of the forum was misused, serving solely as a battleground on which Paul Martin and Stephen Harper could carry on with their childish personal quarrel.

It seemed as though Mr. Martin in particular was loath to acknowledge the existence of Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe. Conversely, Harper merely trudged on robotically, stopping only to grin inappropriately while discussing such topics as murder and job losses. Naturally, he is leading the polls.

There were however some bright spots, notably the strong will and dedication to our country and its people conveyed by Mr. Layton, as well as the effectiveness of Mr. Duceppe's ability to get under Paul Martin's skin.

Perhaps we as a nation need to review the facts and consider the potential of a New Democrat government. Its time we recognize the NDP for their contribution to our nation, which has been overshadowed by the leaching Liberals, and give them a chance to run this country armed with an agenda that genuinely reflects the values and needs of real Canadians.

Thomas Skabar | Amherst, Nova Scotia

Monday's english debate was a little less dry than the last round of debates for sure. This was a do or die for Paul Martin and if you asked me, I think he pulled it off.

Harper finally is able to come across as a more down to earth and 'hip' Conservative leader which will appeal younger voters.

Layton still has that car salesman look, but if one listened to what he said, they might actually vote NDP. He stood his ground and did not commit to supporting any minority government and even distanced himself with the Grits and Tories. Sorta like the little man syndrome... I like it!

Duceppe, came in with no much to prove or lose. Recent polls said the bloc was down in popularity but will probably end up with 60 seats in the commons. He is wrong on one thing. The Qu�bec that joined confederation was nothing more than Lower Canada and a strip of land along the St-Laurence. I think the issue of 'you can split Canada but you can't split Qu�bec' is open for interpretation.

Winner: Steve Paikin. I think if he were to be on every Canadian's ballot, he would get the most votes.

—Jean-Marc Cousineau | Ottawa

Notably Mr. Martin's comments that a Liberal government would attempt to amend the Constitution to prevent federal use of the notwithstanding clause caught our attention.

In my opinion Mr. Martin's commitments to the above noted change is unfavourable as I believe it is a way that the legislatures, federal and provincial, can secure that the final say is retained by the elected representatives of the people rather than by the courts.

—Kim Lidbetter | Richmond, Ontario

There was no winner in the debate last night. Martin spluttered and fumed handsomely. Harper tried and failed to hide the smirk that kept emerging, he must have been thinking of the polls. Layton's demeanor ached with sincerity but his words added nothing new to the discussion and Duceppe, whose eyes were glued open by his handlers so he could stay awake during this debate which essentially meant nothing to his voters, piped up every once in a while with sarcastic phrases and nuanced facial tics.

There was, however, a clear loser; our nation lost. None of these boys playing in the sandbox of our future had anything meaningful to say about the directions needed to maintain the integrity of this great nation.

I was mostly saddened by the futility of the exercise and worried for all of Canada.

—Harvey Ostroff | Surrey, B.C.

There was only one leader who was looking the prime ministerial part and that was clearly our former Prime Minister Paul Martin. Stephen Harper was his usual woody over-controlled unemotional robotic self, and Jack Layton, well, his mousy demeanor was hardly statesman-like and to be sure no manner for a future Prime Minister.

The passion that flowed from Martin was all I needed to decide where I am parking my vote --with someone who shares the same love of country as I and the rest of my family does.

Martin and his insistence on elevating the debate to a higher ground gave him the heads-up in this debate and the election, leaving the others to roll in the mud they are all too good slinging.

—Giles d'Agenais | Toronto

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