Wall, Broten project distinct images during Sask. leaders' debate: political panel

Today, CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning challenged its political panel to drill down a little deeper to find meaning in the lone debate ahead of the vote on April 4.

Political panel pushes past bickering

Saskatoon Morning's political panel offers thoughts on the debate between NDP leader Cam Broten and Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall. (The Canadian Press)

The takeaway from last night's debate is that there was a lot of bickering.

The instinct, I think, is to almost hit mute.- Political science professor Charles Smith

Today, CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning challenged its political panel to drill down a little deeper to find meaning in the lone debate ahead of the vote on April 4.

The panel comprises University of Saskatchewan political science professor Charles Smith and Greg Poelzer, the executive chair of the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development.

"There was a lot of scrappy debate and discussion, I guess," said Smith.

"There was some image politics going on that probably gave Mr. Wall an edge."

Poelzer said both men projected distinct images.

"I think the premier's demeanour was very premier-like and very statesman-like and I think there [were] two Cam Brotens on the stage.

"There [were] times when he was friendly and personable, but most of the debate he had the demeanour — he was the angry Cam Broten — and when he stepped away from the podium towards Brad Wall, I don't think that played well," added Poelzer.

A poll mirrors the panel's opinion. Conducted by Mainstreet Research for Postmedia, it showed that 56 per cent of debate-watchers thought that Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall had done a better job, while just 32 per cent gave the nod to NDP Leader Cam Broten.

"When you looked at the scraps, it tended to be initiated by Cam Broten to talk over top or to try to talk over top … it came across as angrier and angrier," said Poelzer.

Brad Wall and Cam Broten took part in a leaders' debate Wednesday night in Regina. (CBC)

In the end, the panel agreed that the night did not represent failure for Broten. Both men, however, doubt it was the sort of performance needed for the NDP to make a breakthrough in this election.

Perhaps the biggest loser of the night, according to Saskatoon Morning's panel, was the debate itself. 

For Smith and Poelzer, the wide-open format just didn't work.

"The instinct, I think, is to almost hit mute, because you are just not getting any substance out of that," Smith said.

"That was tough. I think to have the open debate format probably didn't work well," added Poelzer.

Who else is running?

The narrow focus drew criticism from Smith. He argued that all registered parties in this provincial election should have more of a voice, and should have been included in a debate.

"Most Saskatchewanians probably don't know who the leaders of those parties are which just reinforces the disadvantage that they already have. But having said that, if you are going to do that, I think there needs to be more debates and more discussions."

with files from Saskatoon Morning