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Five notes on tonight’s (likely boring) provincial election debate

Five notes on tonight’s (likely boring) provincial election debate

This snooze of a provincial election will soon be over, but there remains one major piece of business: tonight’s debate (oh, and voting). Of course, recent news might just provide the ammunition for an all-out slugfest. But, really, we’re more likely to see Dalton McGuinty, Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath sticking to their talking points with a steadfast resolve, while viewers inevitably watch a real slugfest—or Glee—instead. Then again, debates don’t have to be thrilling in order to influence an election, and the stakes are certainly high. With that mind, here’s the skinny on what’s being said about what tonight could mean for the election race heading into the debate.

1. The race is extremely close. A Forum Research poll of 40,000 people found only 107 votes separated the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals. The numbers suggest that the province should see its first minority government in decades. Which all sounds like the makings of an exciting debate. But will it actually be? Source: Toronto Star (and 40,000 voters)

2. Hudak’s lack of experience means he’ll probably be focusing on survival, not victory. “We’re just trying to survive and get through it truthfully,” a Conservative staffer says of tonight’s debate. Meanwhile in the Star, a senior Tory adds, “We’re the rookie here. Dalton’s a seasoned pro, this will be his fourth time. We’re hoping to get through this debate and survive.” Sources: National Post and Toronto Star

3. Expect the leaders to stick to their talking points. Adam Radwanski points out that the debate’s 90-minute format means leaders have only to skim the surface of serious issues. Having more debates might fix this problem, but it’s not going to do any good now. Besides, scheduling one debate this election cycle was apparently difficult enough for broadcasters. Source: Globe and Mail

4. If the Northern Ontario “debate” is a sign of things to come… McGuinty’s absence from the Northern Ontario debate could have made for an entertaining two-way bout between Hudak and Horwath. Instead, Hudak and Horwath took shots at one another over the nuances of the HST. In other words, don’t count dull out. Source: Toronto Star

5. Slugfest or not, the candidates train like Muhammad Ali. The Star reports that Hudak has been practising for weeks with stand-ins for Horwath and McGuinty. McGuinty has done the same, with former attorney general Michael Bryant playing Hudak. Both leaders have even used stand-ins for moderator Steve Paikin. Horwath’s preparation, on the other hand, “has been hampered by a cold.” Source: Toronto Star

Ontario party leaders gear up for high-stakes debate [Toronto Star]How to watch a TV election debate: Look for stagecraft, not statecraft [Globe and Mail]Why it’s not so bad if this is the last televised Ontario leader’s debate [Globe and Mail]Will the Ontario leaders’ debate be a game changer or ‘pretty dull stuff’? [National Post]Live coverage: Sept. 27 Ontario leaders’ debate [CBC]

(Images: Tim Hudak, Ontario Chamber of Commerce; Andrea Horwath, NDP; Dalton McGuinty, Jennifer K. Warren)

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