The new format election debate is both good and bad. It is good, because we do not hear three people talking simultaneously. A question was asked and everyone (Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe) were given chances to answer. So, everyone was getting fair bit of time in the process. But is it debate? no. Calling this a debate is a misnomer. No one was mounting real challenge. (though at time there were heated and direct finger-pointing).
However, I prefer this format to the old cacophony. (imagine all four of them shouting in French and their interpreters simultaneously add to the mayhem in English). This format could be bought near a traditional debate provided the moderator judiciously allows direct exchanges in appropriate places (when there is a real direct question and decent counterpoint to that), while ensuring everyone gets their time.
One question however is the presence of Gilles Duceppe. What is he doing here? He represents – not just a provincial part, with presence in no more than one province – but he is a sovereignist at it. It is not just that he does not stand a chance to become Canadian prime minister, but he simply loathe the very thought. What is he doing in a debate where everyone else harbours ambition towards it (NDP, at least theoretically)? He wants to be the nightmare of the next prime minister of Canada and here he is discussing (or rather spoiling the genuine discussions on) federal issues such as child care and foreign policy.
To cite an example; Duceppe was pouncing upon Harper on the issue of homosexual rights asking what is the necessity to open up the issue which is settled with public debate and everyone signing it. He was saying that homosexual rights are very much the part of Quebec and is settled. Period. Here is a guy who wants to open the Quebec independence issue that was decided on public referendum, joining the Liberal-NDP thrashing against Tories authoritatively driving home about a settled issue. The irony is that he is the only one who want to open the Quebec coffin that is decisively nailed.
On the other hand, his presence in the national debate, I tend to view, as reconciliation to the fact that Quebec is, and very much will be, the part of Canada.