Does anyone else have the general feeling that Martin lost the election last night at the English-language debate? I mean, he started out okay; he tried to deflect the jabs Harper, Duceppe, and even Layton were sending his way. He was righteously indignant about hi sgovernment's role in Adscam, and tried to redirect debate to more important issues.
And then he dropped the C-bomb. Constitutional reform, in the form of removing the notwithstanding clause to protect charter rights. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it's probably a good idea: the Charter of Rights and Freedoms isn't something that members of Parliament should be able to remove things from willy-nilly, and it's a good move to prevent people like Stephen Harper performing acts like removing same-sex marriage from the Charter.
But at this stage of the game, the announcement stinks of last-minute Liberal desperation and people are going to notice this. Not to mention the idea of constitutional change is not necessarily a vote-winner. Martin is grasping at some pretty thin straws with this move (as some of the commentators pointed out directly after the debate, a constitutional change such as this requires unanimous assent from both Parliament and the provinces), and it's a very late response to Harper's assertion that he'll put same-sex marriage to a free vote in Parliament (and, in my opinion, a wrong-minded response. Martin's response should have been that same-sex marriage has already been debated by the Supreme Court of Canada, and that their decision is final).
Harper was his usual evil-robot self during the debate. At one point, I'm sure I saw him wandering around the debate room floor, red eyes glowing, chanting "ROBOT DESTROY, ROBOT DESTROY." He stumbled a bit, surely, especially on issues of the notwithstanding clause and tax cuts (the working poor don't pay taxes? This is news to me. Unless you're making less than $8950, you're paying taxes). He didn't dissuade me from thinking he's pure evil, but he did hold himself relatively well in the debate.
Layton (poor Layton) also did quite well in the debate, though I fear his performance pretty much went unnoticed in the pissing contest between the Bloc, Conservative, and Liberal leaders. The NDP has always felt like the young sibling of the Liberals and Conservatives. They have good ideas, some pretty sound policies, and are generally looking out for the family as a whole; but they are drowned out by their older siblings, struggling to get any kind of attention from the Canadian public. It's a shame, really, because I think that Canada under the NDP would really flourish.