Live: The Liberal Not-A-Debate in Winnipeg

The leadership candidates enjoy a series of casual chats
Buttons promoting Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau are seen on a table for guests prior to the party’s first leadership debate in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday January 20, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Liberals are holding their leadership debate (or, rather, their first series of “Davos-style” conversations with the candidates) in Winnipeg this afternoon. Each of the contenders will sit down for an 11-minute conversation with Harvey Locke, the Liberal candidate in last year’s Calgary Centre by-election.

You can stream the proceedings here. We’ll start the live blog shortly (hit refresh for the latest update).

2:00pm. So, again, this is “Davos-style,” only without all the powerful and influential people that make Davos interesting. At least Winnipeg is a more interesting place than Switzerland.

2:03pm. First up is Karen McCrimmon. First question from Mr. Locke isn’t actually a question: “Please tell us a personal insight that you’d like Canadians to have about you.”

2:05pm. Second question: There is a perception that we’re an urban party beyond the Maritimes, should we do more to attract rural voters? Tough one. Ms. McCrimmon goes with “absolutely.”

2:10pm. There now seems to be some kind of disruption. Someone is banging on a drum and shouting.

2:11pm. Mr. Locke and Ms. McCrimmon are attempting to talk over the noise. Apparently the disruption, now concluded, was related to Idle No More.

2:14pm. Next up, Marc Garneau. He likes to do household chores, particularly vacuuming.

2:18pm. Adam Goldenberg argues this format is valuable because a party leader will do many one-on-one interviews. Perhaps. But these seem to be the easiest interviews a politician will ever do. If this is a test, it’s a pretty basic test.

2:24pm. If the challenge is basically surface-level: looking and sounding the part, Mr. Garneau did fairly well there. Looks and sounds like an experienced politician.

2:30pm. Joyce Murray might make a good environment minister in a Liberal government.

2:32pm. I hope one of the candidates answers one of Locke’s questions with “no comment.”

2:34pm. Ms. Murray busts Mr. Locke for being too long-winded in this questions. That will be the sharpest exchange of the afternoon. Suggested headline: “Murray lands knockout punch on Locke”

2:36pm. Justin Trudeau goes with the “no jacket/rolled up sleeves” look. Very Jack Layton. Asked for a personal anecdote, he says he misses his children. Boom. That is how you do politics. And then, somehow, he segues from that into a comment on the young people in Idle No More and an acknowledgement of the protester. Double Boom.

2:38pm. Mr. Trudeau launches into a defence of supply management, which serves as a swipe at Martha Hall Findlay.

2:41pm. Thinking back on Mr. Trudeau’s opening remarks, he probably missed an obvious opening to sing the first verse of the Greatest Love of All. Bit of a mistake. But he’ll learn not to let those opportunities go missed.

2:46pm. Mr. Trudeau explains that he has been to Sweden and that Canada needs its own Ikea (I’m paraphrasing). So there’s Scott Feschuk’s next column.

2:48pm. Deborah Coyne’s personal anecdote is that it’s Groundhog Day and she loves the movie, Groundhog Day, and that the movie is sort of an analogy for the Liberal party’s present challenge. Idea alert: What the Liberal party needs is Bill Murray.

2:59pm. David Bertschi comes out wearing a Liberal party scarf. In case there was some doubt about which party he supports.

3:04pm. The professionalization of politics is a touchy subject and it’s problematic to argue against political participation: But can we have a Davos-style conversation about who should be running for leader of a political party? If you’ve never held political office, how well can you hope to lead a party in a parliamentary system? Set aside the question of finding a seat to win so that you can sit in the House (Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper and Jack Layton didn’t have seats when they became party leaders). What evidence is there that individuals who’ve never been elected can win a party leadership and then succeed in that role? Haven’t the most successful political leaders of the last 20 years been experienced, practiced politicians? What evidence is there that outsiders or unconventional politicians can succeed? What does this tell us about politics? Should we, perhaps, view politics as we do any other profession: something at which you must be experienced in to succeed?

3:14pm. Martin Cauchon warns that dumping supply management means eating unsafe food.

3:18pm. Here’s one request I’d make: If you enter a party leadership race as a relative long shot, bring some unique angle to the race. Call it the Ron Paul Rule (or the Rick Santorum Rule, or maybe the Nathan Cullen Rule). Joyce Murray is sort of doing this with electoral cooperation and Martha Hall Findlay is kind of doing this with supply management. But you should have either a particular ideology or a set of really bold policy proposals.

3:24pm. Martha Hall Findlay defends ending supply management. This is a fun debate. Ms. Hall Findlay is smart to make it about the cost of food for families.

3:32pm. Ms. Hall Findlay accuses Mr. Locke of asking too easy a question about crime policy.

3:33pm. Ms. Hall Findlay says the Liberals should have done a better job standing up to the government’s crime bills in the last two parliaments. The party needs more courage. Fair enough. Where was that courage at the time?

3:36pm. George Takach describes him as the “tech candidate.” I’m not sure that meets the Ron Paul Rule. Unless Mr. Takach’s answer to every dilemma is computers. (Although that would be interesting.)

3:39pm. Mr. Takach really wants to fight somebody.

3:44pm. Mr. Takach, answering a question about supply management, “And I will weave in my modest upbringing.” Very meta.

3:46pm. Closing statements. No lectern and all the candidates are on the stage at the same time. Ms. Murray pitches cooperation and picks up on Ms. Coyne’s Groundhog Day analogy. Mr. Trudeau pitches his democratic reforms. Mr. Garneau says the Liberal leader needs to be clear and specific about what he or she wants to do (subtext: Mr. Trudeau isn’t being clear enough about what he would do and where he stands). Ms. Hall Findlay says she’s pretty good with substantive policy and that this is about substance, experience and intelligence and tough decisions and courage and that there are no silver bullets (subtext: Mr. Trudeau is the silver bullet I’m contrasting myself with). Mr. Takach criticizes Mr. Locke for not asking enough questions about the economy.

4:01pm. And that’s that. This changes… probably not much. My general take on this race remains the same as it was two weeks ago.