In the Ontario Debate, it wasn’t the leaders’ stylists who won the day.

During the one and only candidates debate for the present Ontario provincial election, the twittterverse went a little wild. And since a broadcast debate is, for all intents and purposes, a visual platform, it didn’t take long for those of us watching to get right at critiquing how awful the thing looked.

Well, the set was lacklustre at best, but okay. Its designer used a monotonous tone of lavender and grey that the leaders’ stylists curiously at best chose to mimic, and in the NDP’s case, chose to completely ignore! The Toronto Star’s movie critic (huh? Oh well, everyone’s a critic!) said that” The set looked like it was dressed by the same colour-blind trolls who made the Coxwell subway station.” I don’t entirely agree. In fact, the palette would have worked well as a backdrop to each of the parties’ colours. I’m not sure it’s fair to blame the set, when it’s the stylists who failed to make use of what they were given. Kathleen Wynne looked like she was meant to fade into the background, so much so that all we could really see were her curiously flailing hands and those god-awful horn-rimmed glasses she insists on wearing (she desperately needs different frames! cf my first post.)

Someone joked on twitter that Hudak looked like he was auditioning for the role of an undertaker. Again. Don’t get where that dude was coming from. I took one look at Horwath and thought, Is she going to a funeral after this?! This set was practically screaming for the hipster-friendly colours of the NDP, and Horwath’s stylists sent her out in black? I’m utterly baffled by Horwath’s people’s choice. During the establishing shot, I almost thought the set had been designed in the NDP’s favour. I can’t understand why they didn’t optimize this opportunity. Costume–I mean, attire means a lot more than people seem to realise!

Not surprisingly, within nano-seconds of the debate’s moderator, Steve Paiken, announcing that this debate had been uncharacteristically light on time (!!), [and he followed up with the directive that we should all vote even if we choose to decline the ballot (whoa subtext!)], partisan tweeps were claiming that their candidate had “clearly” won the debate. The TV spin continued on the panels that followed the debate, so it was hard for an innocent bystander to get a sense of who might have “won”. I think maybe the consensus on this one is: “none of the above.” The suffered murmurs amongst my progressive friends was that Hudak had won. I’m not so sure that’s true. But he did do the least worst–or something to that nature. I think part of that sub-conscious win can be ascribed to his costume–erm, attire. There’s not a lot guys can really reasonably do in this situation, and Hudak’s team did… well, okay. He sported a dark suit and tie that almost matched the dominant lavender of the set. This is an effective use of colour. Where Wynne faded into the set, and Horwath just blatantly rejected all colour, practically screaming, “I’m no fun!”, Hudak complemented it. The use of colour created a subconscious sense that he “belonged” or was an essential element of the evening, connected naturally to his surroundings. Costume designers pull this trick all the time in theatre and film design. It’s not an accident, and the je ne sais quoi sense about Hudak winning the debate has something to do with this.

I’ve got more on the debate in progress. Please stand by….


G8 fun or What’s the German for, “I’m not doing that!”?

Jose Manuel Barroso, Angela Merkel, Barack Oba...

Jose Manuel Barroso, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Stephen Harper and Dmitry Medvedev during the G8 Summit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In honour of day one of the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland I’m posting my favourite G8 photo op from last year’s meeting at Camp David.

Obama appears in the video with his sleeves rolled up, and as the reporter remarks, most of the leaders who showed up (not Putin, who’s becoming more and more rebuffed by the in-crowd) seem to have received the “sweater memo.” Clearly the casual attire is meant to connote the hard work ethic of the leaders who want to shed any whiff of elitism from these regular Joes.

But it’s definitely follow the leader in this instance. Obama is a relaxed genial fellow here who keeps waving at the cameras. It cracks me up how our PM Stephen Harper–as well as most of the other leaders, follow suit rather awkwardly every time the US president waves.

Best yet though! Angela Merkel looks politely at the sad attempt of the other leaders to be good ol’ boys like their American host. She stands there with a bemused smile on her face as if to say, “Yeah, I’m not doing that. Nope not doing it.”

Hair styling, toothpaste and the cost of doing politics

Apparently just when I ask the question, the blog gods answer with today’s latest news.

Transparency is the word of the day recently in Canadian politics, and Eve Adams (Mississauga-Brampton South MP) finds herself in the centre of a minor scandal with her questionable campaign expense claims, which include toothpaste and hair styling. Her claims exceed the election campaign expense allowance by ten times, and seem to all be for beauty products.

Adams has defended herself on Twitter claiming that there was a clerical error (most of the expenses should have been filed under childcare). The toothpaste and mouthwash and other toiletries were purchased for the campaign office bathroom.

Eve Adams is an extremely attractive woman and I guess time will tell if she’s being treated fairly by the press or whether this story will gain traction because it’s about a woman’s beauty products. Although one commenter did state that Adams is “is all style and no substance,”  most comments on the story seem to be gender neutral, and outrage is being expressed about the duplicitous claims.

Still, reading various news articles about her expense claims, one would think it’s Adams’ personal life that’s under the microscope. Her marital status (estranged from Peter Adams) and betrothal to Dimitri Soudas are woven into the story like a real-life soap opera. Is it any wonder I’d rather follow Canadian politics than watch what’s on TV lately?!

Showdown at the O’Canada Corral: Body language wins the day

Who knew that an innocent little senate expense audit could potentially turn into the Achilles’ heel of Stephen Harper? Suddenly a personal cheque to Senator Mike Duffy from Harper’s chief of staff has put the prime minister on the hot seat. Save for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s troubles, this has been the top news item for the past two weeks, and this week saw the drama come to a head in Question Period. It’s all certainly made for some fabulous political theatre!

Commentators have been praising NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s performance as he hammered away at the PM over when and what he knew about the payment to Duffy. Mulcair is known as an aggressive parliamentarian and has proved to be a loose cannon in the past. But it’s been his cool demeanour that’s been noted by most this past week. In a calm tone, like an overly patient parent scolding a child, Mulcair repeated his questions to the PM. Harper, likely expecting an aggressive offensive from the opposition leader, seemed a bit caught off-guard. He dissembled and offered up long, off-topic explanations in response to Mulcair’s straightforward questions. There’s plenty of commentary on the content of the exchange between the PM and the leader of the opposition, but what I find fascinating is how Mr. Mulcair performs his offensive and how the normally cooler-than-ice Harper reacts.

Of course, the NDP feels that Mulcair won this showdown on day one, since they posted this YouTube video of the exchange on their website this week.

Mulcair, dressed in sombre colours and a dark paisley tie, stands calmly each time he is called on by the Speaker, and with his hands clasped in front of him, he soberly repeats his questions. As the interchange goes on, Mulcair begins to lean in toward the Prime Minister’s side of the floor, and throughout he speaks directly to the PM. As Harper evades his questions, Mulcair’s tone lowers and he begins to speak more slowly, condescendingly, as if the PM can’t understand him. Eschewing the typical finger-pointing that can often break out during question period, Mulcair maintains his cool, gesturing toward the Prime Minister with a cupped right hand, his palm slightly facing upwards, suggesting a kind of direct openness to truth rather than being overtly accusatory.

Prime Minister Harper, on the other hand, is clearly not ready for the tone and timbre of Mulcair’s line of questioning. But he definitely came dressed to kill! I was struck on the day by the eye-catching mauvish silk tie (which appears to be a trendy pink check on closer observation). He is sporting a nice two-button pinstripe with this pink checked tie. In the print media, Harper, in his bright tie and pinstriped suit shows his palms open upward, suggesting honesty and openness. But the video linked above tells a slightly different story. Mr. Harper certainly keeps to his talking points and is immutable and seemingly unshakable. He plays his role as Mr. Cool rather expertly. After all, his cache is the cool leader who can best steer the Canadian economy–no wonder this topic is a bit sketchy for him.

But in contrast to Mr. Mulcair’s studied and calm performance, PM Harper’s demeanour seems almost shifty. Each time he stands to respond to Mr. Mulcair, he buttons his jacket and tugs at his coattails, making him seem just slightly fidgety. As well, watch how his head nods a tad too earnestly as he makes his statements of fact. It’s all subtle body language, but body language was a clear force on Mulcair’s side. Harper likely came in to it expecting a rabid exchange with the opposition leader and was caught off-guard by the tone of the entire thing.

The next day, of course, the Prime Minister was back on his game. The fidgeting was gone, and so was the trendy suit. (Mulcair, on the other hand showed up in bold purple-stripe tie.) Harper came dressed for the showdown in a dark suit and sporting a solid patriotically red tie–the trendy mixed stripes and check ensemble had been replaced by suitably sombre attire.

There’s lots to be said about the Conservatives’ tactic of turning the tables on Mulcair and answering direct questions with insinuations about an incident that happened in 2010, but one thing is certain: the PM is back on his game. No more jacket tugging or nodding. We are all left wondering where all these questions will lead, but the theatre on Parliament Hill promises to be captivating over the coming days.

Felt beige cowboy hat on a white background

Felt beige cowboy hat on a white background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)