By Angela Scappatura –
The Liberal leadership candidates faced off in an afternoon of debates that took place at Roy Thompson Hall on Sunday.
The two hour televised event began with some awkward moments. An address by Interim Liberal Leader Bill Graham was briefly interrupted by a bikini-clad protestor and shortly after, a heckler armed with a megaphone rose from the audience before he was escorted from the hall.
Michael Ignatieff, MP for Etobicoke Lakeshore, was put on the defensive numerous times throughout the debate as both his political inexperience and recent comments on Israeli actions in Lebanon were highlighted by opponents.
Ignatieff, who recently lost some key supporters following a statement on a Quebec talk show accusing Israel of war crimes—an accusation he later modified—locked heads with both Stephane Dion and former Premier of Ontario Bob Rae.
A debate on foreign policy between Ignatieff, Rae and Martha Hall-Findlay became heated when Ignatieff criticized Rae for not relating a clear stance on Canada’s role in Afghanistan.
“Early on, you said you would vote against the extension of this mission, now you’re saying something different. That is, we have to prevail and sustain,” Ignatieff said, “I actually don’t know where you stand on this issue.”
In response Rae said, “for a guy who changed his mind three times in a week with respect to the middle east…”
“You know that’s untrue,” Ignatieff retorted to his former university roommate, “You’ve known me for forty years.”
In his final remarks to the crowd, Stephane Dion seemingly criticized Rae and Ignatieff for their newly established liberal involvement.
“I’m proud to be a liberal,” Dion said, “and for me it did not take a leadership race to say so.”
The event was divided into eight mini-debates on topics ranging from foreign policy, the environment and women in politics. Each of the eight candidates then addressed the crowd of nearly 1500.