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Federal Leaders Fare Poorly in German-Language Debate

Federal Leaders Fare Poorly in German-Language Debate
Ein probleme in die verhandlungen den bed├╝rfnissen?...zukunft? Jawohl?

The four leaders of Canada's major political parties struggled in last night's German-language election debate in Vancouver.

While each of the leaders survived the French and English debates held on Thursday and Friday nights respectively, the lesser-known German debate, scheduled on Saturday evening, opposite Hockey Night in Canada, didn't go quite as smoothly.

According to the few observers of this Teutonic-flavoured leaders' debate, there weren't a lot of 'fireworks,' nor where any 'knockout punches' landed. Or thrown. "The debate was two hours of Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe more or less staring at their shoes and pointing at each other every time a question was directed towards them," said CBC reporter Keith Boag. "And the Prime Minister just kept slapping his podium, shouting "Schadenfreude! That's a German word, isn't it?" over and over again.

"That was the highlight of the night, unfortunately. It was...the worst two hours of television this side of a week's worth of PopCultured with Elvira Kurt tapings."

A major problem, according to the debate's organizers, was the fact that none of the leaders are terribly fluent in German. "If by "not terribly fluent," you mean "completely incapable of uttering a word," yes, I agree with you," said Edmonton's Gunter Ernstkopft, the producer and coordinator of 'Die Diskussion 2005.'

"I think perhaps each of them were afraid of being upstaged by their rivals, so they all said they could 'get by' in German," surmised Ernstkopft, offering his explanation as to why they agreed to take part in last night's debate directed towards the German-Canadian community.

"Maybe the TV network people were right. Maybe this was a bad idea," admitted Ernstkopft, an independent TV producer. "Whoo...I'm taking a bath on this one."

Amongst the limited German that was spoken at the debate, there were numerous gaffes, according to a translated transcript: For example, the Prime Minister said that Stephen Harper "floats on the excrement of Quebec's watermelons;" Gilles Duceppe accused Prime Minister Martin of being the "wheel washer of an enormous mountain of soiled ennui" during a question on national unity; and Jack Layton said that "all Canadians will join me in ballbanging harmony come the 23rd of January" during his closing remarks.

Some German watchers of the debate suggested, however, that Conservative leader Stephen Harper's German wasn't so bad. "It was certainly the best of the four leaders," said Elspith Heidenborscht, a Saint John native originally from Austria who watched the debate. "It was, how could I say...workmanlike...something approaching coherent.

"I don't know where he picked up his German, but that Mr. Harper, he did speak to me. Perhaps, voting for him, I will be."

Posted on December 19th, 2005



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