A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Debate about the Debate has started!

With the Conservatives quietly considering a proposal to hold up to five regional televised debates in the upcoming federal election to contrast Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s experience with rookie Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau the debate about the debates has started. Hoping to exploit Trudeau’s shoot-from-the-lip style, some Conservative insiders believe Harper could benefit from additional debates.

In my opinion that very much depends upon how much said leaders (particularly Harper) are held to account for untruths and inaccurate assertions & allegations. One way to see that such things do not go unchallenged is to ensure that the “Hardest Working MP” in the House of Commons is there to rebut the three traditional debaters. The fact that the 2012 Parliamentarian of the year also happens to be one of the Best Orator's according to her colleagues in the House may well be why none of those three will commit to insisting that the Green Party Leader participate.

It seems that the Conservatives think they can gain advantage from extra debates by “exploiting Trudeau’s shoot-from-the-lip style”, If a politician actually straying from the scripted talking points is a liability then we have indeed reach a point where truth, openness and accountability is a victim of political spin. Without becoming too partisan I can only say this is one reason why Ms May must be included for she has yet to fall victim to this insidious disease, not only that but she regularity dispenses an antidote to it. Its called support for parliamentary democracy and involves fighting tooth and nail against any who would remove power from our elected MPs and place it in the hands of one individual and his unelected office boys. She also recognizes a cheater when she sees one, something the 'moguls' don’t seem to understand. “Stephen Harper’s staff took care to print out background notes (something specifically not allowed during the 2008 debate) on index cards, but they picked the wrong-sized cards. And no one writes in printer font. Looking over from my seat, I remember the shock of realizing he was cheating,”

It seems the Conservatives and the NDP want many debates, but sources in both parties say they also want to limit the number of participants to the “main parties,” believing that the contrast between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair would be sharper without the three other party leaders on stage. I dont know about that but I am not sure how much I could take of Mulclair and Harper attacking each other and Trudeau who I hope will not fall into that trap and instead stick to a positive message. I do know that if a sitting Leader of a party with candidates in every province across this country and support of millions of Canadians is deliberately excluded for a televised national debate then her fight for democracy has already taken a mortal blow.

The 'Leaders' would have us believe that such decisions are entirely up to the 'consortium' of TV moguls however that is not entirely true as earlier attempts from Ms May to be included in the debate reveal.
In 2008 Editor-In-Chief of CBC TV News, Tony Burman, characterized the debate process as a sham, stating that, "Some networks worried that adding a fifth leader would make the debate 'unwatchable' but we all knew that the elephant in the room was actually living at 24 Sussex Drive. And he – the Prime Minister – would effectively have veto power. Within days of the [Media Consortium] meeting, we were privately told by the Conservative Party representative that Prime Minister Harper would not participate in the debates if the Green Party leader was there.
In this instance Ms May was eventualy included and “Many commentators proclaimed May’s debut in the leaders debates to be a major breakthrough for the party, and were surprised that she proved to be a strong debater on a wide range of issues.” However in 2011 Harper and the other leaders got their way and the Green Party leader was excluded with the excuse that “her party did not have representation in the House of Commons.” That excuse no longer is available so what excuse do they all have now?

If ANY of those 'leaders or media moguls care one whit for democracy they will not only 'allow' Elizabeth May to join the debate but insist right from the start that she do so. Instead we see this:=
Recently, Mulcair refused to say who should be part of the debate.
“That is something that is completely left up to the consortium, and I will follow whatever they decide,”
Trudeau said. “I look forward to having discussions about that with the consortium of broadcasters as it comes closer to it. Right now, it’s too early to say who should be in,
Troy Reeb, the vice-president of news for Shaw Media, said Global News’ position is that the more debates that can be organized, the better it is for Canadian democracy.
“If, however, the parties determine, as they have in the past, that they are unwilling to have their leaders attend multiple debates,” Reeb said in an email, “then we stand prepared to work again with other broadcasters to ensure any single English-language debate reaches the widest audience possible.
“Questions of format and who would be invited would obviously be up for discussion at that time.”
who would be invited would obviously be up for discussion at that time.”
So its NOT just up the the Media but is the subject of 'discussion', come on Trudeau and Mulclair step up and speak out for democracy and insist upon the debates include all sitting party leaders (with national support?) participate, we know Harper will not!

EDIT It is interesting to note in the context of the above that the CBC (and other TV conglomerates) has refused to air an advertisement from The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting that is critical of Stephen Harper and his cuts to everything.

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Owen Gray said...

May should be there, period. And, rather than simply answering questions, the leaders should be allowed to really each other.

We'll need a good Speaker of the House, Rural. But I'm sure we can find one.

Rural said...

Presume you meant to say " really DEBATE each other", Owen.
And yes, a strong and principled Speaker of The House would make all the difference.

Owen Gray said...

I forgot the most important, word, Rural -- debate.

Rural said...

But Harper does not even know the word 'Democracy', Owen.

Unknown said...

Definiitely May should be there and nobody should have the right to exclude her, but the leaders from the other parties may be somewhat intimidated by her. As to having more debates where they think Harper will shine what a joke. Their overestimating Harper and underestimating Trudeau.

Rural said...

I agree Pamela. Ms May could easily tie them all in knots with her firm grasp of all the issues, it would be particularly interesting to see Harper try and debate her on the subject of out Parliamentary Democracy.

thwap said...

Elizabeth May has been a shameless Liberal poodle, but she has a right to be there.

Used to be she had to get a seat in Parliament before they'd include her. Now she's got one and they're still excluding her? 7% of the electorate, even when they don't have a prayer of their candidate winning, ... the Greens definitely deserve a place at the debate.

4-way debates need a strong, effective moderator (as past 4-way debates have shown) but they're not impossible.

Gyor said...

The stakes are high, the country is flirting with disaster if it picks Trudeau or Harper, the debates are Mulcair's way to getting better know by the public, damaging the other two, and showing his vastly greater talent, knowledge, and ability.

So with the stakes so high while it might not be fair, sometimes there are things that are more important then fair, the survival of the nation is at stake, I don't believe she should attend most of the debates.

PS where is the demand that the bloc and that other newer Quebec party get to attend? Because if Emay gets in so will they and then you will have Chaos and very little opportunity for voters to watch and compare the big three parties's leaders which given one of them will end up Prime Minister is not fair to the vast majority of Canadians.

Rural said...

@thwap I have always thought that Steve Pakin has done an excellent job in very difficult circumstances, I hope he is asked to moderate again.

Rural said...

@ Gyor We will have to agree to disagree upon your assertion that excluding an elected leader with support across the country from the debate is democratic. I have no problem with the Block participating in the french debate only but as they only have support in one province that is a compromise at best.
The debates are ALL leaders way to getting better known by the public, and E May has (as her colleagues in the house have indicated) also have great talent, knowledge, and ability.

Anonymous said...

"...the leaders should be allowed to really each other."

I like Owen's new 'fill-in-the-missing noun' commenting style. Made me laugh. And 'debate' was not my first choice :)