A strange thing happens in Canadian election campaigns. Some media outlet offers up a “moderator” for a “debate” between candidates. Usually, this isn’t a debate. Usually, it’s a bunch of white dudes arguing with each other and talking over one another with someone else standing off to the side wondering where it all went wrong and whether they’d have been better off taking engineering like their moms suggested. Sometimes, the network airing these things actually finds a moderator who really knows how to do their job, who keeps the candidates in line, who keeps them to their time, and who stops them from talking over one another. In theory, the point of these debates is to allow the candidates the opportunity to present their platforms and plans and to try to convince Canadians to vote for them.
In practice, the debates are an hour of useless prattle that comes from the speaking points the political spin doctors have provided for each candidate. It’s not real debate. There’s no actual topic (sometimes they have broad areas of ‘debate’ like “the economy”. How in the hell can you have an actual debate about something as nebulous as “the economy”? You can have a formal discussion, but there is an actual format that a debate ought to take – participants should present their arguments, then have the opportunity to rebut each other’s arguments). There’s some back-and-forth that happens (watching actual debate is pretty exciting, especially when the participants are well-versed in the format and procedure and when the moderator keeps the participants on point).
Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that Canadian political debates aren’t debates so much as they are a public form in which candidates can repeat the taking points they’ve been spouting since before the writ was dropped to call an election. Nobody says anything new. Everybody just repeats what they’ve been saying in the media for the past [insert inane number of weeks since the election was called] weeks. Last night’s debates were no different.
Highlights: Stephen Harper talking about “Old Stock Canadians”; both candidates calling Justin Trudeau “Justin”, as if they’re all on a first-name basis with their babysitter.
Lowlights: Everything else.
Yet this morning, I see people talking about how Thomas Mulcair “won” the debate. People, Thomas Mulcair didn’t win squat. Even IF the debate were being scored, he STILL wouldn’t have won. Don’t get ahead of yourselves here. Just because the man invoked the name of Roy Romanow and made a reference to Tommy Douglas’ parable story “Mouseland” doesn’t mean the man won a debate. Just because he stuck to his speaking points doesn’t mean he won a debate. Know who else didn’t win that debate? Justin Trudeau. The number of times I heard those two talking over one another (while the moderator did nothing) and repeating, ad nauseum, their parties’ platforms and plans outpaced the number of times I heard the biffy door open and close at the Craven Country Jamboree.
If *anyone* won that debate (which nobody did), it’d be Stephen Harper. He was composed, aloof, and on point. Sure, you might not like what he was saying, but he did well in the debate format.
Ultimately, the debate means nothing. We’re all acting like this is some precursor to electoral results. People are up in arms because Elizabeth May wasn’t invited to the damned thing. They’re also impressed with her replies to questions, posted on Twitter. How far down the rabbit hole have we gone? Elizabeth May is a party leader, sure. The Green Party of Canada has (I’m told) three seats in Parliament. The Bloc Quebecois (not a national party) has two seats in Parliament, and their leader (Gilles Duceppe) wasn’t invited either. The debate was enough of a debacle with the three main party leaders (any of whom could conceivably become Prime Minister on October 19 – both Duceppe and May would have a long, long, LONG way to go before they could even be considered to be in the running). Who the hell would want there to be MORE chaos in a national televised waste of time and money?
Elizabeth May did not “win” the debate. She posted replies to the moderator’s questions on Twitter. Hell. *I* could have “won” the debate too, if that were the way to win. What will I do to stimulate the Canadian economy? Well, to be honest, I don’t have a frigging clue. There are so many factors that go in to a national economy, there are no pat answers to that. I’d probably do my best to increase employment among young Canadians, Indigenous people, and women. Why? Because those are the people who are traditionally underemployed. How? I don’t fucking know. I’m a writer, not an economist. I’d probably hire three or four economists from different schools of thought to make recommendations to me based on sound research.
As much as I would love for Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau to be the clear “winner” of the debate, if for no other reason than that it would mean Stephen Harper was the clear “loser”, that simply didn’t happen. No matter how much we wish that it were true, it isn’t true. I’d like to see these debates scrapped entirely until such a time as they can be proper debates, moderated properly, in a public forum. Debates should be held locally, with local candidates, until such a time as we actually vote for our leaders (we don’t. We vote for our local representatives because they’re the ones who work in Parliament on our behalf. The PM is just the leader of the PARTY that receives the most seats).
And get these things off of television and put them back on radio. Nobody needs to see those ties.