Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Debate Debate

First off, in 2008 I argued VEHEMENTLY for Elizabeth May to be included, so no hysterics please. I'm a bit torn on this decision to exclude May this time out, let me explain why.

On the one hand, all the arguments from 2008 hold, with the added emphasis of more votes in that election, further legitimizing the Green Party as a viable option. It's also true that the Greens didn't secure any seats in 2008, once again, one could argue May had her chance at the national table- that seems to be part of the logic in today's decision. You can pick arguments on all sides, but I want to pull back and think in a wider context.

What do we want out of these debates? I admit, five people arguing, yelling, everyone trying to be heard, stand out from the herd, the format creates a less than optimal presentation for voters. There are simply two many people in these debates now, to politically correct, at the expense of the best discussion. Duceppe shouldn't be in the English debates, but this is Canada, we can't dare offend people that are offended by Canada, go figure. Aside from this blight, maybe we need to pear down the competitors, maybe we need a series of debates, more "head to head" so to speak. Further, maybe we need to dispense with the niceties entirely and give the two guys who can actually lead this country, travel abroad as our elected head, the chance to have a focused discussion. Crazy talk I know, but while it's cute and all that Jack is running for PM, everyone knows it's a farce.

I'm just tossing out ideas. What about an "all candidates" debate, featuring the five leaders, or better yet a series of these debates, involving different participants each time? On top of that, I would love to see, partisan I know, DA HORROR, Harper and Ignatieff actually sit down for an hour and discuss things. The Brits get it with their QP, the Americans system has a focused debate for the top job, but in Canada no seats May is created the same as the Prime Minister. This whole debate about May is braced by a sense of fairness, and yet her inclusion also brings another measure of unfairness.

I don't know what the answer is, but 2008 is in the books and I'd rather not have a repeat of that hog the spotlight, talk over each other, yellfest. Quite simply, the five person format doesn't work, so we need to rethink everything, not just a kneejerk "let May in" reaction. Bigger questions for me, welcome comments.

33 comments:

Anthony said...

pare down!

And Duceppe isnt offended by Canada, he just believes quebec would be better off as its own country (he is wrong)

Steve V said...

I understand that. Before anyone does GO OFF, just throwing out ideas, so let's just respond with that in mind, I haven't even made up my own yet.

Steve V said...

Actually, I'll revert to my 2008 position, May should be in debates, but we need to change the format and my ideas have some merit.

Dan F said...

I agree that we need a 1-on-1 debate between the only 2 who might be PM, but Harper would never allow it, because Ignatieff would wipe the floor with him.

As for May, I don't think she should be in the debate, since the no-seats rule is not arbitrary, but allow you to draw a clear distinction between those parties registered with Elections Canada who have seats in the House of Commons, and those who do not.

Any attempt to include or exclude candidates based on polls or the number of votes they received would result in an arbitrary line being drawn (why only the top 5 parties? Why not top 8 or 10?)
The line needs to be drawn somewhere to keep the discussion coherent and productive, and it makes perfect sense to me to draw that line between those parties who have seats in the House, and those who don't

Steve V said...

It is pretty sad, that in this country we will no debate between men vying for the top job, it's just fundamentally wrong and any sense of fairness supports it. No offence to others, it's a messy proposition, but accomodating also weakens in other regards.

JohnH said...

I think maybe we should have more debates, but since the Greens got almost a million votes in the last election, those people deserve a voice at at least one of them.

Though it should be said that exlcuding Duceppe from the English debates would be unfair to all Quebec anglophones. The BQ does after all hold several seats in Montreal.

Steve V said...

"Though it should be said that exlcuding Duceppe from the English debates would be unfair to all Quebec anglophones"

This is true.

Rotterdam said...

Trudeau not only avoided the press in the 1980 election but never debated.

As for this debate, I would do what the Dutch did. Take the four major parties (it left out 5 or 6 minor parties that all had seats), bring them all together and let them go at each other one on one 10 minutes per topic.It made great TV!
example clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4uwIFuIKlA

Another smaller clip from another debate with English subtitles.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfXCqY0Jj40

Marpman said...

it is interesting that the leaders debate (rules) are not restricted to parties which run candidates in a majority of ridings in the country.
Sorry, but Duceppe does not deserve to be in a national debate...he can debate in Quebec...but he does not represent a national party.
If the Green party runs candidates in 75%+ of the ridings across the country she should be allowed to participate...drop Duceppe.

Steve V said...

"Trudeau not only avoided the press in the 1980 election but never debated."

That's hilarious.

The rest had some value though ;)

Marpman said...

The importance of the national debates has increased dramatically since Trudeau in the 80s...it has the ability to make or break.
The Liberals should be demanding lots of debates, riding by riding...and then when the CPC bails...making sure that the people know.
The prospect of a debate must terrify Harper...

Miles Lunn said...

Since she doesn't have a single seat and didn't win any of the by-elections unlike the Reform and Bloc Quebecois did prior to 1993, I don't think she should be included. And btw, I have a new blog. No longer a university student and somewhat more conservative as most become as they age, it is a non-partisan one as I am torn between the two parties and thus would rather focus on the issues than have a partisan blog like before. You can check it out at mlunn.blogspot.com. Although yours is sometimes a bit partisan, I still enjoy reading it. And BTW how do you expect to win your riding. Mine is Trinity-Spadina which leans NDP but certainly could go Liberal if they can pick up enough momentum especially considering the NDP is strongest amongst younger voters who are least likely to show up, the total opposite of ridings where the Conservatives are the main challenger. I am not a Conservative now, but I guess what Winston Churchill once famously said, if you are not a Liberal when you are young, you have no heart, and if not a Conservative when you are old, you have no brains may just apply in my case.

JohnH said...

Kudos to Ignatieff for saying May belongs in the debates! May hasn't been kind to Ignatieff so that's a great example of standing on principle for him, self-interest would have her excluded. Hopefully this builds a little pressure.

So far no other party leader has commented, but their spokespeople are using weasel words like "we respect the decisions of the consortium". Not clear where this is going but the media have made their preference clear and that's no May.

JohnH said...

Ok I see Layton has now said May should be in debates (he must remember the firestorm from his base last time). They should stand behind their words though rather just say "we think we should be in" but in the end "respecting the decision"

Why would Duceppe oppose her inclusion though? The Greens have zero presence in Quebec. Harper has every reason to oppose her but all he needs is one ally to be onside with him on this issue to keep May out.

Steve V said...

Miles, long time no see :)


I guess Layton realizes what happened in 08. She'll be in the debates, bank on it.

DL said...

Why must we have two debates - one in English and one in French?? Why not instead have one (or two) BILINGUAL debates where the questions asked alternate between English and French and that way the whole country watches the same debate - and no one can get away with saying one thing in French and something else in English. If Harper starts attacking "separatists" and making coded appeals to francophobia - ALL of Quebec would see it live!

Jerry Prager said...

I'm for one on one debates. I want to see how Harper holds up after that, make them all go one on one, better TV,genuine debate, no hiding.

Steve V said...

Not sure I like that DL, because then we rely on translators, and you lose something with that presentation.

Jerry

We need one on one debates. No leader should fear an airing of ideas with a chief competitor.

Möbius said...

If the NDP, with their ridiculous policies, can manage 30+ seats, the Greens should be able to elect 1 person out of 308.

If they can't, why include them in the debates. Unless we want to move to proportional representation, which would surely help them gain a seat.

Eric said...

I believe that May has a RESPONSIBILITY to participate in the debates and that the other parties have a responsibility to ensure that she fulfills this duty.

The benchmark for participation should not be if a member is elected, but if the party is receiving a direct subsidy from the electorate.

As the GP won almost 1 million votes in the 2008 election, they receive almost $2 million in direct subsidies from the taxpayer.

I demand to know what the GP will do to justify receiving this money.

Fred from BC said...

One-on-one would be the only smart thing to do. Ever watch the American debates? Now *there* is a productive, informative discussion...why can't we do that in this country?

I don't even really want to see Jack! in there, never mind Duceppe. Elizabeth May is the reason I didn't watch the last 'debate' for the first time in years, and she apparently did exactly what I thought she would do. If she's included in this years 'debate' again, I'll skip it again; a kindergarten class free-for-all would be just as informative and slightly easier on the ears...

marie said...

Fred, you said that you skipped that debate but continue to write,

I'll skip it again; a kindergarten class free-for-all would be just as informative and slightly easier on the ears...

12:29 AM, March 30, 2011

Sounds to me thats where you belong in the kndergarden class where does kids would make mince meat out of you.

Saskboy said...

More debates, not fewer debaters. I support your idea for new and more varied formats of debate, even one on one debates, so long as all leaders of all registered parties are entitled to participate. Their past performance may not indicate their future performance, just like mutual funds, so let's stop basing everything on brand name, and get back to democracy and ideas.

Dylan said...

The decision to include the Greens or not is entirely arbitrary. I believed that the GPC was owed a seat at the table last election because they had a MP in Blair Wilson. But that being said, was he REALLY an MP for them? I mean, he never spent 10 seconds on the Hill for them OR his constituents. But, because of a technicality, Elizabeth May was allowed to debate because the party jumped over ANOTHER technicality.

I believe that if you can get a candidate in each of the 308 ridings (or let's say 305 since there are bound to be some hiccups) you have legitimacy to be included. But that is just MY take. And yes, that means that even if the Christian Heritage Party managed to put together a full slate of candidates they ought to be included. Same with the Natural Law Party. Same with the Progressive Canadians. Same with the Marxists. And on. And on.

A. Boddington said...

I don't think having a seat in Parliament should determine whether a party qualifies. There are, or were independents occupying seats in the House of Commons. Since this goofy first past the post system shows how poorly numbers of seats correlates with popular vote, why bother using seats as a criterion. The Greens got a healthy percentage of the popular vote, better in some provinces than others.

Having said all this, I think these debates are unwieldly and mostly benefit journalists and pundits.

Judy said...

May should be at the debate.. what i don't get is why Duceppe is there when he does NOT represent Canada as a whole but just Quebec. At least May is sincerely all of Canada. The qualification should be a leader that represents Canada. I really don't think population of a particular province qualifies for the federal debate

Steve V said...

Looks like a Harper/Ignatieff debate might happen, both are on board.

Tim said...

Any person representing any party that is running a campaign in fifty ridings at one thousand dollars a pop deserves a place at the podium; when the election rules were changed to only allow 'serious' candidates into the running, I feel strongly that this is an acceptable consequence. You put the money in, you get the exposure. It's difficult enough to get a party off the ground these days, especially in this enlightened age of widespread availability of information that allows individuals and small groups to be able to inform themselves of national issues for the election season.

Let's not make change any harder than it has to be in this claustrophobia-inducing cloying political environment?

900ft Jesus said...

I know my stance is unpopular, but I don't think May should be in National debates, only in ridings. Unless she comes up with better reasons for being included. So far, it's mostly appeals to emotions: I'm the only woman, old boys club, trying to suppress democracy...

The criteria is a party needs to have a seat. She doesn't and she should keep working away at it like any other party is expected to. I supported her inclusion in debates last time, but it hit me that it was for emotional reasons: felt unfair to exclude her, she was so passionate, on and on.

If the number of votes is a qualifier, that's different, but since that is not how invitation to debates are decided, then either change the criteria for everyone, or exclude her.

Saskboy said...

900ft, are you against PRep. too then? Because it's contradictory to support Proportional Representation, but exclude May from the debate.

Fred from BC said...

marie said...

Fred, you said that you skipped that debate but continue to write,

I'll skip it again; a kindergarten class free-for-all would be just as informative and slightly easier on the ears...

12:29 AM, March 30, 2011

Sounds to me thats where you belong in the kndergarden class where does kids would make mince meat out of you.



If that was supposed to be an insult, please translate it to English first so I can laugh at you properly...;)

Fred from BC said...

Saskboy said...

More debates, not fewer debaters.


The problem with that is one of counter-productivity. Too many voices (even if you could get them to behave like adults and speak only when it is their turn) would necessitate shorter times for each speaker, wouldn't they? Good ideas would get lost amongst all the fluff and attempts to score cheap shots, I think...

Fred from BC said...

Saskboy said...

900ft, are you against PRep. too then? Because it's contradictory to support Proportional Representation, but exclude May from the debate.


Let's all pray that it never, ever comes to that (PR) here in Canada. You think a minority government is unproductive? Check out some of the 'pizza parliaments' in Europe, and what their economies have suffered as a result.

I'd be in favor of a preferential ballot or a runoff vote. 50% gets you elected, anything less and the two front-runners square off (giving people who may have initially voted for a fringe party a chance to reconsider and vote strategically).