Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2015/ More Debate Grumbling

More Debate Grumbling

I have not listened to the Maclean's debate yet, although I probably will at some point. I did let myself get suckered into reading #macdebate reactions on Twitter. A lot of people (possibly consisting largely of Green Party partisans) seemed impressed with Elizabeth May's performance in the debate, and thus she deserves to be included in other federal leader debates.

Look. I am glad that May was in the debates, and I am glad that she (apparently) held her own. I wholeheartedly support her inclusion in future debates. But the reasoning that she deserves to be included in other debates because she performed well in this one is wrong. Elizabeth May deserves to be included in federal leader debates because she is the leader of a serious federal party. By any reasonable standard, leaders of serious parties deserve to be invited (and have an obligation to participate in) these kinds of major debates. To deny leaders of these parties inclusion in these debates is an assault on democracy, even if the parties in question have no serious hopes of forming the government. To do otherwise is to deny these parties the broad platform that voters use to make informed voting decisions, and denies these parties opportunities to win votes and seats. Even if May had performed terribly at the Maclean's debate she still deserves to be included in others.

Similar arguments apply to Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois, and possibly even Jean-Fran├žois Fortin from the Strength in Democracy party. I am kind of upset with Duceppe's omission. I have not heard him debate, but apparently he conducts himself well even in English debates. Who is to say that he would not have shone during the Maclean's debate as well, and that people would not be hashtagging #LetDuceppeIn ? Instead he is shut out of the conversation.

What makes up a serious political party? I do not have a definitive answer, but there are a bunch of reasonable criteria one could use:

None of this includes "Is an official party with 12 seats" or "Has won seats in parliament". Preston Manning was included in the 1993 debates when the Reform Party was in ascendency, despite having only one seat in Parliament. Jean Charest represented the Progressive Conservatives in 1997 despite his party having only two seats. I bet the Reform Party would still have been represented in 1993 even if they had not won a byelection. I think that representation in parliament is a factor, but it is clearly not the deciding factor.

Even though I personally believe Duceppe is an omission, one could reasonably argue that since his party is running only 41 candidates out of the 78 in Quebec the Bloc does not make the cut. The Strength in Democracy party is running only 11 candidates across Canada, I think. Of the other parties, the Libertarians are running 86 candidates.

The Greens currently have 148 candidates listed on their website, which is lower than my preferred threshold, but still significant. (I also believe the list is not complete, since it is missing the candidate for Kitchener Centre.)

The media is supposed to report the news, not pick winners beforehand. Debates matter because exposure matters, and it is clear to me that Elizabeth May has earned this exposure -- not because of her performance, but because the Greens are a serious party, and the leaders of serious parties should be included in federal leader debates.