Debates are awful: Let’s have more

There was plenty of controversy over Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper’s decision to skip ‘Up for Debate:’ a forum to bring women’s issues to the forefront of the campaign. I could easily make this post a rant about the tragedy of suppressing women’s issues in an election year that directly corresponds with a much-needed social revolution on gender equality. However, in this case I’m going to talk about the massive fleecing of debates this election. The MacLean’s Debate is likely to be the only televised debate featuring all national leaders, as Harper and Mulcair also look to be out of the staple media consortium debate. Many people are upset about this, and they have a point, they just may be missing the correct point.

I’m upset that we will be seeing less debates this year, but it is definitely not because I will miss out on the pleasure of watching three potential Prime Ministers compete to find out who can ‘not answer questions in a way that makes them look like they’re answering them’ the best. Watch Elizabeth May debate, and you’ll see how truly thoughtful a prime ministerial candidate can be… when they have no chance of being prime minister. As for the others, they simply prove what we all subconsciously know: debates are  awful. I’ll say it again. Debates are absolutely awful. They are awful, because they are barely political debates in the first place.

Televised leaders debates are simply trumped up reality shows featuring political figure heads spouting the same assortment of catch all phrases and buzz words with very little mention of policy or substance. Leaders are put on the spot with grandstanding interrogations, only to ignore the questions. They are mercilessly attacked by their contemperaries, with highly circumstantial evidence. They shout over each other about how sick of the incumbent they all are, and why they are the only alternative. At best, we can hope for one of them to land a catchy one-liner and deliver a clamouring of ooh’s and ah’s from the twitosphere.

Take this year’s MacLean’s debate; the first, and possibly only, debate with all prime ministerial candidates present. Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, garnered many rave reviews for his performance. However, in my opinion, he often spoke in vague summaries meant to draw on your heart rather than head, most notably during his concluding address. His best line, and maybe the debate’s best line, was a repeated “Nobody believes you Mr. Harper.” It seemed more akin to a line that wins a schoolyard spat than a Prime Ministership. However, those lines win debates. Hence, this is why debates are awful. Yet, even worse and more contrived are reality shows like Big Brother- and I’m currently watching it as I write this.

There’s a reason there are more people who vote for winners of American Idol than heads of state. There’s a reason why Bachelor in Paridise will always get higher ratings than Meet the Press. They’re more entertaining. And when it comes to politics, debates are the closest thing to reality television there is, and hence the largest source of entertainment for the causal voter. It’s a sad truth, but a truth after all.

A lack of debates, and a lack of exposure is the last thing this election needs, but especially the last thing Thomas Mulcair needs. Canada’s left-leaning youth can say all they want about the Conservatives, and their base. You hear all the time from Twitter happy milenials (Hi me!) that their base is close-minded and anti-progressive, but that base also votes. The CPC can count on their supporters no matter what debates Harper does or does not participate in.

The NDP and Liberals can’t say the same. They have fervent poll support and a rush of vocal youth to go along with their smaller, and far less entrenched, base. But the youth vote that could possibly push either party over the edge is easily influenced- and frankly- lazy. Take this 18 year old, who started this post when it was actually relevant last week, before finally posting 10 days later. We’re as easily distracted as the ice age squirrel, and Justin Trudeau is appealing to us more the Mulciar is the last couple of weeks.

Personally, I’m not overly offended that Thomas Mulcair skipped ‘up for debate,’ although I wish he hadn’t. It’s a political maneuver, which I disagree with, but it hardly means he doesn’t care about women. In fact, he has more female MP candidates than any other party, and it’s not close. It does not shift my stance on him or the NDP, and I, for one, hope he is the next Prime Minister of Canada. However, it does mean we miss a chance to see a man, who could easily lead our country on October 20th, present his ideas to a large audience. That’s unfortunate given he is by far the least known of the three candidates, despite his lead in the polls.

Most of all, his decision, and Harper’s, to cut down on debates, whether it’s a good strategy or not, will keep more Canadians out of touch with the election and less involved in the forming of our own government. No matter your voting allegiance, or fondness for televised shouting matches, that is a true tragedy.


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