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Debating the debate, and other yawners

So who won the big federal leaders debate last night?

It certainly wasn’t the viewer.

What a schmozzle. I thought that appointing a commission to oversee leaders debates was a good idea, but if that’s all they could come up with it wasn’t worth it.

Firstly, why was Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet even invited? This is nothing new as previous Bloc leaders Gilles Duceppe and Lucien Bouchard elbowed their way into debates where the country is assessing possible prime ministers, even though there is no possible scenario where they could become prime minister.

It’s a travesty that the French language debate (and I recognize that it was hosted by a different organization) shunned Green Party leader Elizabeth May and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier.

I believe a leader of a party should have a at least a statistical chance of becoming prime minister in order to be considered a national leader. In other words, the party has to run candidates in at least 170 ridings.

It’s ridiculous that Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, which is running candidates in more than 300 of the 338 ridings, had to make a special plea to the debate commission and even then the commission decided to conduct its own polling before allowing Bernier into the debate while Blanchet’s Bloc Quebecois, which is running only 78 candidates in Quebec, is ushered in without so much a sideways glance.

It’s just goofy.

Then there was the debate itself. Most of the viewers probably tuned out early as the leaders were talking over each other and the television talking heads they brought in to moderate couldn’t control the night.

For all the high-priced talent one would think they could come up with a format that works. It’s not that hard.

All they had to do was have the debate at Prince George City Hall, or any other place where public discourse is par for the course.

At Prince George City Hall, all the seats (podiums) have microphones, just like they do for the leaders’ debate. However, each speaker has to hit a button to inform the chair (moderator) that they wish to speak. When it’s their turn, the moderator hits a button and the speaker’s microphone becomes active. Until the moderator allows them to speak, their microphones are off. Only one microphone works at a time, and moderator’s microphone overrides all others. In other words, the moderator can cut anyone off at any time and we, the audience, will only hear one voice at a time. Screamers usually stop screaming when they realize no one is listening to them.

Next, a debate only needs one moderator. Pick one and be done with it. We’re not tuning in to learn how clever our national news anchors are, (they’re not) we’re tuning in to see how clever our prime ministerial hopefuls are. But, pick a good moderator, one who is good at interviewing politicians, and one who will not be afraid to hit that mute button when candidates start obfuscating, evading, and all the other good stuff politicians like to do. Pick a moderator who will interrupt, cut the microphone, and nag candidates to “answer the question that was asked.”

That will help.

And, if we’re going to ask complex questions, allow candidates time to answer.

And lastly, there should be four debates … one in Atlantic Canada, one in Quebec (French language), one in Ontario, and one in western Canada. And it should be compulsory for all leaders of parties that have a chance to form government to attend all the debates, after all, what else do they have to do during a campaign? How do we make it compulsory? Easy. If a leader skips a debate, their party is fined $50,000. Skip all four, it will cost your party $200,000. If you even want to make it more enticing, if a leader skips a debate, the $50,000 is split among the other parties to spend on election advertising.

So who won last night’s debate? Let me know what you think.

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