One debate is not enough for Canadians who are not bilingual, says Rex. He thinks the leaders should replicate in every region of the country what they already concede to Quebec, a debate on its territory and its issues.
Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode
The Debate Dilemma
April 14, 2011
Given a choice between hockey or politics? I would have thought it, and I apologize for using a technical term here, a no-brainer. But the English language debate - with those four lads, none of whom is radioactive with charisma - nonetheless attracted - if that is the word - four million Canadians on television.
There cannot be four million shut-ins in Canada, so we have to conclude a fair potion of these watched voluntarily, deliberately. There are hockey games - most of them involve the sad Toronto Maple Leafs - that get many less than four million viewers.
So I'd like to point out that, all stock wisdom to the contrary, that Canadians are not the apathetic, turned-off-from-politics bunch we’re often portrayed. Four million TV viewers - that's up there with Bear Grylls, and the other, more civilized, Survivor shows. Give Canadians access to their politics, and they will watch - do care.
That said there is one major flaw in the process. Most Canadians, despite the sweet ideal, not being bilingual - one debate is, essentially all most of us have, and one debate is not enough.
Oddly enough, the French debate, proves this very point. It was so much more substantive and 'particular' than the English debate. Because, essentially, it was all about one region. None of the leaders could simply float above the issues, resting on a cloud of clichés and platitudes - floating tight little one-liners and putdowns past the camera lens
Each had to engage substantively with the voters of Quebec.
Why should not every region of the country have exactly the same benefit during our national campaigns? There is no way one debate can attend to the complexities and particularities of: British Columbia, our great North, the Maritimes and Newfoundland, Alberta, Ontario and the Prairies.
Canadian elections short change voters who want to engage by limiting these encounters.
The leaders should replicate in every region of the country what, already, they concede to Quebec - a debate on its territory and on its issues. Good grief even the Americans are more open and democratic on this point than we are. The very size of this country imposes different patterns and dynamics on all its regions; our federal elections are really five or six mini regional campaigns. The leaders should acknowledge this undeniable fact by debating at least once in every region.
Not as things are now however. Here in Canada they pop their avid little helmeted heads above the trenches once in English, once in French - furiously try to stay on message for a bare 2 hours - and then they're off, free to wander the land and the airwaves unchallenged and uncontested for the entire rest of the campaign.
Finally, it is also a matter of political equity. Each region should have at least as much claim on its national leadership as Quebec.We should not treat those regions or provinces outside Quebec, which have no separatist Party, with less consideration in a federal election than Quebec, which does have one.
For The National, I’m Rex Murphy.