The Canadian Debates debate
Apr 3, 2011

The Canadian Debates debate

For the second election in a row there is some minor controversy surrounding the public election debates. Should the green party be included? Should Harper and Ignatieff have a second, separate debate? However, the opportunity to have a larger discussion about the state of Canadian civil discourse is bring missed to our detriment.

In a society that actually embraced civil discourse public policy debates would be prominent to the public both at elections and between them. Worrying about whether there ought to be one or two public debates only exists as a relevant question when there is not a spirit of consistent public policy discourse.

Political debate does of course occur in parliament and is broadcast on TV, however it is largely ignored. This is both the product of and contributes to an apathetic public that is disengaged from the political discourse. Through a political class that attempts to convey policy decisions in a way that includes the public the public is likely to become more engaged. Conversely, the public apathy to politics keeps mainstream media more likely to present a new season of Canadian Idol than a second political debate due to financial incentives and allows for politicians to keep policy debates out of the public spotlight. The burden thus falls on us to demand a higher level of public discourse from the political class. Simply blaming the political class such as Harper's use of the RCMP to shield himself from answering journalists questions while it may be valid is only one side of the story.

The U.S. is slightly better in this regard. Presidential elections consist of three separate presidential debates on different general policy areas as well as a vice presidential candidates debate. Throughout the year there is the annual state of the union address and the president takes the opportunity as he did last Monday to spend 25 minutes on primetime to defend the Libyan bombing campaign. I think this level is still suboptimal and an engaged public ought to demand more; however, it demonstrates that Canadians can and should be able to make small increases to at least match that of the Americans.  

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Anonymous said...

Well at least the Greens lawyer brought up PR today, which is what this is really about.
Your pre-solution is to demand WE want more? That's just as pathetic. NO. THEY should simply give it to us in a democracy like Canada. Duh.

bazie said...

I certainly agree, they SHOULD give us a much more engaged civil discourse. And the chances are, if you are reading a humble political blog like mine, that you yourself are sufficiently engaged. The unfortunate reality however is that they do NOT give us this and the fact that large numbers of Canadians enable this by being entirely apathetic and not demanding it certainly doesn't help.

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