Among the debates of leaders (broken)

Paul Wells: Trudeau has been trying to sharpen the distinctions between the major parties. O’Toole is trying to blur them. And the discussions of the consortium do not help anyone.

Consensus is only possible when divergent interests align to mutual benefit. If you watched the national leaders debate in French on Wednesday, you heard 16 people: five party leaders, five award-winning journalists, half a dozen citizens from other walks of life. That is a great consensus. I mean, Dune it will not have a larger cast. Where was everyone’s interest?

For starters, participating news organizations want maximum screen time for their journalists. Each organization that participated in the consortium sent a prominent colleague. Neither preferred to sit for the night, for the sake of simplicity and clarity. This is how you get five people into moderator / questioner roles. What if PressPaul Journet was not so interested in pressuring the leaders about their non-responses to questions from Hélène Buzzetti of the Les Coops de l’Info newspaper union … well, that brings us to the interest of the parties.

The parties want minimal screen time for their leaders. Or at the very least, they want the least amount of risk for every second of screen time. How much time did Erin O’Toole want to spend explaining that the only source of cost reduction on her platform is the abolition of liberal daycare plans and that in all other respects her party has become as expensive as Trudeau’s? ? Zero. Ideally, you would like to spend zero minutes explaining that. In the case, he was forced to spend perhaps a minute and a half on the sensitive issue, compared to a combined total of 70 minutes listening to journalists and ordinary citizens whose names do not appear on the ballot. That’s a pretty good trade.

Similarly, Trudeau had to spend just a few minutes trying to explain why he is campaigning instead of ruling. Yves-François Blanchet had to listen for only about 40 seconds with evident disgust as Trudeau explained that Quebecers have a legitimate role in the federal government of Canada. No one had to spread too long. It was like a question period! Who doesn’t love question period? Question period is a mechanism for distributing news clips while avoiding conversation.

This is how good people who work hard can produce results that fall short of expectations, over and over again. Paul Journet is the best new columnist in Press. All Ottawa politicians have been nervous at the prospect of a question from Hélène Buzzetti for 22 years. The leaders also worked hard. For example, O’Toole has been preparing the French debate daily for months. And yet … this is what we get.

This knot of converging interests is so perfect that only a higher interest can cut it. This week some colleagues have asked: Why does Quebec have two debates, this week and last week? VAT face to face, plus the previous Sunday leader interview parade on Radio Canada? Why do party leaders who are wary of giving up control keep appearing in what are often very revealing turns before television cameras in Quebec? It’s obvious. A higher interest takes them out of their comfort zones. Quebec has 78 constituencies that are absolutely at stake. Since the 1980s, no less than four federal parties have taken turns sweeping the province. No other part of Canada can make or condemn electoral dreams so effectively.

But Ontario is close: more seats, a little less fluidity in electoral history, but when Chrétien, Harper and Trudeau won, they won in Ontario. If TVOntario or the resurgent Toronto star o Ontario Tech University or Stratford Festival held a debate on Ontario issues and promised to deliver a large Ontario audience, how many leaders would stay away? The same is true of British Columbia, a distinct society that has been locked in a three-way electoral race for decades. Or for populations that are not defined by geography but by interests: Indigenous Canadians or the energy sector.

The oligarchy of the consortium debates is not the product of a mandate from heaven, only from Ottawa. And it does not improve the product. Someday, people will realize that.

Meanwhile, there is the debate tonight. During the perhaps 40 percent of their run time that will be spent getting leaders talking about their programs, each of the directors has a chance to emerge from a prolonged stalemate in this campaign.

Trudeau has been trying Sharpen distinctions between major parties. That is why it has gone through more wedges in a month than a caddy. Vaccine passport, healthcare privatization, abortion option, daycare spaces, assault weapons, the role of rude protesters in society – Trudeau needs this to be an emotionally hotter campaign that voters feel interested in. . If it’s a distracted or spontaneous choice, you lose. Maybe one day we will learn how it felt to realize that.

O’Toole has been trying blur distinctions. That’s why he hid the cost of his rig for a month, why he never shows up with anyone who could possibly become a member of his cabinet (he can’t allow anyone to ask questions about those people), and why he keeps posting pictures of his dog. . I’d really rather define an O’Toole government later, once I’m running it. His problem is that he has come close, but is nowhere near closing the deal. He won’t score by playing more defensively.

I have not addressed the role of the third group in the crowded debate on Wednesday: ordinary citizens. Bernadette Landry, from New Brunswick, who was concerned about long-term care, and Terry Simon, from Kanesatake, who wondered about the official indigenous languages, and Charles Leduc, who is 11 years old and wants to know how the parties will reduce emissions carbon. An answer to Charles’s question would have been helpful, but instead the leaders took turns to flatter and bond with him, and the moderators took turns encouraging him to continue to have opinions and questions.

Those common citizens are all of us. We have questions and concerns. They tell us that this whole five-week exercise is our chance to have a say, but somehow it doesn’t feel like a conversation. It’s frustrating. What was the interest of those citizens in participating? I hope for something better. Even when he is misled almost systematically, he persists.

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