Debates As A Tool For Election Strategy
The Federal election (or non-election) of 2011 will be remembered for many things. One of the most interesting aspects is the focus on Candidates and Leader debates. What are they for? Whose interest do they serve? Should all candidates on the ballot be allowed to participate. Does it matter whether somebody is a “party candidate?” If so, which party? Should only those party candidates that have Official Party status be allowed to participate? For that matter, should candidates on the ballot be required to participate?
What About Candidates Who Do Not Appear In Debates?
Candidates do not appear for one of two reasons:
1. They are excluded
2. They refuse to appear
Those who are excluded from debates, often feel that their exclusion hampers their ability to run as a candidate.
Those who refuse to attend debates often do so for reasons related to their campaign. But, are the debates to serve the interests of: the parties, the candidates or the voters.
Democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires public participation. This participation requires that people to vote. But, it also requires that voters have the opportunity to engage with their candidates. To put it simply: the debates are a part of the democratic process that belong to the voters. Incredibly, the parties seem to think that the debates are part of their campaign strategy which are to be manipulated for their benefit.
Examples of manipulation include:
– the failure of candidates to appear at debates they have been invited to. It is a rare event to find a Conservative Candidate appearing at a debate in Toronto. For example, on April 15 Toronto Centre Conservative Candidate Kevin Moore failed to appear at an All Candidates Debate. On the other hand, Independent Candidate Bahman Yazdanfar had to work hard in order to be included.
– the Party Leaders seem to have forgotten that in a Parliamentary democracy their primary obligation is to their constituents. Jack Layton has refused to participate in the Toronto Danforth All Candidates on April 28.
If nothing else, the opportunity to appear at an All Candidates Debate is free advertising and allows a candidate to be compared directly to other candidates. Without the ability to be compared to other candidates, one is nothing more than a name on a ballot.
The next poll will solicit your thoughts on whether Candidates should be required to attend debates.