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If you took time to watch the federal leaders’ debate on Monday night, please accept our condolences.
If you expected a shining moment of clarity about the different federal parties and their directions that would cement your selection of the right party to lead this country, we feel your pain.
If you quickly reached your limit of canned talking-points and pre-planned buzzword attacks on politicians who aren’t even running federally and reached spontaneously for the channel-change, we understand and empathize with that impulse.
If we can take nothing more from the crater-fest of the actual debate than a clear knowledge that those who have the least to lose have more freedom to swing for the fences, it might be time to admit that the leaders’ debate as we know it is effectively dead.
And it’s especially dead in the newest iteration: the format of Monday’s debate lead to a plethora of one-line attacks and staged, prepped responses, but the short time-frames led to half-made explanations and unfinished thoughts, as though the leaders themselves had spent their time preparing for a different style of debate altogether.
What did we learn? That the leaders are themselves led, that they’re told to stick to their talking points and messaging, even if those talking points have no relation to questions they’re asked.
"...it might be time to admit that the leaders’ debate as we know it is effectively dead."
Asked “What do we do to improve health care?”, and you get the answer, “We’re going to put more money in your pocket.”
Asked about the current government’s ethical flaws, the answer is, “But look at Doug Ford …”
Asked about, well, anything, and the answer is just a pivot to some already explained platform approach, with few attempts to go beyond the staged.
Everyone had clearly been told to make eye contact with their opponent for a requisite five seconds, and then turn and address the camera directly, as if looking into the camera is going to create some deeper magic bond with the viewer; “Oh look, Trudeau/May/Scheer/Singh/Bernier and Blanchet are talking right to me! I feel such a special bond now …”
And, of course, as is the norm now, everyone seemed to be coached, when interrupted, to just keep talking over each other at full speed, leaving parts of the debate as understandable as a party of blue jays jabbering in an echoing tiled bathroom. (Lord help anyone who tried to take in that mélange by listening to it on radio.)
The argument can be made that the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh had the best debate, but in reality, that’s damning a faint contest with praise.
The real question is whether the debate itself was useful.
We need a better way to hear political leaders during election campaigns.
More and more, it feels like stage-managed, pre-packaged style over any kind of substance.