Quite an example

The Oct. 7 federal election debate seemed to take off smoothly until about five minutes in, when Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer laid into a blistering attack on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

The first question of the night was about living in a divided world rife with dissenting opinions and controversial issues, and how leaders defend Canadian values on the world stage. As often happens, the query raised the additional question of what are Canadian values? Our own quick list includes respect for the rule of law, fairness, decency and a willingness to help others in need.

Scheer’s diatribe not only missed the mark of the question, but amply demonstrated why anything but a Liberal minority this election will be a big surprise. Scheer isn’t up to the job, for many of the reasons that Trudeau wasn’t and still isn’t. Leadership is something we have watched closely over our voting life and both men seem to lack an authentic self, relying instead on talking points and jargon.

The balance of candidates, Elizabeth May for the Green Party, People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier and Yves-Francois Blanchet of the Bloc Quebecois turned in reasonable performances espousing their views and maintaining their integrity.

It was NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, however, that provided some levity to the night with a dose of self-deprecating humour. He seemed most in keeping with our quick list of Canadian values cited earlier in this column.

The format of the event didn’t lend itself to learning much of anything. Cat calls and insults flew as if it were just a day at the office – House of Commons question period style.

The big difference was there was no Speaker of the House attempting to keep order. Instead there were moderators, touted as “five of the country’s most respected political journalists,” who arguably ran one of the poorest debates in recent memory. Few of us are wiser for the two hours spent watching the only English debate to be held in Canada with all major leaders.

Monday night was just another example of why Canadians continue to turn off politics.

Erin debate redux

Two weeks ago, we noted in mild, gracious terms, what we feel strongly was an oversight at the Erin candidate debate, wherein a surrogate took the place of the absent NDP candidate.

Was it illegal? No. Was it a poorly advised choice? In our opinion, yes, on a number of fronts.

We recognize the organizers are volunteers and performing a public service. That was never in doubt, nor was the sincerity of all of those involved.

Andrew Bascombe’s people make the point in a letter this week that no one else challenged the notion of a surrogate. The organizers were happy to accommodate a stand-in and the other debaters weren’t opposed, so it must be okay.

While these points may be true, it is hard to imagine any candidate stirring up a ruckus. That doesn’t make it right and here, in less gracious terms, we note why.

The moderator could have read a note from Bascombe outlining his regrets at not being able to attend in person. If that were to go a stretch further, guests could have been invited to meet with NDP officials after the meeting or seek out his website. But to debate was wrong. People deserve to hear from the actual candidate.

It is the concept of precedent that worries us and hasn’t been thought through by the beneficiary of this lapse in judgement.

How about Warden Kelly Linton sits in for Liberal Dr. Lesley Barron at a candidate night in Centre Wellington?

Perhaps Mike Schreiner, leader of the provincial Green Party and MPP from Guelph, takes a shot at helping out Ralph Martin at a debate?

Perhaps we see Mike Chong in the next municipal election helping out the candidate opposing Diane Ballantyne during County Ward 6 debates?

And that perhaps speaks to those who wish to knock convention for expediency sake – it just isn’t right.