A “Leaders Debate” was held on August 6 with the leaders of four of the 18 registered political parties present. As expected they all gave pat responses to questions which fell into the four categories said to be of major concern to Canadians – the economy; energy and the environment; democratic institutions; and foreign policy and security. Despite the fact that Mulcair managed to get Harper to admit the country is in a recession and all of the opposition leaders managed to pin the recession on Harper’s bad management, plus one or two other successful “punches” landed by this or that leader, the pundits on CBC’s “At Issue” panel pretty much declared the contest a draw. Nobody delivered any knockdown punches nor was anyone knocked out of the ring. On the contrary, the media pundits seemed to think that despite this or that odd thing, the leaders stood up for themselves well enough. They ran clips of the low or high points in various leader’s performance, thereby erasing any memory of the event save the one they wanted highlighted to back up their own rendering of what had taken place.
All of it seeks to cover up that it was a phoney debate. To debate is an important feature of being human and it plays an important role in developing conviction. However, how are the majority of Canadians to develop conviction when their voice is not represented in the debate and the problems the society faces are not even presented, not to speak of holding a debate on how they might be solved?
Whatever complaints the leaders have about each other’s performance or positions, not one opposed the neo-liberal direction of the economy and the schemes to pay the rich or privatize social programs, let alone oppose Canada’s warmongering role internationally. Harper stuck to his responses of why Canada should stay the course. The opposition parties all gave canned responses on how they would engage in responsible change, or do things better, or look after the environment and do war better. What should Canada’s workers, women and youth believe? Will what one of these parties is proposing indeed help resolve the crisis in a manner which favours them or will it succumb to the neo-liberal agenda of the international financial oligarchy which puts the private interests of the monopolies in charge of government itself?
The real issue in this election is that there is an alternative to the neo-liberal direction in which Canada has been taken which opposes nation-wrecking and embroiling Canada in wars of aggression integrated with the U.S. war machine. But the privileged parties make sure it is not even discussed. Their only concern is to vie to take over the government. Within this context, the debate is a phoney one because it does not reflect the all-sidedness of life and its dialectic, the complexities of economic, political and social affairs and how people make their living and participate in taking the decisions which affect their lives. The underlying arrogance that Canadians should just take party platforms which are for purposes of getting their vote as the final word is offensive.
A debate is not a debate when it is one-sided – when the debaters are all pro neo-liberal globalization and genuine opposition that represents the people’s interests is lacking. The basic hypothesis presented by the four leaders was the same. No leader stood up and challenged the dominant thesis presented that the direction of the economy is just fine, it only needs some fine tuning; engaging in war abroad and preparing for greater wars is fine; education, health care, pensions and other social programs are mostly fine with only some doubt about whether changes will make a difference; workers’ rights are not worth mentioning except to contest how many workers will be impacted by an increase in the federal minimum wage, or whether it takes one voter or nine judges “to break up Canada” or one Harper or nine provinces to abolish the Senate. Harper’s dismal record on the natural environment was panned but misleading information on most things went largely unopposed.
Not only was the voice of the working class missing but that of Indigenous peoples was totally absent as well. The people of Quebec were supplanted by Harper’s stereotypical rendering of sovereigntists who, he has made clear time and time again, he considers to be enemies of the state.
What kind of debate does not challenge the dominant hypothesis of prosperity based on the neo-liberal agenda pursued by Canada which is nation-wrecking and warmongering from A to Z? A phoney debate, a debate that is all show with no substance; a debate in name only.
Democratic Renewal, August 7, 2015, No. 136
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Break the monopoly of the meda