Editorial: Getting ready for The Great Debate

Let’s face it, debating about debating is a bit repetitious, as is arguing about how we’re going to argue.

So the candidates are debating how, when and where to debate. Let’s face it, debating about debating is a bit repetitious, as is arguing about how we’re going to argue.

Last week, Conservative incumbent MP David Wilks announced that he is in favour of participating in All Candidates Forums now that parliament has been dissolved as long as local Chambers of Commerce are the hosts and organizers. Mr. Wilks is also requiring that the forums be limited to 90 minutes and that questions be collected before the events.

NDP candidate Wayne Stetski has indicated he would be happy to participate in Chamber-sponsored forums, but is continuing to insist that all eight major communities within the riding be venues for the events and that other community groups should be invited to organize and host.

Green Party candidate Bill Green sided with Mr. Stetski, adding the caveat that the hosts should be non-partisan while insisting 11 to 12 forums are needed.

Liberal candidate Don Johnston questioned whether the Chambers could reach out to a broad enough spectrum of voters and accused Mr. Wilks of an attitude “bordering on arrogance” by trying to dictate the terms of the events.

For the record, I have been approached by our local Chamber to sit on the All-Candidates Forum committee and both our local newspapers will be donating advertising space to promote the event as well as providing information as to where questions can be sent for consideration.

In speaking with Susan Clovechok, executive director of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, the committee will consist of people representing a variety of interests (not just business), a variety of political views and will be drawn from communities between Spillimacheen and Canal Flats. The mandate will be to review all submitted questions identify a broad range of issues that are of local importance, then compose the final set of questions to be used for the debate in a non-biased, non-partisan form.

Regarding concerns around the format of the forums: if people were allowed to line up at microphones in order to question the candidates, the event could be controlled by small, well-organized special interest groups and candidates could “seed” the audience with supporters fielding “gotcha” questions.

By having questions submitted early, the committee can fact-check the premise of the questions and discard those with no basis in reality as well as those that deal with issues that do not fall under a federal mandate.

In the end, all candidates will stand up in public, answer questions on a variety of issues and defend their record and their platform, thereby adhering to the tenets of a free and open democratic society.

We’ll see you there.

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