Dear Mr Harper: I understand that you’ve decided not to participate in the traditional election debates hosted by the three major TV networks, Global, CTV and CBC. Incidentally, isn’t it convenient they’re known as The Consortium? Conjures up all sorts of sinister images of The Firm and The Company and lends a smattering of credence to your objection.
You’ve rejected The Consortium because you want “more opportunities for freewheeling interaction” and greater “diversity and innovation”. Apparently you expect to get these opportunities with other media organizations like Macleans.
Have you lost your mind?
May I remind you that the last time you tried to be “freewheeling” (the 2008 debate) you ignored your Hill+Knowlton debate coach, became an automaton and allowed Stephane Dion (of all people) to walk all over you.
And yes, you were better in 2011. That time you listened to your debate coach and did not to engage with Michael Ignatieff. Instead you used the “pivot and look into the camera” technique to defuse him. This might work with young Justin, but it will be futile against the master debater Thomas Mulcair. He can unhinge you in Question Period when you’re ready for him with a fist full of scripted non-answers; just imagine what he’ll throw at you in a freewheeling debate.
Face it Stephen, you’re a buttoned down, straight laced kind of guy. You need the predictability and structure of a traditional debate.
Having said that I wonder whether you figured out that The Consortium is doing something different this year. They’ve entered into arrangements with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and YouTube to deliver the debates online. The Consortium says this will give the debates an “unprecedented digital reach.”
Perhaps you figured out that such “digital reach” will expose you to the instantaneous scathing commentary of the social media glitterati. Their genius lies in crafting snappy phrases that can torpedo a politician and his political career in a nanosecond. Remember Prentice’s #mathishard? Just imagine what we can do with #HeaveSteve.
I think we can both agree that you don’t “get” social media. I’ve checked out your website 24 Seven. It’s pathetic. Between the snooze inducing infographics on eliminating tariffs and the “fun” section complete with pictures of Laureen holding a kitten, it’s not surprising that your stats for the week of Jan 2, 2014 averaged 1,450 a day across the entire country.
Stephen, the one thing you need to understand is that there’s no point in trying to limit the accessibility of these debates. Canadians will watch them whether they are carried by The Consortium or projected on to a sheet by a creaky Super 8 movie projector.
The sad truth (for you) is that we’re done with your Conservative government. We will be glued to the debates so we can decide whether to replace you with Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair.
All you can do now is go out with dignity. No more undemocratic behind the scenes sleight of hand. Give all Canadians a couple of good debates and go out with your head held high. Think you can do that Stephen? I thought not.
Sincerely, Ms Soapbox
Facts and stats from “The Longer I’m Prime Minister” by Paul Wells