An Open Letter to Stephen Harper about the Debates

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

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20 Responses to An Open Letter to Stephen Harper about the Debates

  1. James Burrows says:

    Has Stephen Harper done anything at all good in your mind ?

  2. Joe Pendleton says:

    I’m sorry to the one…I just hate it when people do this to me…but….Susan, you are a writer (and I’m not “blowing smoke” here when I say that you are very good at it!) so you simply can’t make mistakes like “slight” of hand…nope…”sleight” of hand.


    Sent from my iPhone


  3. anonymous says:

    I agree with Ms. Soapbox. It’s over Steve.

  4. Elaine Fleming says:

    The whole “control thing” with Stephen Harper is culminating in this refusal to participate in debates with the other party leaders on the national Canadian networks. His own agenda is … just that- his own agenda. It has nothing to do with what is right or good for our country, or democracy in general.

    Harper is afraid to face the Canadian opposition parties, and the Canadian public at large because he knows that we know he doesn’t stand for our values. It has been made clear that he despises anything with “Canadian” attached to it: like the Canadian Wheat Board, due processes in our Canadian Parliament (omnibus bills, proroguing Parliament and so on), hollowing out and overtaking the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, his dismissal and lack of support for Canadian Medicare …. I’m sure others can come up with many other examples of his undermining of Canadian values and institutions.

    • Goinfawr says:

      I’ll add the TPP and FIPA to your list Elaine, and a couple of quotes that go hand in glove with them:
      “And we cannot be effective at major economic matters any longer unless we work with our economic partners around the world and work with them closely and intimately. That is essential. I know some people don’t like it. It is a loss of National Sovereignty but it is a simple reality. It is a simple reality.”
      – PM Stephen Harper

      “We’re gonna have to give up a little bit of our sovereignty to make the world work”
      – Former PM Paul Martin

      The above are two quotes, one from a former Liberal Prime Minister, and the other was uttered by the current reigning ‘Conservative’ Prime Minister. The Harper quote was made long before the country’s last federal election in 2011.

      Why are Canadians so complacent about losing their sovereignty?

      • Elaine I’d like to add Harper’s efforts to rewrite our history and turn Canada into a warrior nation to your list. Harper’s commemoration of The War of 1812 is nothing short of bizarre. He called it “the beginning of a long and proud military history in Canada.” By Harper’s reckoning we began our military history 55 years before we became a country. Paul Wells describes the aachinations Harper’s minions went through to pull off the $28 million celebration of this event, including arguments about why Laura Secord’s cloak is so frumpy. God give me strength!

      • I agree Goinfawr…TPP and FIPA have the potential to inflict great harm on Canadians and yet most of them don’t even know what the acronyms stand for. I get that many Canadians are “too busy” to follow the intricacies of these proposals, but one would think that they’d snap to attention when their prime minister says TPP and FIPA will result in a lost of national sovereignty but that’s OK. Wait, what…?

  5. Carol Wodak says:

    Susan, please tell me that you are looking to be a candidate for the NDs in October!

  6. Goinfawr says:

    Perhaps after Mr. Harper’s handlers witnessed the drubbing Prentice received at the Alberta provincial leaders’ debate they’re not risking a repeat for their pet Bilderberg alumnus. Their recreance is telling. It is very heartening to know that beneath all the casual dismissive posturing the federal cons are actually trembling in fear…they certainly should be.

  7. jerry says:

    Do you really think Heir harper is smart enough to understand anything you’ve said?
    If so, you give him more credit than most of the rest of us do.

    • Jerry, in a word “no”, but it was fun to give it a shot, although I wouldn’t recommend “writing” to Stephen Harper on a regular basis, it’s just too frustrating. Unless of course you’re Chris Lloyd, the guy who won the Conservative nomination to run against Justin Trudeau and managed to get his photo taken with the PM before the Conservatives discovered he was a fake candidate. I don’t know what gave him away…perhaps the $35 billion cheque he wrote to the Conservatives to cover the cost of the F-35 fighter jets?

  8. Rose MacKenzie-Kirkwood says:

    It must be nice to be “accountable” only when you want to be. As someone said, do the debate go out with your head held high.

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