Politics and the Debate Club

I know, I know, you’d rather watch the Grey Cup game, so I’ll make this quick.

Yesterday, Ms Soapbox and a friend judged the final round in the Sir Winston Churchill High School Debate Competition.  The competition was hosted by the Alberta Debate and Speech Association and The Winston Churchill Society and included teams from 12 schools across the city.

The students were intelligent, articulate, and passionate.


Winston Churchill Bowlers 

And Ms Soapbox discovered (quite by accident) that everything you need to know about how to survive in Alberta’s polarizing political environment you can learn in Debate Club.

The rules of debate are simple:

  • The Government defines the proposition (say for example, NDP energy policies will result in a pipeline to the West Coast) and sets out three arguments to support of the proposition.     
  • The Opposition sets out three arguments that undermine the Government’s position.
  • The Government and the Opposition then rebut each other’s positions.    
  • Each side must let the other side ask questions but doesn’t need to answer more than a couple because the point of asking questions is to disrupt the speaker, not to gain further knowledge.
  • The most important rule is this: “The winner isn’t the one who gets the maddest or cries the most, it’s the one who is respectful, believable, witty and confident.  The winner is the one you trust.*

We could apply the rules of debate, step by step, to the NDP and UCP positions on Burnaby’s attempt to delay the Trans Mountain pipeline, but I know you want to get back to the Grey Cup so let’s cut to the chase and go directly to the last rule which defines the “winner”.

In her speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Rachel Notley said, “British Columbians have legitimate questions about this project and they deserve legitimate answers.” She said instead of threatening each other and retreating within our borders we should be reaching across party lines to support a project that serves the interest of all Canadians.

Jason Kenney is deeply critical of her approach.  He wants her to be more aggressive and confrontational.  He would threaten BC with “consequences” which include cutting off oil and gas exports from Alberta to BC if BC refuses to roll over.

Albertans have a choice.  They can support the political leader who is respectful and confident or the one who gets mad and cries the most.

Mr Kenney may understand the rules of gutter politics, but in today’s Alberta that’s not enough.

Hey Jason, maybe it’s time you joined the Debate Club.

*Comment made by a coach during Judges’ training Nov 25, 2017

This entry was posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Politics and the Debate Club

  1. Ed Henderson says:

    Those rules regarding debates make sense when you are dealing with normal human beings who are open minded and interested in other opinions and not politicians who have many different motivations. Politicians are motivated by power and money and there’s only one rule..win and destroy the opponents.

    • I think more politicians enter politics for idealistic reasons than you allow for, but then they enter a system where they need power and money to get anything done and it erodes the ideals that they entered politics to implement.

      • Paul I have a friend who’s been politically active for decades. He says the biggest problem with politics is it’s run by the “political strategists” who have no principles other than say and do whatever you have to, to win. They lead some politicians, not all, around by the nose. Is it any wonder that the public views politicians with a high degree of cynicism.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan if that is the case these politicians should refuse to follow the strategists and if they get expelled from the party so be it. I would rather sit as an independent than a sheep.

      • I agree with you Carlos.

    • Then vote for the politicians that actually debate intelligently and aren’t trying to nakedly seize power through emotional manipulation (you know – like a 3 year old does)

      • MgS your solution is the best one. The public has to make it clear they won’t stand for misleading propaganda anymore. Thankfully there are people like UofC economist Trevor Tombe who fact check everything so the public can figure out whether something is true or false. Here’s Tombe’s tweet on the lies the UCP is spreading about the impact of the NDP’s energy policies–“When, on Jan 1st, your gas bill **doesn’t** rise 75%… will you think less of those who suggested it would? I sure will. Being lied to isn’t cool.”

        Being lied to isn’t cool. Electing a liar is downright stupid.

    • Ed, you may be right with respect to the Wildrose and PC politicians who joined the UCP. Kenney’s entire leadership pitch was that the WR and PCs had to merge in order to win in 2019. But I’m not so sure we can say the same thing about the NDP, Liberal or Alberta Party candidates. People like Rachel Notley and Brian Mason hung in there for decades getting very little back in return, but they stuck with it because they truly believe politicians are elected to act in the best interest of the public not corporations.

  2. Terry Korman says:

    Fundamentally, it seems to me that this is the difference between Premier Notley’s wanting to serve the greater good within the parameters of reason and evidence, and Kenney merely wanting to win (or running true to form – that the “other side” lose).

    • I agree Terry. The Calgary Herald ran a story about Notley’s speech to the Chamber of Commerce. It quoted Ric McIver as saying Notley gave a nice speech and did a good job. McIver added she sounded more like Jason Kenney which is ridiculous. Kenney is threatening law suits against the feds and embargoes to stop oil from going to BC. He sounds like a raving lunatic, whereas Notley comes across as the firm voice of reason.
      The amazing thing is that the Herald (a long time UCP supporter) admitted that it’s unlikely anything Kenney has proposed would have changed the pipeline situation one bit.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: Jason Kenney and certain “media” outlets would love to blame Rachel Notley for any failures to get pipelines built. However, Jason Kenney’s record in the CPC shows no action, when we did not see such low oil prices that we have seen for 3 years.

      • You’re right Dwayne, Kenney has mastered the ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth. This week he implied that the NDP are not doing enough to reduce rural crime. Notley pointed out that the provincial government had to step in and top up funding for the RCMP because Kenney, when he was a federal cabinet minister, cut ALERT funding. What I can’t understand is why UCP supporters don’t dismiss Kenney out of hand because of his hypocrisy.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      The reason why Kenney’s supporters do not see the hypocrisy is because he just has to use the sentence ‘she is a socialist’ and that is enough to activate the North American pavlovian reaction and she is done. He does not have to do much, his political ancestor did a very good job of imprinting. These are consequences of non-democratic behavior in the past. Unfortunately it continues. I am sure Jason does not mind that at all. All of them could use some sessions with Michael Sandel.

  3. C. Hunt says:

    “The students were intelligent, articulate, and passionate.” Yes, but the coach said they need to be witty. Jason would be unstoppable with a bowler hat and a fat cigar, while reciting, “We will fight over fracking, fight over tar sands, coal mines and pipelines! We shall never surrender, about gender”.
    I never made the debating club but don’t think the rules will work for politicians.

  4. We could use those debate rules in the United States, but I think too many American politicians would be afraid of putting their “policy ideas” into a format that would require and intellectual defense.

    • Paul, I suspect it would be almost impossible for American politicians to put their “policy ideas” into a format that would stand up to critical scrutiny. Although I’ve been reading some interesting things coming out of the US. Apparently the young social democrat movement is growing by leaps and bounds. That, plus the rise of Bernie Sanders, tells me a growing segment of the population is fed up with what passes for democracy south of the 49th parallel. Interesting times!

      • carlosbeca says:

        Policy Ideas?
        The president apologizes for vulgar language one week and denies as fake news two weeks later. What kind of policy ideas are we expecting? Maybe ‘How to control women by their genitals?’
        Donald Trump is a egomaniac and if not driven out of the White House he will totally destroy whatever trust Americans still have in their political system. This sounds like not much but it could accelerate the downward spiral the US has been on for a couple of decades and throw the country into an impasse for years to come.

      • Carlos, I just saw a comment in The Economist that supports your point about US political parties being bereft of policy ideas. The Economist referred to a recent poll that showed only 1/3 of voters approved the Democratic Party’s performance in Congress, and only 1/5 approved the Republican Party. The Economist went on to say the “Republican Party is on the brink of civil war” with senators fighting over how to run government, what reforms should be pursed and what the future of America should look like. Things aren’t much better with the Democrats who have yet to figure out how to (as The Economist put it) “capitalise on the Republicans’ travails”. Meanwhile North Korea keeps firing off missiles.

  5. crazbazdad says:

    keepit going Susan sorry about Calgary Stampeders i really enjoy your commentary, Marlow Currie

    On Sun, Nov 26, 2017 at 6:20 PM, Susan on the Soapbox wrote:

    > susanonthesoapbox posted: “I know, I know, you’d rather watch the Grey Cup > game, so I’ll make this quick. Yesterday, Ms Soapbox and a friend judged > the final round in the Sir Winston Churchill High School Debate > Competition. The competition was hosted by the Alberta Debate and Sp” >

  6. Thanks Marlow. I didn’t see the game but it sounds like we had it until we lost it. Must have been devastating for everyone, especially Kamar Jorden, when the whole game fell apart at the very end.
    Oh, interesting fact, a friend and I actually had our photo taken with the Grey Cup last summer. Some of the team members brought it into Nick’s Steakhouse and when we asked if we could touch it they were happy to oblige. Cool, eh?

  7. GoinFawr says:

    Hey CBC’s “This Hour has 22 Minutes” Susanonhersoapbox called, she wants her premise back!!!

    (start watching around 11:20)

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