Rivers on the Debate: Was this Dragon’s Den or the Cooking Show?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 8th, 2019



Trudeau scheer

Just Trudeau and Andrew Scheer – they hammered away at each other. Neither managed to land a really hard punch.

There were fleeting discussions around some issues, but all anyone will remember is the storm of insults hurled by adults acting like children.

And it all started with Andrew Scheer using his opening speech to level insults, and stunning hyperbole, at the prime minister.

“He puts on a middle-class mask and then raises taxes on middle-class Canadians. Mr. Trudeau you are a phony and you are a fraud and you do not deserve to govern this country….”

The concept of a single national leaders forum to discuss policy in both official languages is a worthy goal. But the proof is in the execution and there was so much wrong with this so-called debate. There was way too much on the program plate to being with. And when one tries to do everything one seldom does anything well.

May Trudeau

Elizabeth May, Green Party leader held her own – was it enough to advance their number of members in the House.

For another thing there is no such thing as an ordinary undecided Canadian voter. And I’m getting really tired of seeing some random uninformed person pretending to represent me and asking a poorly constructed question to the leaders. That time would have been better utilized in the debate proper by the party leaders to actually explain their policies.

Then there were too many people involved for an effective debate. And while everyone wanted to be there, not everyone benefitted from that experience. Maxime Bernier, for example, might have stood a better chance of winning, at least his own seat, had he just stayed home. And what is a separatist party doing in a debate about national issues?

While the Greens, NDP, Bloc and the People’s Party all serve a useful function in our political system by bringing ideas to the table, there is no hope any of them will be forming government.

Max Jagmeet BLOC

Maxine Bernier on the left Yves-François Blanchet of the BLOC, center and Jagmeet Singh – they won’t form a government but they could determine who does govern.

And how is it fair that a party without official party status, and currently holding only a couple seats, like the Greens, Peoples or BLOC, get equal debate time with the Liberals or CPC which hold the vast majority of seats and popular support? Shouldn’t they have just mailed in their questions instead?

But it was the negativity which almost sent me off to bed for an early night. Real debates are supposed to be beyond insults and slander. And Scheer wasn’t the only one trying to brand his main opponent, though he was the worst. That is after all, the sum total of how the Conservatives are running their campaign this year. Almost half of everything (47%) coming out of mouths of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is negative and personal, and all of it aimed at Mr. Trudeau. And, despite Mr. Singh claiming the high moral ground, the NDP is almost as bad.

Oh sure, negative campaigns work. At least they did in the USA for Donald Trump, who falsely accused his opponent of being crooked, accompanied by a charming chant of ‘lock her up’. It was a lie but if you repeat a lie often enough people start to believe it. And though Trump lives in a glass house, none of the stones have ever bounced back to hit him – at least not yet.

And so it is with Mr. Scheer. He lied on his resume about being an insurance broker. He tried to hide his dual nationality. Doesn’t he break US law every time he crosses the border without his US passport? And he lies every time he talks about the federal carbon tax.


Andrew Scheer – he was better in the English language debate – French is not a language he is comfortable with.

Scheer has never taken responsibility for his actions. Unlike Trudeau who recognizes his mistakes, Scheer never apologized for misleading people with his fake resume, not his previous stand on LGBT rights, nor holding back on his citizenship. And how ironic to label Trudeau with ‘not as advertised’ and ‘can’t be trusted’.

There are serious policy differences between the two leading political entities in this country. Let’s have a serious debate about the future of fossil fuels and whether we need more pipelines and petroleum resource development.

Let’s discuss the merits of doing more of what we have always done or taking more drastic climate action. Let us address the still growing wealth and income gaps in this country. Let us resolve the importance of balancing the budget versus borrowing for investment in our human and physical capital, and growing the economy.

Maxime Bernier has invited Canadians to have an adult discussion on immigration and our refugee policy. Elizabeth May has demanded that we ban the internal combustion engine by 2030. Jagmeet Singh would like Canada to reopen the constitution and find a new accommodation for Quebec.

Mr. Scheer has promised to bring back a partisan Senate and Mr. Singh’s party has long called for its abolition.

What about defence policy and Canada’s contribution as it applies to NATO spending targets? There is discussion of a wealth tax and of raising the capital gains tax to 100%. What about China?

This week’s debate may have been good entertainment, though for me it was depressing. Government should be about policy and not just theatre. It is unclear if any one of the six party leaders ‘won’ in the so-called debate, but we all lost an opportunity to be better informed on the issues before us and what these characters would really do if we elect them PM.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Five key moments

Two two mainline parties.

Where do they stand on taxes


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14 comments to Rivers on the Debate: Was this Dragon’s Den or the Cooking Show?

  • Stephen White

    If citizens tuned in expecting to see and hear a serious discussion on the issues they were profoundly disappointed. What viewers were treated to was stylistic differences. In an era of tweets and sound bites it probably appeals to some voters, but for those expecting substance rather than style they were left out in the cold.

    Seriously time to consider scrapping the debate concept given the limitations of time, more than two leaders, and a format that is not fully engaging. Perhaps better to have each leader go one-on-one with experienced journalists and reporters asking probing, incisive questions and then allowing each leader to respond in a three minute timeframe. It may require a greater investment from viewers in time, but at least the public wouldn’t have to listen to this childish bickering, ranting and yelling.

  • Mike

    Appalling and useless. A total failure for the commission that is organizing these and the media hosts that involved themselves with it. I am not sure what to expect of the former but since it is government constituted, it cannot be seen to be more discriminating and exclude those that need not be there. On the other hand, the 5 media folks should have known better and should be ashamed to be have been part of it. I had respect for most of them before this. Now I have none. Huge waste of time and money (ours). Fire them all.

  • Joe Gaetan

    I fully agree with Ray that “we all lost an opportunity to be better informed on the issues”. Aside from the fact that the format of the leaders’ debate was abysmal, leading to a verbal free for all, where real issues were not discussed. The item missing from this entire election season is any discussion on how the various parties are going to pay for all their promises.
    The Globe and Mail article entitled “Heavy Lifting” claimed that a mere 3.5 % of us Canadians consider debt and deficits an important issue. Here in Ontario the current government is constantly lambasted at every turn (some well-deserved some not) for attempting to try to do something about Ontario’s staggering debt load. When taken in isolation debt and deficits are usually sold on the basis of the relationship of debt-to-GDP, but, as the article points out when you put federal and provincial debts together as a country, we are in the hole to the tune of $700 billion. And that is a problem as some economist see a recession on the horizon,something we are not fiscally prepared to weather.
    We all need to worry about how the various parties are spending our money to win our votes. If you are still thinking about whom to vote for, you should at least take the time to read this article:

  • Joe Gaetan

    Canadian voters were the losers. The only thing missing from this 6 ring curcus was the clowns.

  • Carol Victor

    Some of us are willing to pay the carbon tax. We believe that sustaining our planet is a top priority whether we get a rebate or not. It should be high on the list of any leader running for the leadership of our country and cutting it is as good as denial.

  • Hans Jacobs

    My tolerance for chaos is lower than Ray’s; I couldn’t watch it for more than ~10 minutes. The format seemed to be a major issue and very little of substance was being presented IMO.

  • Phillip Wooster

    Ray is so concerned about Andrew Scheer’s lack of a broker’s licence and his dual citizenship but apparently unconcerned about Justin Trudeau’s corruption, lies, broken promises, faux environmental record, faux feminism–just another Liberal fluff piece. BTW, Ray, what do you think of Trudeau running to be the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario?????

  • Larry

    I could not agree more … well said

  • Carol Victor

    Rebatable not debatable carbon tax.

    • Phillip Wooster

      Carol, have you ever seriously analyzed how much of the cost of the carbon tax is actually rebated? The Liberal propaganda that 80% of the people receive back more than they spend on the carbon tax is a complete fabrication! Here’s the major problems with the Liberal myth–first, the Liberals estimated that the average Ontario family would receive a rebate of approximately $300, but the actual rebate was $203 (reported by CRA–see Global News on June 7). CRA also reported that in all 4 provinces in which the Liberals imposed a carbon tax, the actual rebate was lower than the actual rebate. Strange????? For an average Ontario family,

      • Phillip Wooster

        Oops, continued. For an average Ontario family, this rebate will barely cover the DIRECT COST of the carbon taxes they pay. BUT, the Liberal Carbon Tax calculator does not take into account the INDIRECT CARBON TAXES that families pay. These indirect costs are incurred when business passes on their carbon taxes in the form of higher prices to buyers at several stages of the distribution chain (most of these costs are transportation fuel related)–even at 5 to 10 cents per product, this could easily cost the average family $500 to $1000 per year.

  • Carol Victor

    Couldn’t have said this better….US style is permeating Canada….it was disgusting….Scheer was a robot checking off personal insults ..so rehearsed…Trudeau did not stoop to his level and good on him…..promises made by 2nd tier candidates with nothing to lose have no basis in reality., health care is barely sustainable now and now dental and pharmacare? The NDP is dreaming in techicolour….and how can The Greens get Candians on board when provinces are fighting a debatable carbon tax?
    Canadians who are able bodied and employed have to stop demanding so much financial aid from governments…..this leads to unrealistic expectations..we are a very fortunate country and we need to take stock of what we do have instead of squeezing those who serve us to give us more.

  • John Birch

    I suffered the whole debate. Simply dreadful format.
    The winner?
    Althia Raj.


    • Phillip Wooster

      John, I hope it doesn’t get out that I actually agree with you but the debate format was brutal! Why we have the BQ leader on a national debate and Maxime who has no seats—the 6 political leaders spent the evening arguing and talking over each other–to be sure, this was a favourite strategy of Trudeau who liked to talk over his opponents to deny them the opportunity to state an opposing viewpoint–it was great to see this strategy used against him. Unfortunately, between too many debaters, noone got a chance to develop their arguments to the fullest. And the moderators were even worse–they failed to control the 6 politicians. The audience/voters as one writer noted were clearly the losers. Althia Raj was the worst–nice hair (no wonder she likes Trudeau), but openly partisan. But perhaps you are right–she won a dinner out of this event courtesy of Gerry Butts.