Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Debate format debate

Gilles Duceppe has decided that he doesn't care for the debate format. I think he might be speaking selfishly - after all, most of his points can be made with a single word: "Gomery". Other candidates have more complex thoughts that they may want to express. Was this format the right one? No - the candidates hardly had time to engage an issue in any detail. But then again, they didn't want to engage some of the topics raised in any detail, and rarely did they want to say anything beyond the platform points.

I prefer the new format, or would if the leaders would take the opportunity to engage each other on their ideas. You saw that happen a couple of times during the debate, but it tended to be only on the broadest strokes: "You won't take away my Canada!" More often, you saw a distinct lack of engagement. Harper said he wouldn't use s.33 on any gay marriage prevention legislation, Martin insisted that there'd be no way around using s.33, and that therefore, Harper intended to. What would a real debate look like? Martin would be able to ask directly, which takes precedence? Avoiding the use of the notwithstanding clause, or avoiding gay marriages? Martin could likewise be challenged: what if there was a way around? What if the Conservatives could come up with legislation ending gay marriage without offending the Charter? Would he support it? Does Mr. Martin support gay marriage or just Charter rights?

How do we get these sorts of cross-examinations without descending into the yelly non-answer format we had last time around?

How about this for a format: we'll use the Abraham Lincoln / Stephen Douglas debates as a guide. One candidate will have an hour, the second candidate will have 90 minutes, and the first candidate will have half an hour in rebuttal. I recognize that this was one of the shorter formats Lincoln and Douglas used, but we must make allowances for modern audiences. Now, since we have four leaders, we'd need six of these debates in series (one for each pair), but I'm sure Canadians can spend that amount of time and concentration on a decision they'll be complaining about for the next few years.

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