who should be invited to the televised leaders’ debate?

Alberta Election Leaders' Debate 2012

PC leader Premier Alison Redford, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, NDP leader Brian Mason, and Liberal leader Raj Sherman.

The televised Leaders’ debate for Alberta’s 2012 election will be aired on April 12 at 6:30pm to 8:00pm on Global Television.

The debate will include Progressive Conservative leader Premier Alison Redford, Liberal Party leader Raj Sherman, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, and NDP leader Brian Mason. Some members of the Alberta Party have voiced disappointment that their leader Glenn Taylor was not invited to participate in the debate.

Glenn Taylor Alberta Party leader Election 2012

Glenn Taylor

The Alberta Party gained a presence in the Assembly in January 2011 when former Liberal MLA Dave Taylor joined that party. Despite strong campaigns from candidates Michael Walters in Edmonton-Rutherford, Sue Huff in Edmonton-Glenora, Tim Osborne in St. Albert, and Norm Kelly in Calgary-Currie, recent polls have placed the party with 2% support province-wide.

If I were making the decisions, I would invite the leader’s from all the political parties to join the televised debate, but because the decision is being made by a private television company I can understand how they came to this conclusion. With only 30 candidates nominated in 87 constituencies, most viewers tuning in to the televised debate will not have the option of voting for an Alberta Party candidate on Election Day. The four other parties are expected to nominate candidates in all 87 constituencies.

What about past leaders’ debates that included parties with no elected MLA’s?

During the 1997 election, both NDP leader Pam Barrett and Social Credit leader Randy Thorsteinson were allowed to participate in the leaders debate. Neither of those parties had elected an MLA in the previous election. The Social Credit Party had not elected an MLA since the 1979 election. During the 2004 election, as the Alberta Alliance leader, Mr. Thorsteinson was not invited to join the televised Leaders; debate, despite his party having an MLA in the Assembly. Just before the election was called, Edmonton-Norwood PC MLA Gary Masyk crossed the floor to the new party.

There is no denying that the Wildrose Party is a force in this election campaign and should be represented in the televised debates, but it is important to remember that neither Ms. Smith or any of her party’s four incumbent MLA’s were elected as Wildrose candidates in the last election. Former leader Paul Hinman returned to the Assembly in a 2009 by-election and Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier were elected as PC candidates in 2008 before crossing the floor to join the Wildrose Party in 2010.

Debate in front of an audience.

Instead of holding the televised debate in a sterile and controlled television studio, I would love to see the party leader’s demonstrate their debating skills in front of a live audience. A live audience would add an atmosphere of unpredictability and would force the leaders to speak to both the voters in the room and those watching their television screens.

21 thoughts on “who should be invited to the televised leaders’ debate?

  1. Eyebrow raised

    Albertan’s would go berserk if Danielle Smith wasn’t invited to the televised debates because the Wildrose didn’t election someone in 2008.

    Reply
  2. Thwim

    Any leader with candidates in all the ridings being voted on.

    Same criteria should apply for federal elections — and yes, that *does* mean excluding the Bloc.

    Reply
  3. Vincent

    Hey, Eybrow,

    The Wildrose has elected someone. It was in Glenmore and the voters of Alberta selected Paul Hinman to represent them. And he won an election before in southern Alberta but I don’t particularly want to spend the time to research just where.

    Other parties haven’t elected a representative: neither the Greens nor the Alberta Party.

    Vincent

    Reply
  4. Justin

    For many people the leaders debate is the single event in which they will have the most interaction with any of the parties. It’s a TV event, and the stations decide what makes good TV, whether or not that rankles your personal sense of fairness.

    For most viewers, the Alberta Party is a non-factor. It doesn’t matter who won how many seats in the past, who crossed the floor, whether it was a by-election, whatever. The debate is a chance for Albertans to meet the leaders of the relevant parties in advance of election day. With few candidates, little momentum and polling numbers within the margin of error, the Alberta Party has demonstrated that it does not meet this criteria. It doesn’t matter what scenario one can construct that shows a precedent for their participation. Relevance is what matters.

    Reply
  5. Denny

    With 2% in the polls (the margin of error could mean this support is as low as 0%) the Alberta Party should only be invited if the Social Credit, Communist, Evergreen and Separation parties are as well.

    Reply
  6. Midge

    Granted it’s a bit disappointing to not have the Alberta Party as part of this televised debate. But having said that, during the last election the leaders debate was an intelligible free-for-all, with everyone talking at once, the Libs and NDs at each others throats, it was a real pain to watch. If it is the same format, I’m not sure that not taking part is a big loss this year.

    If the criteria is just having names on the ballots in every constituency, I am SO glad that the Alberta Party is holding firm to their commitment that any AP candidate will be an involved and engaged leader in their community.

    The parachute candidates that the Libs and NDs are throwing out to the voters in rural constituencies in particular, do not give those voters the kind of choice they want. As one rural resident put it
    “[This is not the]viable MLA option that this Constituency so desperately needs. (We do NOT need another MLA who is inaccessible, and/or self-serving.) We need a top-notch, calibre MLA, someone with enough strength and dedication to unseat our current MLA, …who can rally Albertans, and motivate a change in voting habits here…This Candidate announcement is certainly a disappointment.”

    In rural Alberta, probably more so than in more urban areas, politics IS local. and Yes, I am the Alberta Party candidate for my rural constituency, and proud to be so!

    Reply
  7. Neal

    Doesn’t really matter. I suspect all of 10-12 truly undecided voters tune in to this thing, everyone else watching is just hoping “their gal/guy” really socks it to the other ones. Having a single televised debate is such a weak format. Just another contributing factor towards what will probably a new record low for voter turnout.

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  8. Carl

    According to Daveberta’s list the Alberta Liberals have only 77 candidates. The Liberals and NDP have dropped parachute candidates in dozens of ridings. How many Liberal Party staffers and University students are “running” in rural ridings? It’s just a name on a ballots.

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  9. Susan

    With a sitting MLA, and close to 40 candidates, it is disgraceful AP isn’t being invited to the debates. After all, WRP MLA’s also crossed the floor and weren’t elected in 2008! Heck, that is only 1 less MLA than the very loud Brian Mason! I for one want to hear what Glen Taylor has to say and want to see if he can hold his own!

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  10. Dale Westhora

    If Glenn Taylor was allowed to participate in the debate those percentages would change in my opinion.
    Relevant????

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  11. dontgive

    Let’s ask the federal NDP whether it’s better not to contest a riding than to have a parachute candidate running.

    Reply
  12. CalgaryGrit

    There should be some criteria at both the federal and provincial level. Likely based on a mix of MLAs, elected MLAs, number of candidates. I’d be tempted to include polling numbers in there, but that opens a whole other can of worms.

    Also, if you did the sane thing and had 3 or 4 debates, you could have at least one debate where you invite the smaller parties.

    Reply
  13. Jeff

    I like including any party that has a sitting rep when the writ is dropped, so I would include the Alberta Party.

    I would also say, without fairer representation provincially or federally, that a party garnering 5% of the popular vote (nationally or province-wide) at the last election should have their leader invited to the next debate(s).

    Reply
  14. Denny

    I would support the Alberta Party being in if they had ever elected an MLA. The Alberta Party’s only MLA to date is someone who was angry that he didn’t win his party’s leadership and wasn’t able to play nice with the rest of the caucus (funny that doesn’t seem to mesh with anything the Alberta Party claims to support).

    I found Midge’s comments interesting – because I wonder if anyone really believes that the reason the Alberta Party isn’t running anyone in every riding because they couldn’t find enough high calibre candidates – or if it’s for the same reason as the Liberals, lack of resources.

    All that said, I’m considering voting for Glen Taylor since he’ll be on my ballot. But I don’t support him being in the leadership debate without the inclusion of the SoCreds and Communists.

    Reply
  15. The Invisible Hand

    I’ve probably posted this before, but here’s my view on a fair criteria for debate inclusion, which I came up with during the 2004 federal election:

    1) The party has an MP/MLA/whatever who was elected under that party’s banner (i.e. floor crossers don’t count).
    ** OR **
    2) The party is running candidates in every single district.

    This would include the Bloc, federal Greens 2004 & 2006, and Alberta Alliance 2004. It would exclude the federal Greens 2008 & 2011 and Alberta Party 2012.

    Reply
  16. jerrymacgp

    To @Bernard von Schulmann: “If the goal is a good debate, it should be limited to leaders that might form government.” Given the monolithic nature of Alberta politics, that would mean Alison Redford talking to herself. Not very compelling television, if you ask me.

    While the Wildrosers are likely to give the PCs a run for their money, and a minority government has even been suggested as a real possibility this time around, the likelihood that the Tories will not retain the reins of government is so vanishingly small that we are more likely to see airborne (self-propelled) pigs. A larger Opposition? Probably. More NDP MLAs? Hopefully. The PCs losing power altogether? Not going to happen.

    Reply
  17. Denny

    Vote Watcher: The Alberta Party has an MLA who crossed the floor after he threw a tantrum and quit the Liberals because he didn’t get what he wanted. They have never elected an MLA and in fact their only MLA is one that violates what few principals the Alberta Party claims to have.

    Reply

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