Guys… there’s gonna be a leader’s debate. It’s my Super Bowl… Wait sorry… my editor is telling me that Super Bowl is a copyrighted term… Also, I am now being informed that I don’t have an editor… (please don’t sue me…).
But there’s gonna be a debate! It’s going to be so fun! You should watch. Truthfully, debates are a great opportunity to see the leaders under pressure and understand the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. One of these people is going to be Premier for the next 4ish years and will be under constant pressure to defend their actions and plans so debates can be a great litmus test.
But if I’m being honest, you should also watch for another reason. It’s great television. The last Alberta debate was one of the best ever. I know, I know. It sounds like as much fun as watching someone scratch their nails against a chalkboard for an hour. But that’s only because you’re doing it wrong….
Debates can be a lot of fun if you simply watch for the moment that will define that debate. It happens every time. Here is a great run down of such moments at the federal level in the last few years (ignore the grainy picture, I’m told that it is from a time where all TV looked like that). The last debate we had in Alberta produced the famously sexist “I know math is difficult” line. Rachel Notley rode that Jim Prentice line all the way to the Premier’s office.
Prior to the 2015 debate, most people knew that they didn’t want Jim Prentice to be Premier, but they had no idea who they wanted instead. Rachel Notley had a good night.
This time around, the leaders can’t even agree on who should participate in the debate. They’re literally debating about debating. Rachel Notley wouldn’t agree to participate at first and proposed that Derek Fildebrant be included. Why would she want Fildebrant there? Probably so he could attack Jason Kenney for her… but that’s conjecture.
The debate is a joint production of the Canadian TV stations that operate in Alberta. The rule for many years has been that in order to participate, you must have an MLA elected under your party’s banner in the legislature at the time it was dissolved. The second half of that sentence is critical this time around for UCP. If you recall, the UCP didn’t exist during the last election so the rule would have precluded them. Luckily there was a by-election in Calgary-Lougheed where Jason Kenney himself won, giving them the necessary elected member. Fun fact: in 2015 the AB Party was denied the chance to participate despite having an MLA because he crossed the floor and wasn’t elected under their banner.
The rule about having an elected member is arbitrary (and one could argue undemocratic), but we do have to draw the line somewhere. We can’t just let all the parties in. It would be pandemonium. So, whether the line should be drawn differently, we definitely need a line. Or maybe it would be even more fun…
The debate is this coming Thursday, April 4 at 5:30. It’ll run until 7:00 so you can still catch The Big Bang Theory in prime time. But the debate will definitely be more entertaining.