In the beginning, there was one debate in English and one debate in French. That remained the case up until this year, when the Prime Minister decided to change everything. With a fixed date election on the horizon, Stephen Harper declared that he would not participate in the media consortium debates because WA WA WA he didn’t want to. Instead, he wanted different debates and, like a toddler spoiled by clueless parents, he received them. For a while, it looked like the Liberals, Greens, NDP, and Bloc would still attend the consortium debates in addition to other debates attended by the Prime Minister. Now the NDP is saying that won’t happen.
Tom Mulcair, the lone leader trying to distinguish the Canadian political scene from the porn industry (until his arrival both had been moving toward less hair), announced that he will not participate in any debate that does not include Stephen Harper. At first glance, this sounds like a move made by Harper’s best friend (does he have one?) or twin, not his enemy. There might be something to that.
There are loads of reasons why Mulcair might decide to limit his appearances to those involving Harper. For example, Harper might have required that all leaders receive hors d’oeuvres before the debates begin, or that leaders receive free haircuts before appearances. Without him, the leaders might go hungry or, worse for Mulcair, Justin Trudeau could use his impeccable hair to elevate himself above the fray. More likely, though, Mulcair either doesn’t want to waste a debate on anyone other than Harper or is so concerned with his numbers and appearance that he doesn’t want to appear alongside anyone else. In that case, he’s more like Harper than he’d care to admit.
People aren’t happy with Mulcair’s decision. Elizabeth May called it a “shameful betrayal” and a “doublecross” of his fellow opposition leaders. She said that Mulcair had ruined the best opportunity to hold Harper accountable in front of the largest possible audience. I can think of a better one, but it’s too much like a Japanese gameshow to appear on Canadian television. Justin Trudeau said what we were thinking (which is extremely rare) by pointing out that Mulcair is “behaving a little too much like Mr. Harper, for the Canadians who want change.” My own dad said, “Mulcair is a lying piece of s**t.” Of course, my dad wasn’t aware of the debate news. But the point remains the same; for this reason or another, people aren’t happy. If Mulcair’s job is to appear different from Mr. Harper, this might have been a misstep.