Mike at the Mic: Seeking true democrats

Over the next couple of months, you’re going to hear a lot about what is different between Ontario’s major parties.  In this blog post, I’d like to introduce you to something that many Tories, Liberals and New Democrats actually agree on: fair debates.

There aren’t many things that could bring together such a disparate crew of politically-minded Ontarians.  But in the spirit of democracy and respect for voters, there are many voices who are standing up and saying that the Green Party of Ontario should be included in the provincial Leaders’ Debates.

So, I’m launching a non-partisan Facebook group called “Mike at the Mic”, where people of all political stripes can express support for Mike Schreiner‘s full participation alongside Dalton McGuinty, Andrea Horwarth and Tim Hudak.

I’ve drafted a statement that people can sign on to.

“We, the undersigned, are a group of Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and non-partisans who believe in fair and inclusive debates during the 2011 provincial election. With 8% of the vote in the 2007 election and local election results as high as 33%, the Ontario Green Party has earned a seat at the table.

We support the inclusion of Green Party leader Mike Schreiner in all leadership debates alongside Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, Conservative leader Tim Hudak and NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

We do not necessarily support the platform or views of the Green Party. But we believe that they have a right to be heard and that Ontario’s voters deserve inclusive debates for this year’s election.”

You can download the full statement here (PDF).

I’m looking for people who are prepared to put aside their partisan hats for a moment, and lend their voice to a call for fairness.  Ontario’s voters deserve to hear from the Greens.  After all, that’s what elections are all about: providing choice and a wide range of ideas to voters so they can make an informed decision.

Here’s a partial list of those who have already endorsed fair debates in Ontario:

(full list here)

Alice Klein

Andrea Moffat, Former NDP Candidate

Anita Agrawal, Former NDP Candidate

Brad Worthington, Conservative

Edward Nixon, Liberal

Erin Shapero, Former Markham Councillor

Jonah Schein, NDP Candidate in Davenport

Josh Matlow, Toronto City Councillor

Judy Rebick

Kate Hollaway, Former Liberal Candidate

Kim Fry, Former NDP candidate

Mary Margaret McMahon, Toronto City Councillor

Michael Nadler, Conservative

Nancy Coldham, Director of Canadian Women Voters

Rowena Santos, NDP

Sarah Thomson, Liberal Candidate in Trinity-Spadina

Tonya Surman, non-partisan

Theresa Lubowitz, Liberal

Tom Lafferty, Belleville City Councillor

Wayne Roberts, Non-Partisan

And…. you?

(full endorsement list here)

If you want to endorse the statement, please send me your name and your party affiliation.  You can do it below in the comments, or on the Facebook page.  Thnx!


46 responses to “Mike at the Mic: Seeking true democrats

  1. Mike Paduada
    Member of the Green Party of Ontario
    Member of the Ontario Liberal Party
    Member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario

    • Really??

      • Yup, really. The only reason I’m not also a member of the Ontario NDP is because their membership application actually specifies that you can’t be a member of another political party. So, why would I do this? My own political views do not align well with any of the political parties, nor with the idea of partisan politics. However, I’ve found that many party members will engage me differently if I’m also a member of their party. I don’t hide my multiple memberships, but I don’t go out of my way to disclose this fact either. It has been an interesting experiment so far.

    • support”the people”
      repost to facebook and twitter
      “the people” candidates/thomas zaugg,parkdale,highpark/phil sarazen,toronto,center/marty poos in niagra,glenbrook/kevin clarke in toronto,danforth/help us win one for”The people”

  2. Hey, Dave!!!

    You want –or so you say– a fair representation of all the parties at your debates, and you’ve already begun to eliminate quite a few. This is either an oversight or it’s something very disagreeable to behold.

    Fish or cut bait.

    Mark State

  3. Fair and inclusive debates are a cornerstone of democracy. Voters deserve to hear from all candidates.

  4. Pingback: Mike at the Mic: Full endorsement list | Mez Dispenser

  5. Hi Dave:

    While I might not put it as bluntly as Mark State, I think he’s onto something. More nuanced response here


  6. Hi Mes, how about including the leader of the Family Coalition Party of Ontario? Philip Lees represents a smaller party and should also be included in the fair debate just like the leader of the Green party. If you’re interested in fair representation contact me via fb to include Philip Lees. Thanks! Arthur

  7. Hey folks, I completely disagree with the idea of including all leaders. There are finite limitations to both time and physical space when it comes to TV debates.

    In my opinion, there has to be some kind of threshold.

    If you read the full statement, it includes the following: “With 8% of the vote in the 2007 election and local election results as high as 33%, the Ontario Green Party has earned a seat at the table.”

    Those are very important numbers. Because whether we set the threshold at 8%, 7%, 6%, 5%, 4%, 3%, 2% or even 1% – the result is the same. No other party comes ANYWHERE CLOSE to the success of the Greens. They are incomparable.

    We should set clear rules. Absolutely. But when a party is attracting nearly ONE IN TEN votes – they deserve to be heard at a debate. Personally, I would set the threshold at about 5%. But as I said – it doesn’t really matter in this context. The Greens have earned this. And the voters have spoken.

    • Thanks for the confession that for you, the democratic process is less important than the time or space the media will allot to this upcoming provincial election.

      The idea that there are finite limitations to both time and physical space when it comes to TV or any other kind of political candidates’ general public meetings is restricted to the notion of some sort of mythical “debate” limitations imposed by the debate environment. Those limitations do not really exist. Forgive any memory slips about locations, etc., if I make them in the following. The point I’m making is not the history, but the principle involved.

      In the 2006 elections, the O’Keefe Center Forum (subsequently televised as news shorts) and the debate held at the First Nations center gymnasium (then on Spadina north of Bloor) by CARP asked for and received participation from all the nearly 40 Mayoralty candidates, and organized it so they all had an opportunity to speak and debate.

      While both events were well attended by an interested audience, neither was lacking in necessary space, and the timing of the process was very well organized, although the Forum process was flawed because it resulted in more time to candidates with a greater audience presence and a foreknowledge of how to work that presence to their advantages by having a greater number of questions composed before the meeting began and directed to them. Still, all had an opportunity to speak and answer questions from the audience, showing the quality of his or her candidacy. And there were some pleasant surprises amongst them.

      Likewise, in the 2010 election, the all-candidates’ Mayoralty presentation at the Swansea Community Center, sponsored by the local Residents’ Association heard from a majority of the over 40 registered candidates based upon a short speech and unlimited opportunities to answer questions from the considerable audience packed into the meeting room. In Etobicoke, there was another all-candidates’ Mayoralty debate, similarly sponsored, and extremely well-run, that was also available afterward as televised shorts.

      In all these situations, the candidates were shown in various podcasts and posted video on the internet as well as on television. Meanwhile, due to the lack of publicity afforded 40 of the 45-or-so candidates who had stepped forward to offer themselves in service hopefully to better Toronto’s situation after the previous council departed, were deliberately prevented from appearing with equal privileges –and sometimes prevented from appearing at all– in other candidates’ meetings that the sponsors had the gall to label “all candidates”. As a result, the public had no idea of the names of 40 candidates who were running, or (regardless of the content’s validity in their minds eventually) what their platforms were. Try asking a member of the general public about one of the candidates not chosen for publicity by the paparazzi or who had not participated in the bogus “all-candidates” restricted debates and you will be met with a blank stare combined with a statement that amounts to “never heard of them”.

      Only when the networks in the recent federal elections decided in a meeting behind closed doors to ostracize Elizabeth May and the Green Party from their televised debate series did they run a full prime time show with them. Other televised appearances were merely ads or sound bites. While it may be true that Ms. May got as much publicity from being ostracized as she may have received from actual participation, the real rip-off was perpetuated not against here, but against the Canadian people, who did not get a chance to see/hear her platform or what kind of parliamentary leader she might have made.

      That you have personally chosen to include only half of the number of parties that will be fielding candidates –each in a great many ridings– in the upcoming provincial election puts you in the position of telling the public who to vote for…because eliminating the ensuing publicity from some parties while endowing others with it offers an unfair advantage to the parties in YOUR debates, Dave Meslin: that of being heard on an equal footing. Who are you, that you should be entitled to tell the public who to vote for and who not to vote for in the upcoming election?

      You are in danger of placing yourself in the ranks of election-hijackers like the rest of the media, the Scarborough Town Center, and Del Grande, because you are seemingly prepared to rip off the voters and hijack the election without a backward glance.

      Perhaps the championing of democracy and the democratic process we have grown to expect from you has become lost over the time you have become a media darling of sorts? I surely hope this is not the case.

      This attitude that some parties are more equal than others shows unclear thinking on the topic, to say the least. Although I have always cast my vote for whichever person or party I liked best in any given election without a real party affiliation, I think you could benefit this quote from Jack Layton’s parting letter to Canadians.

      “Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. … As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

      “Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. … Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.”

      Let me break it down for you, Dave. Continuing in this path makes you –like it or not– a defacto worker for the abolition of the democratic process. Your excuse that available time and space limit the possibilities is weak at best, because time and space are manipulable by those who wish to so; and at worst, it shows you up as hypocritical. You know I like you a lot, Dave, but I sure as hell don’t like what you’re doing here. Especially because it’s you.

      Again, get back to your roots and higher standards: stand up for equal representation FOR ALL, or stop being a front-man for those involved politicians who think it doesn’t matter so long as the major parties get air time. In other words, fish or cut bait, or just get the hell out of the room and let others foul up the works…but not you. You really do not need to put your stamp on this mis-shapen concept of the democratic process and besmirch your hard-earned suit of armour in the process.

      Sorry for the ‘slap up alongside the head’ tone of this, Dave. It’s a wake-up call. I give you permission to similarly whack me if and when I ever get elected to (or even run for) office again in the future and offer some badly mistaken idea of what needs to be done.

      Mark State

      • Hey Mark, I’m sorry you feel that way.

        I don’t agree with many of your points. I don’t believe that 40 candidates can have a ‘debate’. And I don’t believe that I’m telling people who to vote for. Quite the opposite, I’m responding to who they already HAVE voted for. 8% voted Green. Less than 1% have voted for all the other parties you mentioned. (probably less that 1% – COMBINED).

        So, if my premise is correct (that not all leaders can fit on a stage in a functional way), which I believe to be true, then it is not undemocratic for me to suggest that there should be a threshold based on VOTER opinion – NOT my own, to allow leaders of parties to debate their ideas.

        Clearly, if you believe that a debate can have an unlimited amount of participants, than my approach would seem exclusionary. And you have every fight to believe so.

        ~ dave

  8. I’ll sign on…Cherise Burda, non-partisan

  9. But Dave, what’s magic about 10 per cent? Why not 8? Why not 6? Ten might be a nice round number, but it’s still arbitrary.

    Seens to me that we have a choice: accept an unfair system and tinker at the edges or change it to something better.

    • Hey Sol, not sure if you read my reply. There is nothing magic about ten percent, and I haven’t suggested that there is.

      In the end, there needs to be a threshold. We already have existing legislation that uses percentage thresholds to gauge party success at the ballot box. ie: A party gets federal funding if they pass X%.

      I don’t really care what it is. But I would imagine that it should be in the range of 4% to 7%,

  10. I liked the FB group, though don’t see me here: Jude MacDonald, NDP

  11. C’mon, Dave!

    If those Mayoralty debates can field 40 or so folks on a stage, do you really believe that 8 couldn’t fit or have a debate? In college debating teams, four against four is a common occurrence, and they don’t even have to stand up all at once. In a pub, 8 folks will get together and debate any topic that comes up over a friendly beer around a long table. At the Swansea affair in 2010, even though all were given an opportunity to participate, only about 14 or 15 occupied the table at the front at any given time.

    But the numbers are irrelevant. Exclusionary is exclusionary. That idea of eliminating half the parties fielding candidates across the province is not the way to let the voters know their options, but rather to keep the voters from knowing their options and presenting them with your idea of who they should vote for. Straight up.

    If you wanted to create a REALLY democratic opportunity, your imagination would find a way to do it both correctly and magnificently.


    • I believe Dave is on the right track. Democracy is about more than just signing your name to a registration form to be on a ballot – you also have to earn at least a modicum of public support to deserve being in a leaders’ debate. At the very least, you should be running candidates in more than half the ridings – and other than the top 4 parties, the only other to have achieved this recently was Family Coalition. Even FCP got only 1% average in the ridings where they ran, less than 1% provincewide. No other party even ran in a 1/4 of the ridings. Having a party in the debate that most Ontarians can’t vote for would be a waste of viewer time.

      To be in the debate, a leader has to actually be leading a real party – one with substance, not just something that exists on registration papers and the dreams of a few ideologues. Criteria should include several of: running in a majority of ridings, getting more than 3% (say) in the previous election, showing at least 5% in major opinion polls, having more than 500 paid members, fundraising more than $100,000 per year (that’s still less than $1000 per riding), having active constituency associations in more than 50 ridings, etc.

      There is more to democracy than just being a candidate, or “leader” of a party. Getting on the ballot in a riding gets you into all (or most) local debates, but we need to set the bar higher to have a meaningful leaders’ debate. It should focus on leaders of parties that have a realistic chance of electing one or more members, or at least draw enough votes to affect the outcome of races they don’t win. Functioning democracy has to be about real choices, not about bending over backwards to include (what may be) cranks or an ideological fringe simply because they can fill out an application form.

      Ultimately the debates need to benefit the voters, not the parties/leaders – and the voters need to be informed about their choices: parties with full or near-full slates and/or parties that have earned more support than the margin of error. When a party gets fewer votes than the number of spoiled ballots – indicating they don’t even qualify as a “protest party” – then they really don’t deserve time in a leaders’ debate. And that’s a direct indication from voters, not from any exclusionary party. Right now, the only parties that beat the spoiled ballot test are the LPO, PCO, ONDP, and GPO – and sometimes the FCP.

      • Thanks Erich!! Great writing. Can I re-post this on my blog?

      • All good points, Eric…but prey to being a self-fulfilling prophesy. Without the media exposure, not one of your criteria could be met by any of the other parties vying for election. Not even the one of fielding candidates…because nobody in the hustings would know about the other party options or whether they agree with them or not.
        Would that knowledge benefit the parties or the voters? It’s not an either-or question. Knowledge is power in either case.

        Elections are not about the few choosing for the many until after they are over. If that changes, perhaps I’ll vote for folks who believe they can choose my voting criteria for me based upon their own. Until then, I want to KNOW what ALL my options are.

        Mark State

  12. I’m with Dave. There’s no way to have a meaningful debate between 40 participants. The opening and closing statements allotted to 40 individuals alone would take close to 2 hours, let alone providing meaningful exchanges between participants. No human being witnessing such a debate could possibly come close to being able to keep track of that many people and viewpoints in the course of one debate. Why in the hell would we ever possibly need 40 distinct options in an election? At a certain number, the sheer number of options does all voters a huge disservice.

    • I’d like to be able to agree with you, Kyle. But nothing you wrote makes any sense at all to people who think like I do:

      Too many options does voters a disservice.
      –then why bother having an election? Why allow people who think they can make a difference put themselves forward to run for office? Perhaps because ever since it was invented, this is precisely what the democratic voting principle has advocated.
      The number of willing candidates is unavoidably a function of the size of the population. Two and a half million people produces, as an example, 46 who want to run for Mayor because they have become politically active in reaction to the antics of the previous Mayor.
      Is this an unwieldy number, and are you really glad you don’t know who 40 of them are? If you are, I don’t get it, because the harsh reality is that you were literally instructed as to which of them you should vote for by other people who made their choices based upon how much money their choices would make them in advertising and public sales.
      You never got to choose any of that six for yourself unless you were on their committees at the outset.
      Eventually, the public was media-whipped into a mob frenzy about a candidate whose only platform was “stopping the ‘gravy train'” at city hall; and as a direct result the city continues its downward spiral into greater debt with a new Mayor whose idea of cutting personnel and services to beat it has no genuine effectiveness. Nor does he show any follow-through ability in holding back the deluge other than following tradition by going hat-in-hand for more money to the province just to merely make up a simple operating budget shortfall caused directly by that debt’s payment schedule.
      Of the six the paparazzi chose for you to consider –based upon their newsworthy hi-jinks and media sound bites, but not on their Mayor-worthiness as it turned out, perhaps you are really happy that choice was made for you. Perhaps you didn’t care to comb through all the possibilities to choose the best one because it was too much work. But I did. Probably six of the other unknowns would have made better choices using that other set of criteria I just labeled ‘Mayor-worthiness’.

      No meaningful exchanges could take place amongst 40 (or even 8) participants.
      –You may be psychic, and able to foretell such things. But for other reasons, I agree with you. The media debates are not really debates at all, but rather an opportunity for free exposure to millions of potential voters, many of whom are already committed.
      In a debate, a topic is chosen and the participants told which side they are going to take. In a political debate, a topic is chosen and the participants are supposed to give their version of how they would respond to it.
      If you watched the televised federal debates, perhaps you caught some really ‘meaningful exchanges’. Or perhaps like I did, you kept hoping there would be something other than listening to candidates repeating the party lines we had already heard and read ad nauseam and taking verbal pot-shots at each other. Perhaps Ms May was barred from the process because she might have raised the bar a little by focusing back on some sort of logical look at the topics presented. (But I don’t know this because I wasn’t at the meeting that barred her, and I refuse to be a mind reader.)

      No human being could keep track of the platforms of so many candidates, even if they were willing to sit through all of them.
      –I, like about 200 others (including Dave whom you agree with), sat through the Hart House debates precisely so I could determine if the candidates had any ideas to put forward that I could think might be worth some value . All but one of the candidates for Mayor in the 2010 election encapsulated their platforms to us. (The missing one was Sonny Yeung who was doing an interview elsewhere about world poverty or some such. Sonny Who???, you ask.) Every one of them was interesting and valuable from the point of view of noting who was, in my mind, election-worthy and who was not.
      And you are completely correct. The public meetings each took two to four hours to complete, depending upon the amount of time given to the candidates to speak. I only found them to be interminable when people whom I thought had little to peak my interest were speaking.
      This process was repeated with actual attention-paying human beings in the seats for many other locations. While I don’t know whether all candidates were kept track of by the audience members, I can report authoritatively to you that some definitely were…and they were not necessarily the ones chosen by the paparazzi, but rather those who worked to make an impression on earnest voters.

      Why would we ever possibly need that many options for candidates?
      –My sense of humour tempts me to write that we need lots of options so that after the election we could have a legitimate reason to kick ourselves in our collective asses for making the choice we did. But I won’t say that. Instead, I’ll point out that there are two motivations at work here. First is the motivation of the candidate. A candidate is somebody who thinks changes are needed (unless your name is Pantalone or Carrol), and is willing to accept a leadership role so they can be made. Next is the motivation of the serious (i.e. non-dilettante) electorate who like the idea of having a wide variety of ideas and outlooks from which to choose their city’s leader rather than having it chosen for them.

      I’m not labeling those who prefer to have their candidates chosen for them by the paparazzi as somewhat less than those who do not…please don’t get me wrong. For a whole lot of reasons, many people are happy to have their candidates chosen for them by newspaper and television reporters on the basis of which will sell to more readers/viewers on any given day. The most prevalent reason, I suspect, is that it’s just too much work to research them all. This is precisely why I believe it’s the responsibility of the media to do that research and present it to you the voter in easily assimilable yet comprehensive packages. I would label that responsible journalism. Following around the few who boost sales is just paparazzi-ism.

      In the debate I am participating with in this blog-set, I am on the side of not having the paparazzi, Dave, or anyone else choosing who I should vote for by giving them media exposure to the exclusion of those who they don’t consider worthy of the same privilege. Dave’s criterion is how well they did in the previous election. How well they did in a PREVIOUS election? What kind of criteria is that to prevent me from hearing all my options? What kind of criterion is that to LIMIT my ability to choose my next provincial government composition?

      We know that should organizers give it the smallest modicum of thought, those who propose public debates could easily be all-inclusive and have real debates. The real question is why they want to limit our choices.

      And the answer has to be that they are frightened of an election that could choose a minority government. They are afraid to assist you in seeing all your choices.

      All the best, Kyle
      Mark State

  13. Seems like you can reply to a comment, or reply to a reply, but not reply to a reply to a reply. Interesting.

    Dave, feel free to re-post any of my comments, whole or in part (link back to here if just using part).

  14. Some responses to Mark Slate:

    You say “Without the media exposure, not one of your criteria could be met by any of the other parties vying for election. Not even the one of fielding candidates…” yet that is patently untrue. The Green Party, both provincially (2003) and nationally (2004) ran full slates without ever having been in a leaders’ debate or getting significant media coverage beforehand, and have met all the other criteria with far from equal media attention. The Family Coalition Party, with even less coverage than the Greens, ran in 80% of the ridings last time. That proves the criteria most certainly can be met.

    You insist “Until then, I want to KNOW what ALL my options are.” But that’s a false premise. There are currently 13 registered parties in Ontario. Can you name even a single riding or ballot that had all 13 on it? (I presume not). No matter what riding you’re in, ALL your options does not include all parties. For you to know all your options, you just need to attend your local riding all-candidate meetings and learn about the people on your local ballot. The purpose of a leaders’ debate is to help educate the masses who (unlike you) are only interested in the contenders they are choosing between. That mass of voters wants to hear from the serious parties and not waste time on the unelectable fringe. Why should your compulsion to know everything about everyone outweigh the attention span or interest of the vast majority of voters? I mentioned before that such a debate is to benefit the voters, not the parties. Likewise, the purpose of such an event isn’t to satisfy the cravings of a political junkie like yourself, but the average voter who is interested in the main choices.

    Perhaps there’s a fair middle ground. There could be a 1-hour pre-show where each of the 9 minor party leaders has 5 minutes to present their party platform. Then the main show begins, with the 4 main party leaders taking part in a back-and-forth debate, along with opening and closing remarks, over the usual 90 or 120 minutes. That would be more than fair exposure for parties that have yet to attract even a percent of the voter interest, or run anything approaching a full slate. People in ridings with few or no fringe candidates, or who aren’t interested in fringe parties, could skip the pre-show. There would be no waste of viewer/voter time listening to parties they can’t even vote for. This would also be in line with CRTC policy, which requires “equitable” rather than equal coverage. Equitable is generally taken to mean that each party should get coverage approximately proportional to the demonstrated public interest in that party.

    You complain about people “having candidates chosen for them”. Yet the major parties who receive more coverage have earned that by drawing public attention and votes. Each of the established parties was new, once. The Greens, the NDP before them, and originally the Liberals and Tories all started from nothing and worked their way up to prominence, in some cases before televised debates existed. It was not the media (or bloggers) who choise them, it was the voters. It’s fair to expect new parties to do a bit of legwork and grassroots building before they get the privilege of free TV coverage. The Greens have done that work, built up their sweat equity, the evidence is clear. Other, smaller or newer parties need to prove themselves similarly first. Simply registering is too low a bar; it is shockingly easy for a mad nutter to get on the ballot, and it only takes two together to create an official party. The coordinated actions of two wingnuts should not be sufficient to grant a right to participate in the leaders’ debate.

    Finally, be aware that your comparison to the Toronto mayoral debate is seriously flawed. In that case, each of the 40-odd candidates (some more odd than others, the winner no less so) was on the ballot of every Torontonian. The same is NOT the case with the Ontario ballots. Each will have the 4 main parties, plus 0 or a handful of others. If I don’t see the leader of the Northern Ontario Heritage Party on the debate it matters not, as there will be no NOHP candidate on my ballot even if I liked his message.

    • Erich (and Dave):
      A thoughtful and compelling argument, and it deserves a more considered response. You’ve made several worthwhile points, and my attempt to address the most important of them is here.

      • Apologies for typos above (e.g. should be Mark State, not Slate);

        I don’t see how to respond on your website, Sol, so I guess I’ll do it here.

        I agree with Dave that FPTP is a dysfunctional system, but I don’t see how that view invalidates commentary on the format (and inclusions/exclusions) of a leaders debate. Countries with PR systems use a vote percent cutoff to decide which parties get seats (often around 3-5%), and we propose something similar for our debates. That number is somewhat arbitrary, but presumably has been selected or approved by the electorate who use their current voting system. Note that most true democracies have a voting system which was chosen or revised by their current electorate within recent years or decades; we are one of very few using a system designed by our great-great-great-great grandparents (19th century or earlier) and essentially unchanged since.

        Incidentally, our federal system has a cutoff for which parties receive per-vote public funding. That has frequently been proposed as an appropriate criterion for leader debate inclusion. In this case, the threshold is only 2%, but only 5 met it (CPC, LPC, NDP, BQ, and Green); no other parties were anywhere near. The per-vote funding is the closest we’ve yet come to a truly proportional system, as it provided funds in exact proportion to votes (minus the 1% of total votes which were not for those 5 parties).

        The biggest flaw with FPTP is who gets elected, and Dave & I are united in NOT relying on that criterion for inclusion – i.e., only include parties that currently have seats. (This isn’t an official rule, but seems to be the underlying assumption). The other criteria we suggest – number of nominate candidates, popularity in opinion polls, votes in the last election, fundraising ability, membership, etc. – are subject to distortion under FPTP (compared with PR), but not to anywhere near the degree as seat count is. I think Dave & I agree fully that seat count – the direct (and unfair) result of FPTP – is the ONE criterion that should NOT be the be-all and end-all. Unfortunately, right now it seems to be. This is an appeal to change that in the name of fairness, and of moving away from the tyranny of FPTP.

    • While it’s with not just a little enjoyment that I find myself holding the righteous position in this discussion that all Provincial parties deserve equal time and opportunity to representation in an aired debate, I admit to being desirous of that access to information. Is desire for information being a ‘political junkie’? Are you a “political junkie” Erich… for being knowledgeable about the numbers of registered parties and Dave’s ballot beliefs?
      Because I think all candidates have equal rights to be heard and seen like the thousands of others who wished to cast their ONE vote with more than just a smidgeon knowledge about whom they are casting it for so much that they actually sat –and will again for the Provincial politicians ‘all candidates’ meetings in their ridings– through genuine civic all-candidates’ meetings (surely I am not alone in holding this view!), I am now a ‘political junkie’. What is a “political junkie” anyway, other than you, Erich, trying to belittle my opinion by sticking it into a red-herring category? I am as amazed that you would think your attempt at belittling my side of this question somehow lessens its importance as I am by the examples you use to make your points.

      But I will overlook whatever misguided enthusiasm birthed the term and answer some of your other attempts at misdirection directly. Before I do, let me give you one point for free: I will certainly agree that some parties’ opinions need to be heard with a clothespin firmly in place over the nose coupled with a sense of guilt for listening to anything at all they have to say. But likewise you need to recognize that the system we hold dear has not refused their candidacies or their parties an opportunity to register because they, like the rest of us, are entitled to the privilege of running for office. Fortunately, the majority of Canadians won’t give those opinions the time of day because, to bestow credit where credit is due, it’s not part of our Canadian persona to think the way they do; and most of us must be credited with the ability to spot the candidates whose possible election will not further the province (to put it politely).

      The idea that the CRTC signatories to their agreement about so-called equitable coverage meaning approximately equal to the degree of public interest is an amazing piece of invention. One asks oneself, “If the public gets the barest modicum of information regarding a political party through the media, does that mean the media can equate the resulting ignorance of the party’s policies with a lack of interest by the public, and so instead pursue those it has highlighted for public consumption on the basis that such pursuit is ‘more equitable’?” Here’s Dave considering the same move of fostering public ignorance even before all the parties have been announced. Don’t think that the media in general is not doing the same exact kind of thinking in an equally formal way as they gear up for election coverage. Ontarians must be blinkered for their own good…er…well, really, for the sake of the bottom line. [That means PROFITABILITY for those readers who are not familiar with the term ‘bottom line’.]

      Granted, both the Greens and the Family Coalition Party you choose as your example ran in previous elections without the same degree of media opportunity, and likewise did the good ol’ Tories way back when being one was an opportunity to obtain go-to-jail time for free.
      Tell me, what were the views of the former two parties on the matters discussed in the last election by those who did get media time (assuming you remember what that view was…not that it matters a great deal after the election when reality seems to have changed the basic premise of several election promises as it always does.) What harm do you think it would do you to have known how those parties stood on the media’s chosen issues? (Did I mention that the media also chooses an election’s issues based also on the bottom line?) Would that have been information overload? What about other parties you didn’t mention? Would knowing their stances be Too Much Information for anybody who hadn’t made his mind up in advance where his ballot would be cast, d’ya think?

      “I want to know what all my options are” you say is a false premise because not all parties are running where I cast my ballot. Well that’s truly an amazing conclusion. Does this mean that my options are diminished somehow for that reason? I think they remain the same, don’t they? My available options are, after all, the options that I have available to me, to coin a phrase. Does this mean that it’s OK if SOME of the folks on my ballot have privileged access to public media while others do not? I submit that knowing what all my options are is not a false premise.
      And the same argument of understanding one’s available options goes for “Ol’ Fred up there in Schumacher” who might want to know what the Big Woodlands Fire-Pit Party (let’s imagine they are only fielding two or three candidates this time around) or some such has to say in comparison with your MAIN parties. What makes these parties MAIN to you? Simply that they have held public office in some regard already. While that may be MAIN to you, it’s only having held public office before now to me; and while having served in public office is a commendable position to occupy and while incumbents are more likely to be re-elected, it’s no good reason to feature them and lesson the others in the process. Why shouldn’t Fred find out all his options by watching TV on debate night and seeing how the BWFPP compares with your four on an equal footing? You say that because YOU probably won’t get one of their candidates in YOUR ballot this time around, they should be eliminated from a leadership debate. Screw Fred and anybody else up there in Smooth Rock where one of their other candidates is running. Erich doesn’t have them in his ballot!

      Only two or three candidates doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the light of some parties that have hundreds. But presenting them would do at least three things: open the eyes of Ontarians up to the existence of other parties like the mythical BWFPP and what it stands for, and allow them to present their case for election such that if they are elected, their positioning on political questions vis-a-vis the debate would be generally known by the rest of Ontario. It would also be more truly equitable since they were being compared to others as a political party rather than media darlings.

      Finally, my choice of using as example the 2010 civic elections perhaps overshadowed the reason for that choice; and I apologize for having confused you into thinking that the concept of who is on EVERY ballot ultimately decides for me who should be in the debates. The point I made was instead that all political parties represented in this election have a democratic right and should have an opportunity to participate. I used the Mayoralty race because it was a blatant exercise in paparazzi vote-control (as it turned out) through implementing the very “some candidates are more equal than others because I am voting for them” electioneering coverage that you espouse. As an example, I recall one Mayoralty candidate fielded by a group of drinking buddies. He didn’t have much to offer by way of leadership ideas, but his being in the debates didn’t harm either the debates or the voters who listened to him. Another was a white supremacist, and totally surprised a listening audience that had steeled itself to ignore his hate rhetoric by instead offering ideas that could be useful for a city recovering from a killer deficit without a whisper of white supremacy in any of them. Who’d ‘a thunk it?

      Mark State

      • Mark, the term “political junkie” is not intended to belittle, as it clearly would apply to everyone commenting on this blog, including myself. But I don’t agree that you hold the righteous view on this, just the most ideological one. I’m more a pragmatist.

        Your examples indicate (to me, the pragmatist) the flaws in your plan. The time given to the “drinking buddy” candidate reduced the amount of time each of the serious candidates had to connect with voters, while the ability of the white supremacist to present himself as rational shows the drawback of a crowded stage where eac candidate has only a few minutes to present themselves, and isn’t meaningfully challenged by the others. A good leaders debate needs to give enough time to each participant to show how they respond to challenges and unexpected questions and in general stay cool under pressure. A long line of “here’s my platform” “Thanks, NEXT UP” gives very little in the way of useful information.

        “What makes these parties MAIN to you? Simply that they have held public office in some regard already.” – actually, I thought I was pretty clear that this should NOT be the inclusion criterion. New parties or challengers should be included, but only if they’ve proven themselves in some of the other ways I list, which CAN be done without a major medai boost – proven because it HAS been done.

        My main point is not that fringe parties should be excluded from media coverage, but that they don’t deserve full participation in the leaders debate. I accept giving equal coverage (or something like it) to candidates at the local level, but the leaders debate is a different beast – by design, it is meant to focus on the serious contenders, not expound on every option, including many that aren’t even on your ballot. I must admit to not understanding your comment about “my available options are the options available to me” – I still don’t see how time given to the leader of a party which is not on your ballot (or most other ballots) is a worthwhile use of the time. Let the party leader make the case in his/her own riding as a local candidate, and if the ideas are so strong, the resulting growth will earn a position in future debates. We should use local ridings as a proving ground instead of letting any crank jump to the top level, skipping the rest.

        Put another way, one should not be in the leaders debate unless one leads something the an objective member of the general public would recognize as a viable party – a party with sufficient candidates, members, supporters, or funds to show that they can attract support. Simpy having ideas and filling out some forms is NOT enough to deserve that.

        Finally, by paraphrasing me as “some candidates are more equal than others because I am voting for them” you show that you really haven’t understood or respected my argument – which is that it should be public support, not MY support, that determines participation. I have respect for the voters, and support an inclusion system which likewise respects voters by requiring a minimum level of proven voter support (from past elections, current polls, candidacies, memberships, donations, or other such critical mass measures) before giving a party leader valuable debate time. That puts the power in the hands of voters, not media or previous “main” parties.

        If the debate was maximally inclusive of every “leader”, the real result would be that most people would see it as a circus, tune it out, and fall back on paid messaging from the best-funded parties (and their co-opted media). How would that serve democracy better?

  15. My bad. I’ve enabled comments over at my place, but I guess the horse has already left that particular barn.

  16. Although I run my comments through the spell/grammar check and read and re-read them before posting, there are always typos that seem to get through, Dave. Would it be possible to place a 15-minute edit window on the sites? (Missed a preposition “of” knowledge, spelled lessen with an o, etc.)

    All the best, Dave. As you are aware, I really enjoy your blog sets. They always provide food for thought and a great opportunity for the exchange of ideas. Just a great big thanks for being the champion of democratic culture that you are. BTW, I never mentioned it, but I thought your TEDx talks piece was brilliant.


  17. I’ll endorse this initiative! Louis Bertrand, Green Party

  18. All reasonable points, Erich. But if you ask the general public who they think the serious candidates are, the answers fall into two categories. One, those they have heard of in the media, which chooses the “main” candidates…simply because the voting puclic has no other way of knowing who the candidates are, let along knowing who are serious candidates and who are not…so they will perforce choose as serious the candidates they have been told are serious. And two, the candidates who have run in their constituencies or lead the formerly winning parties can be mentioned by them as serious, again thanks to knowledge of their existence either at the door or in the press.

    Since we don’t have a separate ballot for party leader or Premier of this province, those debaters are between people who have been chosen by their parties to lead them in the Legislature. The electorate knows them as such, and also as local candidates. Their presence –even as current party leaders– in a debate doesn’t guarantee their elections [Tory, Dion, Ignatief] and they have no more business being represented in a televised debate to the exclusion of other party leaders other than their current party leadership imparts to them. This distinction is shared by –how many did you say– nine? other party leaders, who merit the same privilege for the same reasons.

    I don’t think that anything in the previous election is relevant to the current one. That was then, and this is now. Everything is, or should be new and on an equal footing. This is not a competition to see which part of a previous government should be given the right to rule the new one.

    To caste as relevant the previous MPPs only becomes relevant when in the hustings an incumbent can ask, “if you liked how I acted for you in the previous government, please vote for me again.

    As I pointed out in the comment you responded to, I didn’t think my time was wasted by hearing all the candidates speaking their platforms at any of the meetings I attended.
    As the drinking-buddy party had embarked upon a strong internet and poster campaign in my part of the city, listening to them informed me that they were after all just a drinking-buddy party without any real platforms to offer. Disappointing.
    Listening to the supremacist gave me some individual and original views on tackling deficits, and I was not a little surprised that a supremacist could think that clearly about anything, let alone real issues. Definitely, he was at once entertaining and informative.
    Others were not only entertaining, but so vastly superior to the media-chosen candidates in terms of potential Mayor-ability that I felt a definite discomfort due to their not being the main participants at those meetings. Often, however, I felt that my time was wasted in listening to so-called “debates” where the media-chosen candidates had nothing new to offer in general, and who often repeated ideas that I had considered after hearing them before and discarded as half-baked in general.

    I wasn’t too clear about the part of my commentary you didn’t quite follow. Candidates whose names appear on my ballot (local candidates for my riding only) and yours will differ, as will all the candidates in all the ridings, since we vote on members only, and not as in the case of a municipal election (or a US presidential election) for an actual leader. This does not make the candidates who lead any of the parties in the election irrelevant in a leadership debate. Even those parties with only the minimum two candidates are after all parties with leaders who have something (or not –and what better place to find out–) to say.

    If you believe that what occurred in the previous election should be the basis of a new government, I can’t agree with you. In Ontario, I haven’t been altogether pleased with that government’s (nor its opposition’s performances) in general. I’d really like to hear new ideas, and I have no fear of a minority government with a dozen or so parties sharing its seats.

    Mark State

  19. Mike, I don’t think you’re reading my comments too carefully, because again you say: “If you believe that what occurred in the previous election should be the basis of a new government, I can’t agree with you.”

    I’ve been pretty clear that I DO NOT think our leaders’ debate should be based on the previous election, i.e. who has seats now. That’s the media consortium’s idea, not mine, and clearly by demanding the Greens be included, both Dave & I aren’t of that view. Votes received in the last election are just one of many criteria we suggest, and that’s the only one that has anything to with previous elections.

    But if you believe that voters aren’t in any way influenced by the past actions (successes or failures) of parties in power or opposition, or how they’ve run or fared in past elections, then you are truly far outside the norm as to how voters evaluate their options, so even less an authority on how the debates should be structured. In human affairs, past behaviour is generally the best predictor of future behaviour, even though it’s not a perfect predictor.

    I have no fear either of minority or multi-party legislatures – in fact, that’s what I would prefer. But that is rather unlikely unless and until we get a truly proportional system, and putting today’s crop of fringe leaders on a stage under the presumption that they’re all equally worthy would, if anything, retard the push for real PR. (IMHO, anyhow).

  20. How, Erich, can you end your comment with “IMHO” when in the first part of that same sentence you say “putting today’s crop of fringe leaders on a stage under the presumption that they’re all equally worthy would…retard the push for real PR”?

    In the same breath, you have revealed your belief that someone who has not previously been in office or a major political party is both fringe and unworthy of sharing the stage with someone who has.

    You don’t know that they’re unworthy, Erich.
    That’s a statement made from a basic belief that if they are not from the four parties you endorse as the only debate material, they must be somehow ‘less-than’, and quite unworthy of anyone else’s consideration from a voting point of view.
    It’s not a Humble Opinion, Erich. It’s an outlandish and outrageous demand for inequality based upon some strange sense of who is important and who is not. And it comes a mere couple of paragraphs after you say holding office in a previous government is not your chief criterion for who should be in the debate.

    IMN2BHO, you need to re-think this entire thing about “worthiness” and “fringe” and other media-fomented nonsense that has nothing to do with an election that honours the democratic process.

    I can, however, understand that you might think that way if one of the “worthies” is your fave candidate. I just don’t understand why you consider your opinion to be furthering the democratic process when it so patently does not.

    C’mon, Erich! Fess up. Is one of Dave’s ‘fab four’ your guy/gal? Come to think of it, Dave, could it be at all possible that one (or in your case, ALL) of them is yours as well?

    …Jest askin’ !

    Mark State

  21. Mark, you’re still missing my point, so I’m not going to respond further after this.

    My definitions of worthiness or fringe have nothing to do with which parties have been elected before, and little to do with whatever you mean by “major” political party. Neither are they based on “media-fomented nonsense”, whatever that is. Quite simply, I believe any party which can meet a set of fair criteria should have their leader included. I’ve already listed examples of such criteria. I’m not saying there should be a specific 4 parties.

    What I’m saying is let the PUBLIC, the VOTERS, decide who is or isn’t a party worthy of being in the leaders’ debate. They can decide by joining a party, funding it, indicating support on a poll, running as a candidate, etc. (Or show the opposite, by not doing the above.)

    New parties are welcome to enter the scene, but before they get elevated to the top rank, they need to prove themselves either at the local level or by serious organization and support across the province. If they can’t do that, then it’s a clear indication that the public isn’t interested. Not me – I’m actually interested in what all (or at least) most of the parties are about – I’m a political junkie, too. But I don’t feel I have to burden the whole populace with levels of detail about fringe parties that would tend to drive them away, rather than draw them into the process.

    I’m not saying who is or is not “important”, as you put it. I’m saying that we need to let the public, rather than the media consortium & current elected parties, indicate who is important to them. No-one has the right to put themselve on the stage and assume that importance merely by filling out a nomination form (or two).

    Of course, your opening question baffles me. You ask how I can end with “in my humble opinion” when I’ve opened my post with an opinion? It’s all opinions. I don’t know why mine irritates you so much.

  22. First of all, Erich, nothing you have said irritates me. I respect your right to your opinion. You have made your case well, and I am diametrically opposed to some of it, is all.

    Here is the part I’m opposed to:
    “New parties are welcome to enter the scene, but before they get elevated to the top rank, they need to prove themselves either at the local level or by serious organization and support across the province. If they can’t do that, then it’s a clear indication that the public isn’t interested.”

    But realistically, Erich, there is no clear indication that “the public isn’t interested” just because you produce evidence of foregone public interest in the parties you intend to feature. It’s only a clear indication that they haven’t shown the previous support across the province that you demand from them as an entry to your debate, and not an indication that they haven’t got support –even non-financial support– at their local level [e.g. the BQ in federal politics or the Communists at both the provincial and federal levels].

    My chief opposition to your proposal, however, stems from my conviction that nobody has the right to interfere with the democratic process for whatever constructed-of-whole-cloth reason they deem righteous.
    And like it or not, when you propose to feature a few of the many party leader candidates before a free television audience of millions of potential viewers while ostracizing the others; then proceed to call it a party leaders’ debate or an all- candidates’ meeting of any kind, a “debate” of the “leading” leader candidates or even of the legitimate leader candidates, it doesn’t make any difference that you are claiming to do it in the interests of efficiency. You have invented convenient rules of exclusion, then purchased a priceless public relations campaign for the few, AND, more importantly, you have deliberately blocked voters from knowledge of their options. That’s election hijacking.

    We both know where we stand, and I concur that continuing this conversation will just result in more repetition of the case we are both making for our side of the argument.

    As I mentioned to Dave in an earlier comment, I view this entire proposition of ostracizing some party leaders from a televised ‘debate’ in favour of presenting somebody’s idea of who the public should vote for as just dreadful …shameful really.

    Mark State

  23. Erich, I read the article arrived at by using your link, and I’m happy for your point of view that in a closed meeting, the host and producer of the program “Agenda” decided that its viewers would be interested in what the leader of the Green Party would have to say, based upon numbers reflecting their standings in past elections.

    I would be sarcastic if I suggested this is a “fair” method of reaching the conclusion they did, since I don’t give a feather’s hang about what conclusions Paikin or his producer have come to about the upcoming Provincial elections anyway, although this does not reflect my view of a sometimes entertaining program.

    Unthinkingly, they and you are contributing to a potential hijacking of the election. I use the word potential because the election is not over yet, and the numbers of voters influenced by the limited choices presented by Paikin’s “Agenda” (doesn’t the name give you a clue??) have not been tallied.


  24. Voters need to hear what the Greens have to say. That’s democracy.

  25. Perhaps the parties themselves will show the fairness to the general public by insisting upon the “debate” exposure you wish to deny them. Note the following email to Kevin Clarke of The People party by one of their candidates.

    There has been a disturbing trend in Ontario politics where ‘All Candidate Meetings’ have become ‘invitation only candidate meetings’. I am running in Toronto Center and twice I have not been given equal opportunity with other candidates even though I have filed the appropriate nomination.
    At the first meeting where I was barred from speaking I told them I would disrupt the meeting if I, and other candidates who were barred, didn’t get an equal chance to speak. They compromised and said that I could have an opening and closing statement and that would be it. I suggested that the audience should decide whether I should speak after my opening statement. It was agreed by all parties, I lost by a 40 to 60 margin and kept to my word of not disrupting a meeting; and helped to escort out of the room one of my supported who didn’t approve of the audience decision.
    The next meeting where I was barred from speaking was at the Reference Library. I asked the organizers, if they would apply the same procedure as the other ‘invitation only candidate meeting’ they said no. I told them they should call the police. To look ‘democratic’ they gave me and the other barred candidate from the communist party three minutes to talk.
    In my opening address I said that once every 4-5 years our political system allows a brief moment of democracy for a couple of months. This meeting is making a mockery of our electoral system. I said there was a lot of extra time on my three minutes and asked the audience for their opinion on the matter. The moderator butted in and said that this was an opening statement and that the audience could not speak. I left the podium and stood beside the other candidates. After the second question was replied to by all the candidates I decided to respond to this question as I had some personal and work related information to share. The police escorted me out. The NDP candidate Cathy Crowe and her supporters walked out in protest. Two candidates remained, Green and the Liberal, the Conservative candidate did not show, he has not shown for the three ‘all candidate meetings’ I have attended.
    An open, all candidates meeting, allows the influx of new ideas, much needed in a time where the world, national and local economies are facing challenges we do not yet have the answers for. Where governments at all levels participated in an international embarrassment, the G20 Summit, that could have been easily prevented had chosen the carrot instead of the club, i.e., they circled the summit area with stages which had internet connections to the international community. Where protesters could have been assisted by artists, musicians, actors and political historians to better present their views.
    There are answers to all these seemingly impossible problems, these answers can be generated by people who see the all candidates meetings as political think tanks, an educative process for all.
    More details in my election platform on this and the many issues that we face in the dawn of a new era. See you at the next all candidates meeting.

    Phil 416 858-1189

    SEPTEMBER 24 2011,

    The people” “(The peoples political party of Ontario) ,
    … become the 14 register political party in Ontario,..
    I am in riding of Toronto danforth, facing peter tabuns..
    my qualifications includes mayoral ,city councillor ,provincial , federal and Toronto mayoral candidate all in this riding ,..
    those qualifications no rational reasons to exclude this individual who is clearly the front runner to the incumbent,,..all through this campaign i have been told that my race would play a factor in fairness in the process of this election ,we will be appalled if it is a fact..unless it is not and this is just favor’s being granted to these individual and if that is so them it must be claimed by those participating ..
    to the crtc
    This is a formal request to investigate the actions of goldhawk,and there employer rogers cable..

    kevin Clarke(leader)”The people”
    The peoples political party of Ontario>>

  27. the goldhawk debate is monday,at 9 pm speak up for demacracy..

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