July 19, 2024
Why we cancelled the Munk Debate — and why our democracy is in trouble
We need to consider the accumulative weight of state intervention into the writ period on our democracy.
We need to consider the accumulative weight of state intervention into the writ period on our democracy.

The cancellation of the Munk Debate on foreign policy due to Justin Trudeau’s refusal to participate denies voters the only real opportunity they had this election to see his foreign policy record challenged in a substantive and sustained fashion. It has also left voters with small beer when it comes to debates during the writ period. The only time they will see Trudeau debating in English is at the single “official” debate cum panel discussion featuring five moderators and six leaders.

Pundits have played down the significance of Trudeau passing on the Maclean’s and Munk debates. Don’t sitting prime ministers always try to avoid public scrutiny of their policy records? Isn’t campaigning all about controlling the election narrative through scripted announcements, photos-ops and microtargeted ads? If you are the incumbent, minimizing your debate exposure is smart campaign strategy.

There are bigger issues at stake here. We are witnessing this election the culmination of a two-decade phenomena that represents a growing threat to the democratic process: the intrusion of the state into the writ period itself.

Collectively, the government election laws, regulations and bodies that have emerged since the Chrétien years are sprawling in scope. We have steadily clawed back the amount individuals can donate to political parties and leadership campaigns. Corporate and union contributions have been banned. We tightly circumscribe third-party groups’ spending during elections, requiring them to register with Elections Canada and publicly disclose their expenses. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is now costing political parties’ platforms during elections. We have a government-appointed and funded commission organizing debates. And, if the Liberals are re-elected, the next election could be covered by a news media receiving $100 million in annual government subsidies.

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See Also:

(1) Andrew Coyne on latest Liberal scandal: ‘The question is, how much of a liability has Trudeau become’ (Video)

(2) Trudeau’s pharmacare speech wasn’t among his best fearmongering work

(3) Montreal-area MP says Liberals forced her out for not lauding Trudeau as a feminist (Paywall)

(4) ‘I still hear him yelling at me’: Trudeau interrogated by lawyer of woman he accused of racism 

(5) Spotlight comes back to haunt Trudeau amid blackface furor

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