Empower Yourselves Now!
100 Debates on the Environment was a national initiative to hold “non-partisan all-candidates debates on the environment” in 100 federal ridings across Canada on October 3. The project was coordinated by GreenPAC and by Equiterre in Quebec. GreenPAC, which declares itself to be non-partisan, was founded by a former advisor to Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty.
One debate was held October 3 at University of Alberta (U of A), in the Edmonton Strathcona Riding. Two hundred and twenty people attended, mainly youth. Six candidates spoke but on different bases. Four cartel party candidates seated at the front of the room each spoke for a total of 22 minutes. The Conservative candidate did not attend the event. The MLPC candidate in the riding and spokesperson for the environment, Dr. Dougal MacDonald and a candidate from another small party were seated in the front row of the audience and were only allowed a total of 7 minutes each to speak.
The hierarchical arrangement of the U of A climate debate directly contradicted the claims that the 100 Debates are “all candidates” and “non-partisan.” What is more partisan than treating some parties and candidates as more important than others? As TML Weekly has pointed out: “Once registered, all political parties are supposedly equal before the law. In practice, the Canada Elections Act favours those parties that have a chance of forming a majority government on the basis of a framework of prejudices set behind the backs of Canadians. It divides the parties into “major” and “minor,” and further categorizes them as “fringe,” “extremist” or simply irrelevant. Those accorded “major” status are permitted into the sanctum of the privileged.”
Local organizers said the initial decision only to invite four “major” parties was made to avoid inviting the People’s Party of Canada (PPC). However, once the federal Leaders Debate Commission, which is packed with Conservatives and Liberals including John Manley, mandated that the PPC was a major party, the organizers “had to” invite the PPC and then decided to invite the MLPC candidate also. The candidate of the other small party was also later invited. Excuses for not fully including the MLPC candidate are familiar. Along with the arbitrary designation of “major” and “minor” parties, 100 Debates claimed that there was not enough total time for every candidate to speak at equal length.
The undemocratic arrangements confirm again what the MLPC has already asserted. “According to the cartels and coalitions which control the electoral process, the cartel parties and media, the people are to be spectators to their electioneering. The cartels and coalitions decide the ‘issues,’ the format of ‘debates,’ the questions, the answers, the ‘news’ and who can and cannot participate and how they can participate. The process is tightly controlled and the people have no say. A pretense is given of popular participation by collecting questions or comments from random people and on this basis declaring that the issues raised are reflective of what Canadians are thinking and what they want.”
The solution to this problem is to empower ourselves. The MLPC emphasizes: “As a practical way to oppose that, the MLPC is encouraging its candidates in this election to participate with others in organizing discussion forums of all kinds where people can inform their peers and be informed about matters which concern them. These forums provide alternatives to the exclusionary forms which are rife in the election. They are empowering because people can together work out how matters pose themselves and stands which favour them. They see that they do not have to fend for themselves to make choices which others impose on them.”
One example of such people’s forums is the October 6 meeting organized by Women4Rights and Empowerment in Edmonton to discuss the economy and the environment.