Quebec Wins, The West Loses
Depending on how you define a debate, this year’s federal election campaign trail is set to include four debates over the next week.
On Sunday, the French language version of CBC, Radio-Canada, conducted back-to-back video interviews with each of the federal party leaders.
This will be followed tonight by another series of back-to-back video interviews, again in French, on TVA.
These will be joined by two traditional debates – one in French next Wednesday and one in English next Thursday – organized by the federal debates commission.
For those keeping track, that’s three debates held in French, and only one held in English, despite only one out of every four Canadians speaking French.
This might leave many English-speakers wondering why there is such an imbalance.
No-one is suggesting that there not be a French debate, of course.
But why should three-quarters of the debates be inaccessible to three-quarters of Canadians?
The question isn’t just about language, but also about policy and fairness for other regions of the country.
There is no doubt that the French language debates won’t just be conducted in French but also will focus on issues that are of more interest to francophones.
With only one debate in English, how likely is it that issues that matter to Alberta and Saskatchewan residents will get much coverage?
Well, the not-so-easy on the ears answer is that all the leaders have an interest in avoiding a debate on the issues that affect Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Alberta and Saskatchewan have only have thirty-four and fourteen seats, respectively, in the House of Commons, while Quebec alone has seventy-eight.
Not to mention the fact that it’s never really a race out here in the west.
Every election for as long as most can remember, Albertans have voted solidly conservative.
Winning or losing a few percentages of support in Alberta or Saskatchewan is unlikely to change the outcome of very many seats at all, if any.
Yet, the things that the various party leaders would have to say to win support in the west would likely cost them support in areas of the country that have far more seats.
The truth is, no matter where you held a federal election debate, it will go down in one of two ways.
Either Alberta and Saskatchewan will be used as a punching bag for the leaders to one up each other by highlighting their commitment to climate change, or they will be largely ignored as a wasteland of conservative voters.
Thanks to the Conservatives’ recent back-peddling, all five parties on the debate stage tonight now have strong commitments to the Paris Climate Change targets, and support carbon taxes that would shut down our energy sector and kill all the well-paying jobs that come with fossil fuels.
The energy sector is the heartbeat of the economy of the west, it has allowed our people to flourish, and it has funded the lavish ‘lifestyle’ of the Quebec government for decades.
Yet, we now live in a Canada where defending the oil and gas industry is a net vote-loser for a politician.
So, whether we’re talking about the election debates, or the election itself, once again, Quebec wins, and the west loses.
But what else is new?
Twenty years ago, a team of leading western intellectuals - including future Prime Minister Stephen Harper - released a letter calling for a firewall around Alberta to protect our interests.
But the fire is already here, it’s already in Alberta, and it’s burning down our industries and livelihoods.
We’ll see if any of the federal leaders are willing to address this in any meaningful way, in any of the debates, in any language.
If not, perhaps more drastic action is required.