Editorial — One-on-one debate makes sense

There should be at least one debate featuring only Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff.

The current hot federal election topic is debates, sparked by discussion about the exclusion of Green Party leader Elizabeth May from the televised leaders’ debates.

The decision to exclude May was made by the ”Broadcast Consortium,” a shadowy group of television executives who seem unlikely to qualify as the best guardians of democracy.

In 2008, they also decided to exclude May, and only allowed her in after sustained public pressure. The same thing may happen again.

However, some positive ideas have come out of this latest discussion. Both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff have expressed interest in a one-on-one debate, and that would be a debate worth watching.

The five-person debate in 2008 wasn’t worthwhile. It was mainly an exercise in interruption, shouting and finger-pointing, with few real opportunities to find out where leaders stood on issues.

By contrast, debates in the U.S. between presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, which took place about the same time, were outstanding. They were substantive, respectful and enlightening to voters.

The fact is, only Harper and Ignatieff have a chance to form government and be prime minister. Jack Layton will be, at best, a junior partner in a coalition government — and that seems unlikely, given that Ignatieff has said he won’t form a coalition.

Gilles Duceppe is nothing other than a major league irritant. His party isn’t interested in any part of Canada outside Quebec and he does not deserve to be in the English-language leaders’ debates. He is only seeking the votes of French-speaking Quebeckers.

May leads a party which  attracts significant but shallow interest. It gained less than seven per cent of the national vote in 2008 and will never hold any meaningful number of seats unless our electoral system changes.

There should be at least one debate featuring only Harper and Ignatieff. Additional debates featuring the five leaders (in French), with Duceppe excluded from the all-party English debate, would give voters enough chance to check them all out.

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