Who’s afraid of a good argument? Ontario’s provincial election is only expected to feature two leaders’ debates, one of them focused on Northern Ontario. Andrea Horwath, the NDP Leader, is right to be calling on her rivals to do better, by agreeing to five debates.
Televised debates may not be the perfect forum, but they give voters much more insight into the potential premiers than can be had from sound bites and stage-managed events on the campaign trail. And the leaders should welcome them. It’s a chance to speak directly to viewers, and directly challenge their opponents.
For example, a series of debates would allow – or induce – Ms. Horwath to explain the differences between herself and Kathleen Wynne, the Liberal incumbent, and her justification for triggering an election. Ms. Wynne’s defeated budget was filled with items favoured by the NDP and many of its supporters. The Liberal strategy appears to aim at forming the next government by taking votes from the NDP. Ms. Horwath welcomes more debates for that reason – and because as the third-party leader, facing a highly organized and well-funded Liberal machine, she otherwise risks being ignored and drowned out. But more debates would also serve Ms. Wynne, giving her a chance to make her pitch to swing voters on both the right and left.
More debates are also an opportunity for Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative Leader. To win the election, he must make the case that his vision of smaller government, including replacing subsidies for business with lower business taxes across the board, makes sense. There are distinct differences between Ms. Wynne and Mr. Hudak on a host of issues, from pensions to public transit to big philosophical questions about the proper role and size of government. Put the leaders in a ring and let them argue it out.
Ms. Horwath’s proposed five-part TV series is what Ontarians need and deserve. Bring it on.