Undecided Voters: How to Watch the Debates

I have to admit it: I’m as guilty as anyone who watches political debates for the zingers! You know … those K.O. lines that capture the headlines, the spotlight and the media’s attention for the next three days!

And amuse us.

But that really is NOT the best way to watch a debate between leaders whose parties/strategists/backers want control of Canada’s government and its $356 Billion annual budget … with all the authority over your life and rights that accompany political power.

Deciding how to vote is very easy for partisan party supporters: they have their minds made up; many have already reached their post-debate conclusions and have their lines scripted: THEIR leader did GREAT and the opponent(s) FAILED miserably.

Ho hum!

However, for those who are UNDECIDED … watching the debates can be more important … even critical … in making their decision how to vote.

So here are my own suggestions:

LISTEN to what the leaders say from TWO points of view: WHAT will they do FOR you and your country OR WHAT will they do TO you and your country.

Everything else is THEATRE … zingers, prepared lines and drama aimed at impressing voters, capturing the headlines and favorable mention from commentators.

It’s a lot of sound and fury signifying NOTHING … three weeks from now.

However, if you do listen to what they propose, promise or could even prohibit, it can then help you make an educated decision as to which party should win … or lose … YOUR vote.

Healthcare funding? Home ownership incentives? Seniors’ pension increases? Child care benefits? Tax cuts? Education? Carbon pricing? Environment? Pipelines? Transportation infrastructure? Immigration? First Nations spending? Human rights/LGBTQ issues? International role? Justice/crime? Or…?

Of course, there’s no guarantee the “winner” will do all … or even most … of what he or she promises.

But at least YOU will have voted for what YOU believe, what YOU want to see, and against what YOU don’t support.

Instead of just falling victim to who had the “best” line or delivered the “best” punch.

Harv Oberfeld

(Reminder: Follow me @harveyoberfeld.ca on Twitter for First Alerts of all new topics on the blog.)

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19 Responses to Undecided Voters: How to Watch the Debates

  1. Gene The Bean says:

    As I mentioned a couple of posts back, the debates are just like reality TV.

    They will try and manoeuvre an opponent and lead them down a road and then hit them with a contrived ‘zinger’ to score points.

    No substance, just fluff. Doubt anyone under the age of 50 will watch. The Boomer generation just cant get out of its own way when it comes to politics. Once the Boomers age out the political landscape will change significantly and for the better.

    For as much as I dislike the debates I know you enjoy then Harvey so have fun and I look forward to your commentary and insight.

    (Response: I’m retired … so I don’t intend to “report” or even “comment” on the whole debate(s) … only if something in particular strikes my fancy. There will be plenty of “working” reporters, commentators and pundits from every political bent talking, writing about it all. h.o.)

  2. 13 says:

    Sorry Harvey, I must admit that my focus will be on who manages to MAKE Trudeau accountable for his DISMAL performance over the past 4 long years.
    Why do you keep failing to act in an ethical manner?
    Do you think the Liberal party would be much further ahead in the polls if JWR was the leader of your party?
    Do you know the cost of your campaign promises?
    Are rumors of your departure from West Point Grey true?
    Im sure that by this point the other leaders know the scripted answers that Trudeau has rehearsed and after asking the question tell him NOT to repeat the BS version.

    (Response: So, even before the debate, we should not regard you as one of the “UNDECIDED”. h.o)

  3. Keith says:

    Speculation it could be a minority parliament, what J. Singh and E. May have to say could be equally as important as the messaging from Scheer and Trudeau.

  4. D. M. Johnston says:

    The sad thing about the debates is that I do not believe any of them.

    The election is nothing more than a grab for power and we all know power corrupts.

    Here is where I stand.

    1) Trudeau, a pretty face running as PM because the Liberal Party loves power.
    2) Scheer, a Trumpian acolyte, chosen by the GOP right wing of the conservatives who wish to regain power that Harper lost.
    3) Singh, a religious fundamentalist which I believe religious fundamentalists make very bad leaders, just hoping to retain seats.
    4) The rest fringe parties, who want their 15 minutes of fame.

    I was planning to vote independent if one ran, as a protest, but alas no, just the “Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse” who are running in my constituency and unlike Australia, we do not have a none of the above on our ballots.

    So, the debates are meaningless as it will be about “brown Face”, “dual citizens ship” or promises that cannot be kept.

    I’ll watch the highlights, otherwise the debates will be a boring as a corpse, hell, I think a corpse would be livelier!

    (Response: I disagree when you say the debates are meaningless. The debates can be VERY important. Yes, as I mentioned, many people … esp the media … watch for the zingers, but UNDECIDED VOTERS can be turned on or turned off by a leader … based on statements, policies … or even how much they sweat, stumble or squirm. I believe many voters make up their minds based on performances during the debates. h.o)

  5. e.a.f. says:

    Good advice on watching the debates. Too bad the debate organizers don’t give a small talk on that prior to the debate.

    Taking cheap shots or coming up with zingers in a debate always scores points, having used them myself and gotten much applause, but really, that wasn’t the important thing. I can recall one national politicians who in the House, made a response to the sitting government and it got national attention. The next day a group of us where with him and complementing him on it. His response, in all honesty he himself didn’t know where that comment came from, it just came out. I realized at a much younger age, he considered himself lucky in the moment.

    CNN was running a doc. on “tricky dickie” yesterday and it ran a clip from the t.v. debate between Nixon and Kennedy. What a difference a few decades make in debate manners.

    Your paragraph listing the main issues, is great. People might want to keep it handy.o say. Personally, I’m not in favour of tax deductions because you have to have money to acquire a tax deduction for such things as child sports (harper). I’d rather see those cheques for child benefits going out. Seniors’ pensions need to be addressed, because there are a whole lot of people who didn’t have an opportunity to save for retirement, didn’t have pensions, or their employers went bankrupt and there went their pensions–hello Sears. They have to make do with very little. They deserve better. We can not continue to have Grassy Narrows go on as it is. Its been over 30 years. When will the government do something about the water. Government after government has let the people of Grassy Narrows down. It was Japanese scientists who first provided the Indigenous people in the area of the problem. The Canadian government was no where to be seen.

    The first one who talks about tax cuts, I hope some one asks them what services are going to be cut. Like the line goes, “I line taxes, they buy me a civilized society.”

  6. 13 says:

    Guilty as charged Harvey. I must have blocked the word undecided from your title. It’s hard to imagine a voter being undecided at this point. However I’m guessing with the pollsters telling us it’s a close race there could be a reason to believe that some votes can hang in the balance. Personally I think the race is Schemers to lose so I hope he does very well

  7. BMCQ says:

    There could be no argument with your observations and suggestions for any Debate .

    As is always the problem with the upcoming or past Debates is the fact that there are NO Guarantees of what a Moderator or Panel will ask each of the Leaders and then of course one or two may be shut out of the Debate and there is also the fact that an irresponsible arrogant Federal Leader might give his Middle Finger to any given Debate and not partake .

    Will the Panel ask each of the Party Leaders to provide public Dual Citizenship Status of each Candidate Running for their party by Oct 10 ?

    Will the Panel ask all of the Leaders to provide a definitive answer on Pipelines including the proposed route through Quebec ?

    What about the Quebec banning of the Religious Symbol Bill, where do you and your party stand on that ?

    Those are just three questions that are current and should be discussed .

    If the Panel and Moderator do not ask the policy questions important to Canadians from all regions the Debate itself is of no consequence .

    I hate to point this out but I believe the Panel will once again leave the Canadian People disappointed and asking even more questions about Party Platforms .

    I am becoming more frustrated, disappointed, untrusting, and disgusted with Media of all kinds each and every week that goes by .

    I do not know why but to me it seems that Media today lack direction, courage, there is no investigate ability, and there is no desire to get to the bottom of almost any story .

    It is almost like most Media has been in a way Neutered .

    On top of that most Media seem to have a bias and a political agenda and to me that is treasonous and criminal .

    Hard Working over Taxed Canadians deserve better .

    Oh and one more question .

    What is wrong with asking Federal Leaders to find Efficiencies in a Bloated Wasteful Government that cannot seem to recognize Tax Payers are being stretched to the limits in a country that already has one of the highest costs of living and housing in the world ?

    (Response: Looks like you’re setting the panel up and panning them for “failure” even before they ask anything! Just to get YOUR questions in … with SIX leaders taking part … they’d have to extend the debate another two hours! By the way, here are the pre-agreed topics: “affordability and economic insecurity; environment and energy; Indigenous issues; national and global leadership; and polarization, human rights and immigration”. The debate will run in English on Monday two hours … from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time (clearly catering more to Eastern and Central Canadian viewers than those on the West coast) … and then on Thursday in French from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific. And you’ll just have to forgive the panel if they actually have some of their own questions they want answered … not just yours. h.o)

  8. nonconfidencevote says:

    “I lived in Van Quadra up until recently ….”

    I lived in Vancouver Quadra in the 1980’s when John Turner was running for PM.
    I went to a few “garden parties” put on by the Party faithful for undecided voters and he was a very down to earth guy.
    Bizarrely enough at the same time I worked with a kid whose name was John Turner and he also lived in Vancouver Quadra.
    The Rinoceros Party approached him to run in the riding and as a “20 something” kid he though “Why not? It’ll be fun!”
    Anything but.
    The Liberals pulled out all the stops to get him disqualified, or to quit.
    He couldnt cash a cheque anywhere without being asked for multiple ID or for a photo.
    Liberal supporters phoned him day and night to quit.
    He was very happy when it was all over.
    Politics THEN was a nasty biz.
    I cant imagine what its like now with all your dirty laundry from the beginning of time splayed out on the internet for all to see.

  9. Gene The Bean says:

    Thanks Harvey, both of us wouldn’t want you to take up a blog post with a ‘report’ but if there is a whopper, I’m sure we’ll hear about it.

    But then again we could all just call the media biased and fake. Man, life must be easy when you can make your own reality.

  10. BMCQ says:


    I am away so thank you for the info on Debate .

    The way I see it he various Panels have already let Canadians down by allowing Leaders to Speak over each other, by jettisoning one Debate because the arrogant, juvenile, selfish, devious PM Justin refused to appear, and on top of all that the questions on by other Panels border on the ridiculous .

    Canadians deserve better and I am upset and all Canadians should be upset. .

    Again, Climate Change being discussed when the ?Canadian contribution is barely 1% of /World Green House Gas ? Really ? How silly .

    Frankly I do not care if it takes 2 extra hours, this is the most important Election in Canadian History, those unaccountable hypocritical Politicians can give the Great Unwashed another few minutes to answer questions .

    First Nations is another overworked PC Bafflegab Subject, as my wife who is Métis tells me, “Tome to make F/N Leadership ?Accountable and time to take the FN People and transfer them to the 21st Century .

    This Federal Election is the MOST important in ?Canadian History, we cannot allow a Disengaged, Care Nothing, Biased, /Fake News Media to ignore the important questions, if it takes an extra two hours to satisfy the needs and answer the questions of Canadian Voters so be it .


    I do remember that .

    I am proud to have once had you as a neighbor, Machiavelli now has two answers to his question .

    I know this is Harvey’s Blog but please stick around .

    We may not always agree on everything but I admire your willingness to stick your neck out .

    As NonCon always says

    ‘“You can’t make this stuff up” !

    Yes the facts speak for themselves, Media is quite often “Fake” .

    Yes Harvey, Give them the Extra Two Hours, the Future of Canada depends on this Debate .

    (Response: The only people who would watch FOUR hours of six people debating Canadian politics … are a minority of political junkies whose minds are already made up anyway. Total waste of TV time. In fact, I’d bet after the first hour of the debate as scheduled, viewership will drop off in Eastern and Central Canada … and only pick up in the West, as people get home from work, because of the earlier time zone start. h.o.)

  11. nonconfidencevote says:

    @Gene the bean
    “But then again we could all just call the media biased ….”

    CBC definitely has a “Left” agenda in its reporting
    Global TV definitely has a “Right” agenda in its reporting.

    Is that not “biased reporting”?

    Just report the FACTS and let the viewer form their OWN opinion without all the slant.

  12. Gene The Bean says:

    Nonconfidence – doesn’t assigning a point of view ahead of hearing the material make you biased? I don’t necessarily disagree however falling into the trap set by the Cons that everything that doesn’t fit their perverted world is fake is a fools game.

    Reporting ‘just the facts’ (ie: the old days) doesn’t pay the bills anymore.

    Trying to stay sane enough to form your own opinion is getting harder and harder.

    Luckily, progressive minded individuals have a distinct advantage in that department.

  13. nonconfidencevote says:

    @ Gene the Bean
    “Trying to stay sane enough to form your own opinion is getting harder and harder.”


    Two thumbs UP!

  14. e.a.f. says:

    On sunday, CTV had a preview of what a debate could look like. It was actually 3 former party leaders commenting on a few things. If we took them at face value, we would have gotten it wrong. i.e. Peter McKay started with Scheer wanting to cut foreign aid. He was in favour of it, we sent money to countries such as Italy, which didn’t need it and countries which supported terrorism. Even the moderator challenged him on the “terrorist comment”. Bob Rae, explained the money Italy received was for a natural disaster. Gilles Duceppe kept quiet and nodded when Rae was speaking and then told us that the highest rate of foreign aid given by Canada was when Mulroney was P.M. and then went on to list how much it declined with each P.M. after that, winding up with Trudeau granted the least. MacKay didn’t list one country Canada donated to which was a terrorist organization. In the end, by being challenged by the other 2 and the moderator, he started to change his position. Its important to listen to the follow up is what I got out of it.

  15. DBW says:

    When walking my dog I listen to podcasts. This morning, it was Jordan Peterson who started his two hour lecture complaining about a TV interview he had given the night before in which he was asked in his words a complex question that he was expected to answer in a minute.

    That is how I see these debates. Harvey gave us the four broad topics that will be discussed. That is half an hour each. Six candidates that is five minutes each. But those topics are multi-layered. One question cannot even come close to finding out what a party’s stance is on say immigration – which includes for example who should be allowed, what about migrants or refugees or support for new Canadians etc. Add to that each candidates “need” to throw some shade on each of the opponents to score some kind of political zinger for the nightly news and we end up with nothing of substance.

    And thanks for giving us the times Harvey. I might have turned on the TV at 6:00 to catch some action, but 4:00? That’s dog walking time.

    (Response: No excuses for anyone not watching the ONLY English language debate of the campaign featuring ALL six leaders … unless your mind is already made up. Having owned a dog, I realize making it wait another two hours, while you intently watch the debate, could be problematic! However you can DVR …and no doubt it will be rebroadcast multiple times. h.o.)

  16. Gary T says:

    To me, the debates are a waste of time. Moderators that do not ask the hard questions, and do not enforce the rules of the debate by turning off mics if someone gets out of hand. Politicians that act like kindergarten kids by trying to speak over the person trying to answer so you cannot hear what they actually have to say. Like polls, debates are a waste of time, and out dated.

  17. Harry Lawson says:


    6 candidates 5 moderators ,a round of introductions of all. , ,explanation of rules, brief opening statements from candidates . That leaves about a sound bite per question. So I expect nothing of substance.

  18. Gilbert says:

    Why is the Bloc Quebecois allowed in this debate? It’s a separatist party that only has candidates in Quebec. I can understand the reason for including the Bloc in the French debate, but how many Anglophones will vote for them? There’s no need for the Bloc in a national debate.

    (Response: The Bloc is in so it can reach Quebec’s Anglophone voters. Which is very strange …since both the Green Party and People’s Party ..running candidates in all provinces … were EXCLUDED from the French language TVA debate. h.o)

  19. e.a.f. says:

    OMG, I needed a break from that chat fest. Thank fully we have only one English debate. couldn’t have stood two. didn’t like the format, didn’t like the lack of time or the weird graphics and worst of all when the candidates did a CNN full panel symotaneous chat fest. Now whomever decided to include a portion of all candidates speaking at once, need to be forced to sit in a room with all the tapes of it going at one time. I had to turn the debate to mute during that.

    at this point nothing new is being said and next time I’ll have a root canal scheduled.

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