It started with Kennedy and Nixon.

As a Canadian, I had no dog chasing a rabbit in the race but it has impacted my attitude about politics for the rest of my life. Being there in 1960 to watch the first ever television debate between presidential candidates John Kennedy and Richard Nixon was not just a casual event. We were watching a permanent change in how North American elections were conducted.

What is very important about these debates is to consider that, while they rarely solve anything, they do help set the stage. They often highlight opportunities gained and lost. For example: Two years ago, Hillary Clinton might have gained some ground if she had stopped Trump from upstaging her by telling him to get back in his cage.

The next such debate we will be seeing will be the single leadership debate that is to be arranged for the Canadian 2019 federal election. In his usual elitist style, Trudeau has appointed former Governor General David Johnston to make all the arrangements. With his only experience in this field as an emcee of a couple such debates, the vice-regal Johnson might have bitten off more than he can chew.

It will be particularly interesting to see how he gets along with the television networks to ensure that there is as wide an audience as possible for a debate in each official language.

The first problem Johnston faces is that everyone goes into these events with entirely different objectives. He will want the television people to give up the revenue from the most lucrative time of their day. If he would just settle for 3 am on a Sunday morning, he would have as much time as he wanted.

But his most serious problem is that political parties are, as the words imply, political. They are always looking for ways to have a political advantage. That is not Johnston’s strong suit. If it looks like he is getting his advice from the guy who appointed him to this job, he is going to find what it is like to be vilified.

Frankly, Trudeau would have been far smarter to meet with ‘Chuckles’ Scheer, Elizabeth May and a representative from the NDP and appoint someone whom they also trust.

But then, we have never heard anyone complain that Mr. Trudeau is too smart.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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