They’re still talking about it. In 1984, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney landed a famous “knock-out punch” to Liberal leader John Turner. In the famous “you had a choice” berating, the former conservative Prime Minister admonishes Turner over patronage appointments.
Today, many in the media long for similar drama when the leaders of our political parties square off. It’s almost cliché to hear political analysts and pundits alike claim that there wasn’t a “knock-out punch” akin to the Mulroney-Turner debate of 1984.
Have things really changed though? In the video, the moment is almost lost when the moderator attempts to redirect the debate. We can be certain, however, that the debate format itself will also be up for debate. For instance, why does the Bloc debate in English when they hardly hide that they’re not targeting English voters in Quebec and while they do not run any candidates outside of Quebec? Further, why does the Green Party get shut out of debates? Could a debate format exist in which the two front runners challenge each other to a private debate? Would Jack Layton picket that debate?
Given the reconfigured concept of “party” in our Parliamentary system, how could we accommodate all parties? Should we?
Perhaps we’ll never again see a “knock-out punch” like the one in 1984 if we talk about extending the English debate format from 4 parties (including one that hasn’t a need to debate in English to a fifth party that gets only 5% of the popular “can’t vote for anyone else” vote. Once we extend the stage to anyone who meets the easy requirements of forming a political party in this country, the serious contenders for power in this country will be drowned out and constantly interrupted by tangential issues from implementing Marxist labour codes to creating a Canadian theocracy.
How can we ever have another knock-out punch when the debate format is so disjoint and without focus? Particularly unhelpful was the decision by the network to disallow direct engagement and debate among party leaders.
Another important point is that the current evolution of the Canadian leaders debate favours the incumbent. One cannot turn popular opinion on its head if tertiary parties (that didn’t run for government — ie. the NDP) cloud the focus of the debate (ie. the issues of the day).
Be sure to watch the historic moment between Mulroney and Turner on BT-TV (on the left-hand sidebar). Also, you can host this video and other conservative moments in Canadian history by putting the Blogging Tories TV plugin on your own website. Click here to find out how.
UPDATE: The clip is now temporarily unavailable