OPINION: the state of local election debate sucks in Mississauga


Did you think you had enough information to make an informed decision as a voter during the federal election? One thing that was strikingly missing were local candidate debates for each of the six Mississauga ridings.

Unless you voted in, say, Mississauga Lakeshore where there were enough residents associations to hold local candidates to account, there were three debates organized and all the candidates showed up to each one. 

Another forum was organized by the Lisgar Residents Association but two of the five main parties did not send their representatives. Photo courtesy of Lisgar Residents Association Facebook page

This trend of not attending forums, town halls and debate events in order to answer voter’s questions and to be held accountable is very commonplace these days, particularly when it comes to one major political party.

But it seems all parties dropped the ball recently when it comes to being available for local debates and they more often come off as deliberate decisions made by the candidates and their organizers.Photo courtesy of Sauga960 Facebook Page

Save for one debate hosted by the Mississauga Board of Trade at UTM and another hosted by local radio station Sauga 960, which also didn’t feature all the available candidates as the NDP couldn’t provide anyone, scores of candidates backed out almost the last minute. Sauga 960 attempted to host debates for each riding on the air, but was only able to organize the only ‘city wide’ one that they held. 

Brampton actually did a better job than Mississauga when the city hosted a town hall at the Rose Theatre and the Brampton Board of Trade organized riding forums which can be viewed on their Facebook page. Mississauga tried doing the same thing, but so many candidates backed out the city had to cancel.

But even at the Brampton hosted event, not all candidates attended, except for the NDP; the Conservatives had only two candidates out of the five running. The Sauga 960 debate organizers lamented over the challenging process they had to get riding debates done on this podcast (starting around the 1:14:00 mark):

Listen to “Episode 36. Theories on WeWork, Client Service, and Local Political Debates” on Spreaker.

I don’t think it’s a surprise to see that candidates running in cities like Mississauga and Brampton now better reflect the changing demographics. But it seems the downside is that these candidates and their organizers continue to operate in a silo.

Instead of taking the chance to promote their parties’ platforms on radio that’s just not an ethic media station, they either fall back on just talking to ethnic media, which has a narrower reach and not as inclined to hold candidates’ accountable…or do nothing at all.

The old excuse of “I’m out door knocking” or “I’m too busy meeting with constituents,” just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Most of these forums are held later in the evening, well during or after dinner when it is strategically better not to disturb voters at the door.

Volunteers can finish the work of door knocking and doing literature drops, thereby giving the candidate ample time  to go and defend their ideas…instead of eating pizza back at their campaign office deluding diehard supporters how they’re going to win. 

Rogers TV used to organize local riding debates when they were still operating in Peel Region, and even during this campaign in cities and towns where Rogers is still present there were local debates being held.

The same thing happened during last year’s municipal elections in Mississauga. Without a major local TV station, all residents were treated to was a barrage of flyers they probably tossed into the trash without reading.

If voters are not being treated with at least some modicum of respect, then why do we keep electing and reelecting these people? 

Do politicians think we’re all that deaf, dumb and blind?

Cover photo courtesy of Omar Alghabra’s Facebook page

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