Questions surround upcoming Election 2019 leaders’ debate
Published Saturday, March 30, 2019 11:38AM MDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 30, 2019 6:41PM MDT
A leaders’ debate is scheduled to take place next week, but many people are questioning why the NDP’s Rachel Notley hasn’t signed up so far as well as why another leader has been completely excluded.
The Leaders’ Debate, hosted by CTV News Calgary anchor Tara Nelson, has been put together by a media consortium and so far, UCP leader Jason Kenney, Liberal leader David Khan and Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel have all confirmed they will attend.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley hasn’t said anything about whether or not she’ll participate, but a member of her team did say she is considering the request.
“We’re still considering the consortium proposal for a televised debate. It’s important Albertans have the opportunity to hear from the leaders. Our hope is that the debate will include all parties that were represented in the legislature,” said Cheryl Oates, executive director of communications and planning for the Premier of Alberta.
Another leader, Derek Fildebrandt of the Freedom Conservative Party, has so far been denied a spot on the stage and he hasn’t shied away from voicing his displeasure.
He says he needs to be there because, unlike some leaders already invited, he has a seat in the legislature.
“The leader of a party with a seat in the legislature has never, ever been excluded from a leaders’ debate; it’s never happened before,” he told CTV News on Friday.
Fildebrandt claims the UCP is trying to keep the FCP out of the debate and says if he isn’t allowed to participate, it would be “grossly undemocratic.”
“It would be a violation of all precedents in the history of Alberta’s running of leaders’ debates.”
Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, says there is always a fight when it comes to leaders' debates during a campaign.
"There is a fight over the participants, there is a fight over the panellists, there is a fight over the rules, there is a fight over the date and there is a lot of negotiations that go on in every single leaders’ debate in all jurisdictions."
However, this time, he says it's a bit more interesting because the real fight is between the NDP and the UCP over Fildebrandt's inclusion.
"It is clear that the UCP did not want Fildebrandt in the debate and it is also clear that the NDP wanted Fildebrandt in the debate," Bratt says. "They put out a statement yesterday, the NDP did, saying, ‘We want all parties that are represented in the legislature to participate in the leaders’ debate.’ That’s the argument that they’re using. It sounds like they’re all about fairness but really, they want Fildebrandt on the stage to be able to attack Jason Kenney."
The consortium responded to those upset at Fildebrandt's exclusion from the leaders' debate on Saturday, saying: "The consortium’s criteria for an invitation to the debate is the same as in previous years: leaders of parties that were elected to the legislature under their current party banner were invited."
Bratt says it's unclear what criteria was used to decide what leaders would be invited to the debate.
"If it is parties that are in the legislature, then yeah, Derek Fildebrandt should be in there. But if you count how many candidates they’re running, they’re only running 24 candidates. The Liberals are only running 50 candidates. I think, if you’re going to exclude Derek Fildebrandt, it’s tough to include David Khan. So that’s the fight that we’re at now."
He adds Notley's possible decision to bow out of the debate could be disastrous for her.
"It looks really bad because, first of all, this is a high-profile event. We haven’t seen a sitting premier boycott a leaders’ debate. The NDP has been making a lot of hay about local UCP candidates skipping public forums. How can they make that argument if the leader misses hers?"
The debate will air live across television and digital platforms on CBC Calgary, CBC Edmonton, CBC News Network, CityNews Calgary, CityNews Edmonton, CTV Calgary, CTV Edmonton, CTV News Channel, Omni TV, and online at Postmedia’s CalgaryHerald.com and EdmontonJournal.com.
The Leaders’ Debate will be broadcast on 660 News and province-wide on CBC Radio on 99.1FM/1010AM in Calgary and 93.9FM/740AM in Edmonton.
The Leaders’ Debate is expected to cover the most significant issues facing Alberta; including the provincial economy, pipelines, energy, education, health care and the province’s relationship with Ottawa.