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The value of all-candidate meetings

There has been some talk in the mainstream media and the Twittersphere and Blogosphere (and a whole mess of other spheres I am sure) lately about how some candidates – notably those representing the Harper Party of Harper© – are saying thanks but no thanks – or just not bothering to show up – at local all-candidate meetings.

The excuse put out there most often is that they think that connecting with voters by canvassing is more useful than attending a debate.

Poppycock. And it’s not fair to the voters.

First, voters want to be able to compare and contrast the candidates – in person and in the presence of the other choices. They want to pose questions to all of them and observe and compare the answers, the body language, the character of the candidate in the presence of the others in the race. So by blowing off the meetings, the candiates are doing the voters and their communities a great disservice. Pure and simple.

Second, canvassing door to door is essential, of course. But, as a former candidate and holder of public office myself, I find it impossible to buy into the excuse that it is better to canvass than to attend a group at an all-candidates meeting. Having a group in a room is a very efficient use of “face-time” in that you are making direct contact with as many voters in a short time span as you would in about 6 hours of door stops (making certain assumptions, of course). And these folks are VOTERS! They will VOTE! So the time is not wasted. If there had been more opportunities to address groups of voters during last fall’s municipal election, I – and the other candidates – would have surely availed ourselves of the opportunities.

So, my take is that the decisions are almost certainly not coming from the campaign offices themselves but from further up the food chain. You see, all-candidate meetings can be risky propositions. Candidates can slip up and say something damaging to the campaign as a whole. The press cover these events and disasters can, and have happened. This is especially pertinent to new and unseasoned candidates… more of a chance of an “oops”.

It is even MORE important to the front-runner in a campaign… manage the risk to the greatest extent possible. And the CPC is all about risk management – they have shown that time and time again.

Bottom line – the main decision-makers are calling the shots here… and from a campaign strategy point of view, they are probably right to tell some of their local candidates to stay away.

But that doesn’t make it A-OK because they are denying voters an opportunity to gather more information to help them make informed choices about who they will support on E-Day.


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One Comment

  1. The problem with debates is that there’s no guarantee that the venue is going to be fair, or that the organizers or attendees aren’t going to be complete douchebags. It would be relatively easy to whip up a debate that heavily favours one candidate, thereby making the other candidates look bad if they don’t show up and worse if they do.

    That’s why atheists often shy away from debating religious yobs… it’s not that the atheist arguments are weak, it’s that the venues are seldom unbiased, so there’s no actual “debate”.

    The recent leaders debate is a classic example. They include a regional party leader, but not a national party leader whose party gets as many votes as the regional leader. That’s unfair, and it poisons the venue before any debate even starts.

    I give almost no weight to these “debates”. Waste of time, in my book.

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