MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following, from Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition executive director Margaret Prophet, is in response to 'LETTER: Value of issue-driven debates debatable,' published May 24.
Is this the trend we want to set?
As someone who helped organize the Just Recovery Simcoe debates across all five Simcoe ridings, to which no Progressive Conservative candidate came, there is a lot to be cleared up about the writer’s assumptions about the debates that took place.
Despite the writer's assertion that these debates “pop up” mid-campaign, our invitations went out well before the writ was even dropped. Our volunteers called offices to get the best campaign email to ensure that the invites went to the right place.
Second, we decided to do our debates virtually to not only provide accessibility for those who may not be able to attend in person, but also for the candidates. We were told by campaign organizers that daytime events would be much easier to attend. Still no shows across the board from the PC party.
Next, to judge the chamber of commerce events as “issue-neutral” while others are “issue-focused” is telling. The chamber of commerce debates do a great job of focusing on business issues and the economy, but that is only one component of our society.
When do we have discussions about health care, education, poverty reduction, housing strategy, climate action or local environmental issues? The chamber of commerce isn’t covering all of the issues, which is why other debates happen.
For example, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) generally does a debate and did so this election. Considering close to 4,000 Ontarian seniors died in long-term care over the past four years, their debate is needed to discuss how governments plan to give seniors dignity, security and safety as they age.
Regardless, only one out of two PC candidates attended.
We are also in the midst of a climate emergency that requires mass levels of mobilization and government leadership. As I write this, over 150,000 Ontarians still don’t have power due to the recent storms. These freak storms will become more common and we can expect more of these types of mass impact events.
How are our candidates planning to address these impending and current crises?
The “issue-focused” debates are proudly so because there are issues that need to be dealt with and discussed.
This isn’t a partisan issue. Democracy is an institution that has been respected for generations. Candidates deciding to opt out of public events based on their perception of who is present or how many attend is essentially deciding, for the public, who can access their potential representative in a public forum.
This is denying people the right to access democracy — a protected right, in fact.
A democracy isn’t instantaneously eroded, it’s weakened slowly — a death by a thousand cuts.
I know the amount of sacrifice public service takes on people. It is not just a job. However, if this is the job that you signed up for, then you also signed up to be a steward of our democracy meaning you serve the public regardless of how they vote, how much money they donate or whether they agree with you. That’s the job.
You have signed up to uphold and strengthen our institutions that, while imperfect, allow us the freedoms that we have.
And that is not debatable.
See our debate recordings and questions at our website at www.justrecoverysimcoe.ca.