Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
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Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 12.22.05
Quebec City


Canada's Powder Puff Derby 2005

Criticism of the recent All Leaders Debate in Canada has been fast and furious.

No one seems to like the new format which, against all odds, puts a premium on content.

The organizers of the televised extravaganzas made an apparently vain attempt to avoid the daycare-like squabbling that characterized the last campaign debates.

As a result, the ratings were down for both French and English broadcasts.

According to the BBM - Bureau for Broadcast Measurement - the English-language version drew a mere 1.4 million viewers, down from 2.1 million last year.

In Quebec, BBM researchers were actually able to interview the six viewers who watched Gilles Duceppe and Paul Martin play verbal ping pong.

Why are Canadians of either official language choosing Gil Grissom and CSI over the country's political elite?

The answer, unfortunately, is complicated.

In the first place, it isn't a debate which the Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines as "a contest in which the affirmative and negative sides of a question are presented by opposing speakers."

What we witnessed was the political version of the grade school "What I did last summer" essay.

Each of the four leaders answered set questions. They were never really challenged and they didn't really have to defend what they said.

Which is just about as exciting as a bowl of porridge.

The second problem is that we've been asked to watch a rerun.

Okay, the original "Star Wars" the second time around was fun. I can even watch "Raiders of The Lost Ark" every year or so.

But this is like being tied to a deck chair and watching "Titanic" for the twelfth time.

We know how it ends. And by the twelfth time we don't care what happens to the Astors and the Guggenheims!

The last two debates had about as much pizzazz as the Canadian Seniors' Lawn Bowling Championship.

You know your in trouble when you start imagining what the debate would be like if Todd Bertuzzi was the leader of the Tories and not Stephen Harper.

The third problem in all this is that there are too many people involved.

When Ali met Frazier in the Thrilla in Manilla all eyes were riveted on the ring.

When Mulroney poleaxed Turner with his famous "You had a choice" line it was media magic.

When Martin, Duceppe, Harper, and Layton do the Ottawa Quadrille you might as well head for the punch bowl.

My suggestion is, when they head back after the Christmas hiatus, let them go head to head even if it means four more debates.

At least that way we might see a knock-out punch and not another garden party tiff.