If you weren’t at the TCSA debates last Thursday, then I hope you got a chance to listen to them on Trent Radio. The event made it very clear to me who I ought to be supporting, and I’d find it hard to believe that anyone could have left feeling differently.
Let’s start with the moderation. The questions Moderator and Chief Electoral Officer Stephanie Laing-McKay posed to candidates were tough but fair. They succeeded in pulling out crucial information about each candidates platform, ideas, biases, and vision for the TCSA.
Furthermore, when it seemed like the Presidential debates might devolve into a shouting match, Laing-McKay intervened, and somehow managed to ensure the rest of the debate was civil, and relatively peaceful.
The audience’s questions were also thoughtful and interesting. They largely dealt with important issues, and I think both the candidates and other audience members appreciated them. I certainly did.
When it comes to the debaters themselves, I was impressed by the civility of the Vice Presidential candidates especially.
While both candidates for VP University and College Affairs—Kelsi Dalton and Pippa O’Brien—share a few ideas, they disagree on a number of crucial points. They expressed these differences in a way that clearly articulated their own vision and its merits.
As for VP Campaigns and Equity, that debate also saw a round of excellent, civil discussion. Those candidates ended up having a lot in common in terms of vision, but key differences in approach and priorities were made visible.
Despite about three questions on the topic, none of the candidates—Asgiga Corriveau, Betty Wondimu, or Hilary Stafford—would take an explicitly pro- or anti-Canadian Federation of Students stance. They seemed to agree that wasn’t the role of the VP to make that decision—it is the students’. Furthermore, regardless of students’ choice, they would work with it.
No doubt a vocal minority wanted to make CFS defederation a wedge issue, but these candidates had no interest in that. The focus was where it ought to have been: on specific questions regarding campaigns and equity.
The Presidential debates—featuring Jeff Campbell, Chris Mckinnon, Brendan Edge, and Alaine Spiwak— took up half of the evening. While they were more contentious and more personal than either of the VP debates, they too were successful at making each candidate’s position and opinions clear as day.
As mentioned, at several points the debate nearly devolved into yelling matches. At times it resembled the 2014 Ontario election debate, in which candidates were more interested in providing a clever quip to use as a takeaway soundbyte than they were in discussion about the issues.
But, the candidates who kept their cool and stuck to their plan did themselves a favour. Not just by presenting themselves as calm and level-headed, but also by addressing the cacophonous concerns raised.
They demonstrated a willingness to work with even the most difficult, and still take them seriously, despite their outbursts. Given the current political context at Trent, that’s a good skill to have, regardless of your viewpoint.
Matt and I have a policy against making public endorsements, and as such I’ll be keeping my wishlist for the 2015-16 TCSA executive a secret.
One thing is certain though—after Thursday’s debates, I clearly know who those candidates are.