Voters deserve a debate that includes their MPP

Kirk Winter Headshot

By Kirk Winter

Kirk is a retired high school history teacher and coach who has had a lifelong interest in politics at all levels. Since retiring, Kirk has spent the last three years doing freelance writing of all kinds for various platforms. Kirk can often be found sitting in the press gallery at City Hall observing and reporting on the vagaries of local government.

Local MPP Laurie Scott.

With the election less than three weeks away, it appears that incumbent Progressive Conservative member of provincial parliament Laurie Scott is not going to participate in a single live debate, either on television or in front of an audience of voters anywhere in the riding for likely the first time in her political career.

In previous election cycles while there were never enough debates to satisfy all the groups wanting to host in this geographically immense riding, Scott has been willing to attend a few live events sponsored by business or agricultural associations where she was relatively sure of a friendly room.

The Advocate knows of three debates that Scott won’t participate in and we have been unable to find a single debate in which she had pledged to show up. 

The normally gregarious Kinmount resident is certainly not press shy when she has a government cheque to present to someone or another, and has never met a cottage association BBQ, community meeting or 50th wedding anniversary party that she doesn’t like. She seems to enjoy mixing with her constituents every opportunity she can. What has changed this election cycle?

Some suggest that debates have outlived their value in a parliamentary democracy and that they have become little more than glorified press conferences.

Spencer McKay, a research associate working for the University of British Columbia’s Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions disagrees and writes in a report published in June of 2020 that “most observers seem to agree that debates play an important role in democracies.”

McKay argues that the primary function of debates is to inform the public.

“Debates show what the candidates believe are the most pressing problems confronting the country and how they plan on responding to them, whether the candidate can communicate competently about complex issues and does so clearly and effectively in public, whether the person will see that the laws are faithfully executed and set an appropriate moral tone, and how the candidate will respond in real time to the unexpected,” McKay says.

McKay adds that debates with some interaction or clash between the candidates can highlight the differences between the candidates and lead to less scripted and more authentic performances.

McKay argues that citizens watch debates for two reasons: one to decide on which candidate to vote for and one looking for reasons not to vote for the other candidates.

The 2020 UBC study emphasizes the importance of debates to the democratic process.

“Debates may be the only…event capable of attracting the attention of the marginally attentive citizen,” McKay writes, “Debates leave participants feeling capable of participating in the electoral process. Debates are the single most covered campaign debate. Debates generate even more media coverage that others read and are influenced by and generate coverage for the candidate deemed to have ‘won” the debate.”

McKay says that debates are good for democracy because “debate exposure appears to increase political talk and discussing the debate with others may change voters’ perceptions. Debates can also increase turnout by mobilizing voters not interested in politics.”

While social media is full of theories about Scott’s seemingly interminable scheduling conflicts, the reality remains that the voters of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock are being deprived of a basic democratic right by Scott’s apparent unwillingness to debate the issues of the day.

The voters of this riding deserve to see their member live and unscripted, answering questions that might be awkward and uncomfortable in front of audiences from both sides of the political spectrum.

Democracy deserves nothing less.


  1. Annette says:

    100% agree with this. However, I believe it’s because she wants to keep her job. Realistically, could she or anyone else honestly stand up and defend Doug Ford? Unfortunately, it is what it is. It will be very interesting to see how people vote this time, if they bother to come out to vote at all.

  2. laurie tamblyn says:

    She is not going to get my vote. She represents the people not the party and if she won”t answer questions then she doesn’t deserve the job…….put your vote somewhere else

  3. Joan Abernethy says:

    I would not be surprised to learn it is a security issue. We have all seen the sort of harassment her constituency staff have been targeted by and it has sometimes got violent.

  4. Glenn Tyrrell says:

    Hope the voters remember this on election day!

  5. Daniel Formosa says:

    She may be asked why she rammed bill Pr 65 through parliament regarding Ross Memorial hospital without most of her constituents knowing anything about it.

  6. Ron Sutch says:

    I agree 100% and for all these reasons she will not be getting my vote. Remember the pilot project she cancelled before the promised deadline??

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