Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Conservative Candidates Should Be Free to Attend Riding Debates and Meet with Media

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Conservative Candidates Should Be Free to Attend Riding Debates and Meet with Media

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Conservative candidates should be free to attend riding debates and meet with media

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Aug. 27:

What are Conservative candidates afraid of? More to the point, why are Conservative strategist so afraid that they are apparently putting unprecedented limitations on who the party's local standard-bearers should speak to?

Those are the top-of-mind questions in light of a the Star's report this week that Conservatives running for office are being "advised" from on high not to attend all-candidates' debates or speak to reporters during the entire federal election campaign.

Public meetings and media coverage, after all, are key ways for candidates to get their message out to potential supporters. What candidate in his or her right mind would turn down those opportunities?

But according to one Conservative insider who spoke to Richard Brennan and Robert Benzie of the Star, most of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's candidates, including some of his most experienced cabinet ministers, "have been told no debates and no media" for the duration of the campaign.

This comes in the form of an "informal edict," according to the report, and it fits a worrisome pattern in the Conservative campaign. Harper has manipulated the format for leaders' debates, and made his own campaign rallies invitation-only events for party loyalists.

Now local Tory candidates are apparently being muzzled, and it doesn't bode well for democracy. Campaigns, after all, are supposed to be the pre-eminent moment when politicians and would-be politicians get out and actually talk to voters and debate their ideas. Discouraging them from talking freely prevents voters from judging them in debates with other party flag-bearers or in interviews with reporters.

And that can't be a good thing for democracy.

Evidence of this ban on interviews is growing. …

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