Singh won the de­bate – and now he has my vote

Edmonton Sun - - COMMENT - Tarek FATAH [email protected] @Tarek­fa­tah

Mon­day night’s de­bate was at best a com­edy of er­rors. While there have been ques­tions about the dual cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus of a cou­ple can­di­dates, it’s only Jag­meet Singh — the Cana­dian born in Canada — who has been un­fairly con­sid­ered by some as not re­ally a true Cana­dian.

And if the six politi­cians vy­ing for our votes was not enough to con­fuse the ‘un­de­cided voter,’ the de­bate or­ga­niz­ers in their wis­dom threw in five, yes five, mod­er­a­tors.

What’s more, in a show of gen­der eq­uity they were all women leav­ing no room for such stal­warts of TV journalism as Steve Paikin of TVO and Terry Milewski of CBC. But then they are white men — for the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect that would be racist, I guess.

And to make sure the au­di­ence never once got a chance to hear what the heads of po­lit­i­cal par­ties had to of­fer, there were no open­ing state­ments nor clos­ing sum­ma­tions.

The de­bate was more like staging a cock fight or at best Jeop­ardy.

Here is how it sounded to the viewer.

A few gems from mod­er­a­tor Lisa Laflamme of CTV who flung sec­onds as bait to the lead­ers: “Mr. Trudeau ... You have 45 sec­onds ... Mr. Singh, you have 30 sec­onds.”

Huff­in­g­ton Post’s Althia Raj used her whip with equal valour: “Mr. Singh, you may be­gin. You have 40 sec­onds.” To the rest of the lead­ers at Raj’s mercy: “It’s 40 sec­onds for each leader … “You have 30 sec­onds.”

At one point El­iz­a­beth May said what I be­lieve ev­ery­one on stage wanted to, but re­sisted: “This is a 40-sec­ond de­bate with eight sec­onds left for me.”

It was left to Bloc Leader Yves-françois Blanchet to mock the cir­cus-like game, ex­cept for Rose­mary Bar­ton who alone could have han­dled the de­bate.

Blanchet said, beam­ing: “What’s the time? What’s the time?”

Maxime Bernier: “In Al­berta, 20, yeah.”

Blanchet: “Fif­teen sec­onds, 14 sec­onds … 10 sec­onds.”

Blanchet to Trudeau: “Please an­swer. It’s 10 sec­onds.”

Bar­ton: “Nine sec­onds. Well, let’s do open de­bate. Off you go. You’re start­ing that too. (Laugh­ter).”

And then this un­be­liev­able ques­tion to Trudeau by Bar­ton: “Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Trudeau, five sec­onds to re­spond.”

Through this ex­er­cise in virtue-sig­nalling, one man stood tall — Jag­meet Singh. One would call him ‘a gen­tle­man and a scholar’ in how he spoke as nor­mal hu­mans speak. Heart to heart, un­scripted, he spoke about the chal­lenges of or­di­nary Cana­di­ans.

He stood above the crowd on the stage, and as Canada’s first leader from a racial mi­nor­ity (full dis­clo­sure: I share his Pun­jabi eth­nic­ity and mother tongue) who had the grace to face racism with a smile and brush it off his shoul­ders as dan­druff.

Even af­ter the de­bate, Singh was con­fronted by the me­dia who wanted him to clar­ify his stand on Que­bec’s Bill 21. Not only has the man faced racism, he alone was be­ing asked why he wouldn’t fight Que­bec, where the law is not seen as racist but as one guar­an­tee­ing sep­a­ra­tion be­tween reli­gion and state. No other politi­cian was ha­rangued the way Jag­meet Singh was.

On Oct. 21, Jag­meet Singh will have my vote, de­spite dis­agree­ing with him on many is­sues. Faced with a choice be­tween a for­mer Amer­i­can dual cit­i­zen and a man who donned black­face and lied as Canada’s prime min­is­ter, I in­stead trust Mr. Singh.

Adrian WYLD/GETTY IMAGES

Party lead­ers pose for a photo be­fore the fed­eral lead­ers de­bate.

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