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OPINION: I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul

Screen Shot From the 1995 Film Billy Madison

As I sat through tonight's Alberta Provincial Election Leaders Debate, I couldn't help but recall a quote from Adam Sandler's "Billy Madison": "What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard." The debate was marred by distractions and failed to provide meaningful discussions on the issues that truly matter to Albertans.

Right from the start, it was evident that both leaders were distracted, frequently glancing off-camera as if someone behind the scenes was whispering something amusing. This lack of focus undermined the seriousness of the debate and left me questioning the participants' commitment to addressing the pressing concerns of the province.

To make matters worse, the debate was astonishingly short, lasting a mere 41 minutes. Such short time prevented any substantial exploration of the critical issues affecting Albertans. The cost of living, social services, mental health, education, the oil and gas industry, leadership, and community safety—all were crammed into this limited timeframe. And to add insult to injury, the debate was interrupted by not one but two commercial breaks. Who decided that was a good idea?

There were two options that should have been considered. First, the debate could have been extended to a two-hour format, allowing for a more comprehensive discussion divided into four half-hour segments. Alternatively, with a fixed election date, it would have been more appropriate to have multiple debates rather than just one.

Unfortunately, tonight's debate devolved into a competition for attention-grabbing soundbites, perfectly suited for TikTok. It left me craving substantive dialogue on the urgent challenges that demand immediate attention across the entire province.

Adding to the disappointment were the inclusion of three throwaway questions that wasted precious time. The moderators missed a valuable opportunity to guide the conversation towards the pressing issues faced by Albertans daily. Their diversion from the crucial topics at hand further eroded the depth and substance of this vital debate, leaving viewers feeling shortchanged.

As I made a bet earlier in the day with a nurse, I was willing to donate $500 to her favourite charity if either leader mentioned any community besides Calgary and Edmonton. It was a safe bet to make, as the debate revolved solely around these two cities. While they are undeniably important, they do not represent the entire spectrum of Alberta. Neglecting to discuss the challenges faced by rural communities, smaller towns, and remote areas marginalizes a significant portion of the province's population.

This regional bias only reinforces the notion that the debate was out of touch with the realities experienced by all Albertans. It failed to acknowledge and address the unique concerns and aspirations of communities outside the urban centres.

Ultimately, the real losers of this debate are the residents of Alberta. With the sole leaders' debate failing to adequately address the pressing issues, voters are left uninformed and disheartened. This debate was a critical opportunity for Albertans to understand the vision and plans of each candidate, but it fell far short of expectations.

Looking ahead to future elections, it is imperative that leaders' debates are longer, more in-depth, and laser-focused on the issues that hold the greatest significance for Albertans. Substance must prevail over spectacle, granting each candidate ample time to articulate their policies and engage in meaningful discussions.

By avoiding personal attacks and demonstrating an unwavering commitment to addressing the concerns of all communities across the province, future debates can foster informed decision-making and ensure that the democratic process serves the best interests of Alberta and its residents.

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