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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

TVO Debate Debacle

Last night I watched TVO’s re-broadcast of its September 27th episode of The Agenda with Steve Paikin. I was appalled.

The episode was entitled “MMP vs. FPTP” and was billed by Mr. Paikin as a debate on the merits of electoral reform.

Mr. Paikin introduced the episode with the question “Is our electoral system broken?” but then clearly framed the entire episode and “debate” from the perspective that his question had already been answered in the affirmative.

Following Mr. Paikin’s “Tonight on The Agenda” introduction, the episode cuts to a video montage during which we are subjected to a TVO voice-over which begins with the citing of two of the pro-MMP faction’s major complaints against our current First Past the Post system, then repeats Mr. Paikin’s “Is our electoral system broken?” question. The montage then cuts to a video clip explaining what Wednesday’s referendum question is, introduced with the voice over, “The vote on how we vote,” and followed up with an additional voice over question, “Which electoral system is right for Ontario?” The next clip in the montage is a propaganda video from

None of the guests invited to “debate” the proposed question for the evening had spoken at this point, yet Steve Paikin and TV Ontario had already given us their answer to their own question.

Following the montage, a general introduction of the studio audience, and an invitation to the at-home audience to submit questions and comments via email, the guest panellists were introduced.

Rick Anderson was introduced first and correctly identified by Steve Paikin as “representing the vote for MMP”. Marilyn Churley was introduced next, again correctly identified as “also in favour of the new proposal”. Sheila Copps was introduced third, her opinion on the question not given. Then David Fleet was introduced by Mr. Paikin as being “also on the no MMP side” (from which we can infer that Ms. Copps is as well, and Mr. Paikin is correct on both counts). Finally, Mr. Paikin introduces the fifth member of the panel with the following words:

"And of course we need somebody who will come right up the middle and explain some of this craziness to us, Dennis Pilon, is here. [aside] Adam, if you would, let me see Dennis' book, I promised I'd show it. [end aside] He's from the University of Victoria. The Politics of Voting: Reforming Canada's Electoral System. I hope you sell 10,000 copies."

Steve Paikin introduced Mr. Pilon as an impartial expert on the topic at hand, yet Dennis Pilon is anything but impartial on the question of Electoral reform.

The Edmond Montgomery Publications (publisher of Mr. Pilon’s book) web site, in its overview of The Politics of Voting, states:

“Pilon explains why our current system fails to provide Canadians with proper democratic representation, and examines the myths and political influences that have held back change.”

Additionally, if you GoogleDennis Pilon”, you will find several other examples of his speaking out in favour of the proposed MMP system and against our current system. Clearly his is not an unbiased voice - yet Mr. Paikin attempted to manipulate us into believing that it was and gave Mr. Pilon special status on the panel as the only academic. The anti-MMP vote was given no academic voice on the panel.

The “debate” itself proceeded in this same vein, with Mr. Paikin continuing to demonstrate his pro-MMP bias throughout. For some reason, I had expected better of TV Ontario.

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