Faye Roberts, Scout Public Affairs

Faye Roberts, Scout Public Affairs

Last week, I wrote about government and political visits as election season ramps up across the country, and coincidentally, our government paid a visit to Communitech that same day to announce a $9.7-million infusion of cash to help mid-sized businesses grow.

The next phase of this ramp-up begins with a series of debates that get under way next week. The first party leaders’ debate will be hosted by Maclean’s in Toronto on Aug. 6.Throughout the campaign, there will be plenty of debates across the country, and in each outing, observers and political junkies will be looking to declare a winner.

Debates are an important part of the election process, because they give voters an opportunity to hear from candidates and leaders directly, and assess everything about them – from their haircut and personality to their ability to handle pressure and be genuine.

For the Oct. 19 federal election, the Globe and Mail and Google have announced they will host a debate in Calgary, with all three party leaders, on the economy. This is the first federal election debate to be held in Calgary in many years. Why? Because Alberta’s oil industry has heavily influenced the politics of our country in the past four years – when we were riding high on oil revenue a few years back and when falling oil prices required us to tighten our belts.

In addition to bigger, flashier leaders’ debates, there will also be local candidate debates in individual ridings. In Waterloo Region, there will be several debates (watch this space for more details). I wouldn’t suggest attending them all – that’s just not necessary. However, choosing one hosted by a group or association you are comfortable with is a good investment of time.

During the debate, you’ll see the candidates unfiltered and answering questions off-the-cuff (although they have rehearsed). This is where their priorities, intelligence, personalities and capacity for compassion will be on display.

As a business owner, you want to get a sense of what makes these people tick. When you see them in action, you can ask yourself: Are they approachable? Do they understand the community and its challenges? Will they be a strong advocate on Parliament Hill?

The media and pundits love a debate that results in a “knockout punch” or has a clear winner, but a winner doesn’t always seem obvious when you’re in the room, and frankly, while it can make the debate seem more exciting, it adds little to the campaign process or to your understanding of the issues and candidates. If you like how someone debated the issues but they weren’t declared the debate winner, so what? It’s the vote that counts.

The candidates standing in front of you at those debates could someday be an advocate for your business, an ally in a crisis, and/or an access point to new markets or customers, so it’s important to consider this as you take in the action.

Even meeting the candidates on the campaign trail can help serve your business when the dust settles and the election is over. When you meet your new MP, this would be a great opening line, helping get you off on the right foot to influence the next four years: “I saw you at the debate and liked what you said about…”

Once dates are confirmed for Waterloo Region debates, I’ll share a complete list of those election activities and more through Politics Plug-in.

Photo: 17/04/2015 Week 13 Group A Match Ukraine Otamans vs Russian Boxing Team by WorldSeriesBoxing is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.