Every Friday I watch CBC’s weekly political panel hoping to hear some insightful commentary on the most important political issues and events of the previous week.  And every Friday I’m left massively disappointed, shaking my head in disbelief at what I hear from Paul MacNeil and Rick MacLean . 

CBC’s weekly political panel offers such an important opportunity for our public broadcaster to inform Islanders about truly significant social and political developments, yet MacNeil and MacLean now seem incapable of offering more than off-the-cuff personal opinions, petty observations on style, and superficial comments focussed on political personalities and how they “perform”.

Islanders are hungry for meat and potatoes,…but these guys just keep spoon-feeding us pablum!

When asked about the debates that took place this past week, you’d think MacLean was asked to comment on a ringside boxing match. He appeared genuinely disappointed that no one delivered a “knock-out” punch, or a ‘gotcha’ zinger soundbite;  seemingly lamenting the political-pundit-killing prospect that the good-old days of confrontational “one-up-em” conflictual political discussion and debate might be over in PEI. See for yourself:

MacNeil, on the other hand, dismissed the debates as largely irrelevant, said nothing about their substance, and characterized them as a “test run” for the upcoming CBC debate next week. Wow!

I’m convinced he didn’t attend or watch the debates at all; or, if he did, has contracted “early-onset political-pundit alzheimers” and has lost the ability to detect what’s truly significant in a political forum or debate. Either way, perhaps he should no longer be pretending that he’s the person best qualified to inform Islanders about what;s politically-significant at the end of each week.

I attended the first two debates, and watched the other two online. They were hugely significant, even historic. And yes, there was a tremendous amount of substance that could – and should – have been discussed by MacLean and MacNeil.

At the first three debates on Environment, Land and Agriculture, there was an unprecedented discussion about the crises currently facing our environment, land, water, farm families and rural communities; along with a brutally-honest critique of industrial agriculture with a consensus agreement (among the NDP, Green and PC leaders) on the need for a new direction for Agriculture. That’s something I’ve never before witnessed in a leader’s debate or forum leading up to a general provincial election.  What did MacNeil and MacLean have to say about all that? Nothing. Absolutely nothing!

There were also significant commitments made by all Parties at the debates – other than the Liberals, that is – to take decisive and immediate action to confront the problem of the depletion of soil quality and erosion, with an honest discussion of the rapid depletion of Soil Organic Matter from industrial agricultural methods; as well as a promise to establish a Land Banking system, with discussion on how that might happen; commitments to enforce the three-year crop rotation legislation, something that has not happened under the Liberals;  and so much more. 

Nor was Premier MacLauchlan’s conspicuous empty chair at the Leader’s debate on the Land mentioned, not to mention the unprecedented civility and cooperative spirit displayed by the other three leaders who did attend – something that warmed the hearts of so many Islanders, and was commented on extensively by many who attended or watched the Land debate, both at the debate itself, and for days following on social media. Again, unprecedented. Again, not mentioned by MacLean or MacNeil.

But most disappointing of all was the failure by both political pundits to mention policies put forth by the PC Party yesterday aimed at preventing government corruption and restoring integrity and ethics in government; policies including:

(1) Separating the Attorney General from the Minister of Justice  – something I proposed during the PC leadership debate, and has since been proposed as a “integrity” policy option for the federal government, following the SNC-Lavalin affair;

(2) Establishing a truly “arms-length” ethics Commissioner reporting to the Legislative Assembly, not the Premier and Executive Council;

(3) Establishing an independent and “arms-length” Ombudsman; and the one I especially appreciate, after watching the Liberal government defeat motion after motion after motion from opposition MLAs to call witnesses to various standing committees to get to the bottom of critically-important issues like e-gaming and the land during the past four years;

(4) Structuring Legislative Committees so they have a MAJORITY of opposition members.

These land-breaking policy commitments were apparently not worthy of mention by MacLean and MacNeil, as they took a largely dismissive tone with their largely empty comments on the PC Platform:

Do these two political commentators not realize how incredibly significant and forward-thinking these policies are? Especially the simple, cost-free change to the structure of Legislative Standing Committees that will ensure that a governing party will no longer be able to prevent Legislative Committees from getting the information they need to truly “get to the bottom” of the issues of importance being explored by these committees? Something that didn’t happen under the Liberals with both the e-gaming investigation by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and the land issue by the Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment given that almost every Motion which opposition MLAs brought forward to bring key witnesses before the respective Committees was defeated by the Liberal members on the Committee holding a majority?

MacLean and MacNeil led Islanders to believe that the PC platform was just  “the same ole, same ole,” and then after giving that false impression, they rattled on with the same old tired lines that every ill-informed political “talking head” has at the ready in his tool box – and relies on when they don’t have anything else to say that’s actually insightful –  such as: “they have a shopping list longer than my kid’s wish list for Santa,” or  “but how will they pay for their promises?” Yawn.

Most disappointing of all is the fact that neither MacLean nor MacNeil have even once mentioned since the election was called the “Words that Must Not be Named” – E-gaming Scandal .  It’s like they’re oblivious to the fact that the upcoming election – including the selection of the early April 23rd election date – is entirely hinged on a panicked last-ditch effort by the Liberal government to get re-elected before the full, explosive truth about the e-gaming scandal comes out in the upcoming Court Hearing; which, coincidentally (NOT), begins the same day we vote. 

Come to think of it,  neither MacLean nor MacNeil bothered to mention the research I uncovered this week about how the Ghiz and MacLauchlan governments have allowed Robert Irving to acquire more than 7,500 acres of farmland during their successive Liberal tenures. Why is that not a significant revelation worthy of political comment?

MacNeil keeps saying how the Liberals are on point, how they haven’t made any missteps, or how they have the best coordinated delivery of advertising and policy/promise announcements so far. Who cares? Why is any of that important?

We don’t want to hear praise for an effective political strategy of cover-up – made possible only because the Liberal Party is wealthy and powerful and can afford ads in newspapers like the Eastern Graphic – we expect our weekly political commentators to shed some light on what’s being hidden from Islanders, and by so doing, contribute to a truly informed electorate. 

I’d say it’s time to do some real homework and step up to the plate Mr. MacNeil and Mr. MacLean! Or maybe CBC should ask someone else for their political opinion from time to time.