Basics of Canadian Parliamentary Debate

Member

Role

Government

7 Minutes

Prime Minister

(PM)

Build Government’s case by presenting a number of arguments.

Opposition

7 Minutes

Member of the Opposition (MO)

Introduce Opposition arguments, rebut Government’s  case.

Government

7 Minutes

Minister of the Crown

(MC)

Introduce Government’s final arguments, rebuild Government’s original arguments and rebut Opposition’s arguments.

Opposition

10 Minutes

Leader of the Opposition

(LO)

Introduce Opposition’s final arguments, rebuild Opposition’s original arguments, and rebut Government’s entire case.

Government

3 Minutes

Prime Minister

(PM)

Rebuild critical aspects of Government case and sum up entire debate by showing why the Government has won the debate.

Road mapping: Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and tell them what you said.

Prime Minister Constructive (PMC):

  • Introduce the issue by stating and briefly describing the problem you wish to solve or the side of a philosophical issue you wish to defend.
  • Case statement: one or two sentences outlining what you, the Government, propose.
  • Roadmap your arguments.  For each argument, state the point and fleshout your argument with proof.  The more your case is based on logic and observable knowledge, rather than numbers, the stronger your case is.
  • Conclude by summarizing your case and the arguments you brought up. Reiterate the most important thing in this round.

Strategic point: your purpose is to introduce a strong Government case with confidence and clarity, setting the right tone for the debate and forcing the Opposition to work hard to bring you down. Bury a weak point in the middle of your speech, making sure to leave a strong one for the MC.

Member of the Opposition (MO):

  • Take the case the Government presented and explain why their solution cannot work, or why the problem doesn’t actually exist.
  • Present a new, independent argument relating to the case. Your argument is for the opposite of the government’s case, bringing it down.
  • Crash and Burn: Go through each of the PMC points and explain why they fall.

Strategic point: your purpose is to introduce the Opposition stance (the crux of the Opposition case) and to bring down all that the PM just said, making it difficult for the MC to rebuild.

Minister of the Crown (MC)

  • Bring forth an additional one or two arguments supporting the government.
  • Go through the points presented by the MO and rebut them. Take issue with their assumptions, and challenge their premises. Try to take the MO out of the round!
  • Reconstruct the PMC points that were refuted by the MO  Clean up the mess left in the last speech and explain why the MO is wrong. Go through each of the PMC arguments, say what the MO said about them, and prove why they still stand.

Strategic point: your argument(s) must be different from those of the PM, as you are required to add value to the round of debate. Make sure not to spend too much time on constructive argumentation. Reconstruction is key!

Leader of the Opposition (LO):

  • Introduce the bulk of the opposition arguments. Try to maintain thematic consistency, following the stance introduced by the MO but developing it much further with your 3 or 4 points. In general, try to have as many arguments as the PM had.
  • Reconstruct the argument(s) presented by the MO.
  • Go through each Government argument and destroy it. Challenge the logic, the assumptions, the feasibility, etc.  At the end, none of the strong Government points should be standing.
  • In the final three minutes, present a final rebuttal. Go through the round thematically, and explain why the Government cannot win the round. Refute the Government’s strong points and highlight your strong points.  Explain why you deserve to win.

Strategic point: You have 10 minutes, so pace yourself carefully, and watch the time signals. You cannot bring up new evidence in the last three minutes, as that is your refutation time. Hopefully, you have already begun attacking the Government arguments by this time. Use the last couple minutes to look at the round more generally. Talk about the theme of the round, the strongest couple arguments, and why the Opposition has done a better job. End strong!

Prime Minister Rebuttal (PMR):

  • Take the two or three strongest points against you and rebut them.
  • Conclude by returning the debate to the thematic principles you outlined in the PMC.
  • Explain why you win.
  • Note: new arguments cannot be presented in the PMR.

Strategic point: you do not have time to go through every argument in the round, so do not attempt this!! If you can, organize your speech into the main three issues/types of arguments. Take each issue, say a few things about what was said by each side, and show how the balance swings in your favour. End strong!!

Points of Information

POIs are opportunities for you two rise during your opposition’s speeches and offer a question or comment. By saying “On a Point of Information” and displaying correct form (one hand on your head, one hand held out palm up), the speaker knows you are interested in stealing the floor. They can accept your POI or decline it by waiving you down or saying “No thank you.”

You can use the POI to clarify something about which you are confused, point out a flaw/contradiction in the speaker’s argument, or make a comment that will link to something you will talk about later.

It is important to keep the POI brief and to the point (5-10 seconds), but also to keep yourself in the round with both strong use and reception of POIs.

*The general rule in a round of debate: Give Two, Take Two

Protected time: POIs cannot be offered during the first and last minute of constructive speeches. In the LO speech, POIs cannot be offered in the last three minutes, and the entire PMR is protected.

Tight Cases

As the Government team is given the opportunity to provide the case in CP, it is also their obligation to insure that the case they set is actually debateable from either side. If a case set by GOV is inherently one-sided, the quality of debate will suffer and judges know to penalize GOV for that. When constructing CP cases, try to imagine what the OPP case would be for the motion. If there is no OPP case that could closely compete with the GOV, it is likely too tight a case.

Dealing with a tight case on OPP: When hit with a tight case on OPP,  it is best to deal with it as graciously as possible, while still calling the judge’s attention to the fact that it is a tight case (the judge cannot penalize GOV as heavily for a tight case if you do not make the “tight call”). Open your speech with an explanation of why the case is tight by weighing possible OPP arguments to GOV arguments and displaying how even the best OPP case would not be enough to match the GOV. After having made your tightcall, proceed to make the OPP case as you normally would.(Just because a case is tight and you identify it, doesn’t mean you’ve automatically won: you still have to try to “play ball” with the motion you’ve been given)

“Split OPP”

In CP, OPP has the ability to choose “Split OPP”. This would mean that the first speaker gives a 7 minute speech and then, later, a 3 minute summary/rebuttal speech and the second speaker would give a 7 minute speech (as opposed to the usual 7 minute and 10 minute speeches given).

“OPP Choice”

An Opp Choice case is one set by GOV, where OPP is given the opportunity to decide which side they would like to argue. With this type of case, GOV should indicate it being OPP choice before reading the motion. OPP is allowed a minute to deliberate which side to take, during which time they may ask the PM questions about the case, if any.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *