In the second episode of Political Blind Date, Jagmeet Singh takes Doug Ford cycling – his first time on a bike in 35 years – from Queen’s Park to Bathurst and Bloor to show him what it’s actually like biking downtown without separated bike lanes. Prior to that, Ford drove Singh along St. Clair West to take a peek at the “St. Clair Disaster” in action, pointing out the numerous nearly empty streetcars zooming past car traffic.
During both of these “dates,” Singh and Ford debate the future of infrastructure in Toronto, hoping to convince the other that their view is the right one. Or at the very least, find common ground.
That’s the premise of Political Blind Date, TVO’s new original series made in association with Open Door Co. and Nomad Films, which premieres tonight (November 7) at 9 pm. It’s a social experiment that brings together two rival politicians to debate issues outside of political settings, into the real world and off their talking points.
In tonight’s episode, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith brings Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who is a staunch opponent to marijuana legalization, to one of Canada’s biggest medical marijuana production facilities. In another, city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti and London, Ont. mayor Matt Brown debate safe injection sites. In each 30-minute episode, each politician plans a full-day outing to show a different side of an issue they’re both passionate about.
Series creator Tom Powers (not to be confused with CBC Q host Tom Power) came up with the concept in 2015 after feeling exhausted by the increasing partisanship of politics.
“I thought if we could figure out a way to get politicians off their talking points and engage with each other in a positive way, it could be an antidote to what was happening,” he explains.
Powers says the show appeals to a broad demo – from political buffs and everyday Ontarians who might not recognize every name on the show, to a young audience who may feel cynical about the current political process.
“TVO has a wide demo, but it skews a bit older in the evenings. I think TVO would like to bring that down a bit,” says Powers.
To cater to a young, non-cable-subscribing audience, the show will be streaming simultaneously on TVO.org.
Season two has already been green-lit, a rare feat for show that hasn’t even aired its first episode yet, let alone one that’s centered on Canadian politics.
“Our goal, however lofty it might be, is to show viewers that politicians are human beings,” says Powers. “And even though they may disagree, they can actually get along, be thoughtful and will consider the other side of an issue.”
And while the truly cynical might not be convinced by the show’s optimistic ethos, at the very least, it’s worth it to see a helmet-wearing Ford riding a Bike Share bike past Honest Ed’s.
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