The Globe and Mail is reporting that both Harper, and Layton have dropped their opposition to Elizabeth being in the televised leader’s debates Oct 1 & 2.
Democracy has won.
Let Elizabeth May speak
I’m alarmed at how easily parties put their own interest ahead of the public interest
Sixteenth prime minister of Canada
September 10, 2008
The immediate question about Canada’s election is not who will win, but how open and inclusive the campaign will be.
Elections can confirm bad practices, or change them. Ours need changing.
The tone of federal politics today is the worst I can remember in my 50 years in public life. Of course, there were angry partisan differences before, but they were tumultuous exceptions to a general rule of common public purpose, even civility. By contrast, the standard today has become consistently bitter and negative – personal invective routinely displaces any serious discussion of issues or differences.
This low standard helps corrode respect for the democratic institutions in which this mean drama plays out. It comes at a bad time, because there has been a general decline in the reputation of politicians, parties, legislatures and other institutions. Cynicism grows. Candidates are hard to attract. Citizens turn away from politics – especially young people, who see nothing to attract or inspire them. That constitutes a long-term threat to the authority of the pan-Canadian political institutions that have always been essential for citizens of this diverse democracy to act positively together.
Obviously, Canada is not the only democracy whose parties and leaders are losing their constituency. But what is striking – now that a Canadian election has been crammed into the shadow of a U.S. presidential campaign – is that we (who preach so much) are continuing our decline, while the American system (which we routinely deride) has broken away emphatically from “business as usual.” In choosing their candidates for president, both American parties reached deliberately beyond their status quo – the Republicans to independent voters who admire John McCain, the Democrats to the young and the idealists who are inspired by Barack Obama.
What might Canada do to break out of our mean political cycle, between now and Oct. 14? One option appears to have been shut down on Monday, with the refusal to allow the Green Party’s Elizabeth May to participate in the leaders debates.
That should be reconsidered. Her participation would demonstrate that Canadian politics is inclusive, not exclusive. Ms. May shares essential democratic attributes with both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain – the outsider, the person the party establishments sought to exclude, the person with a message that resonates with citizens who’ve grown cynical about, or disaffected from, their political system.
I’ve participated in televised debates, both leading the party that went on to win the election, and leading a “fifth” party. Those debates do not, in themselves, determine election results. But they do allow voters – the citizens who decide our country’s future – to hear the arguments, assess the candidates and make informed decisions.
This would not be a free ride for the Green Party. Ms. May would have to prove herself and make her case, just like other party leaders. But now, unlike those other leaders, she alone is denied that right.
We’re not talking about the Rhinoceros Party. In the 2006 general election, the Greens won 665,940 votes, nearly 5 per cent of the total. Polls published this month by Segma, Ekos and Environics indicate that support for the Greens runs between 7 per cent and 10 per cent, even though the party has never been allowed to make its case in a national leaders debate. In nine provinces and three territories, the Greens have much more support than the Bloc Québécois, which is not only invited to the debates but has the power to veto other participants.
No law forbids Ms. May from joining the other leaders in a televised debate, just as no law forbade Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain from launching their improbable campaigns for a presidential nomination. Instead, the rules that keep her out are determined, in effect, by the political parties that are already in. Technically, the decision is taken by a consortium of the broadcasters who would carry the program; but, in announcing the decision to shut out Ms. May, that consortium has made it clear that the real veto is exercised by the other political parties.
So, it’s a club, whose members set their own rules.
Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for the network consortium, is quoted as saying that three parties – those led by Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe – all opposed the participation of Ms. May in the so-called leaders debate, “and it became clear that if the Green Party were included, there would be no leaders debates.”
That’s blackmail. If these three men want to boycott a genuine debate, let them have the courage to do so openly. Let them also explain why, in a year when U.S. party establishments could not shut out an Obama or a McCain, it is appropriate for the Canadian party establishments to muzzle a significant voice for change.
I am not a supporter of any of the existing federal parties, including the Greens. But I am alarmed, and surprised, by how tightly the government now controls Parliament, how easily parties put their own interest ahead of the public interest, and how mean our public debate has become. We have to break that pattern, and one way to begin would be with a more inclusive leaders debate. I urge more Canadians to press these three leaders, and the broadcasting consortium they hide behind, to reconsider their exclusionary decision.
For Canadians concerned about democracy, the question is not why the Green Party should be let in. The question is: Why should the Greens be kept out?
(Barrie, September 7, 2008) – This upcoming Friday, Green Party candidate Erich Jacoby-Hawkins will kick off his Barrie campaign at his new campaign office, located at 151-B Dunlop St. East at Mulcaster. The office is right in the downtown core, steps away from city services and local issues.
The public is invited to come out to discuss their key issues with Erich. Green Party of Ontario leader Frank de Jong will also be on hand to offer his party’s support. The event begins at 6 pm. A reception with refreshments will follow.
“Securing a visible, downtown location was important to this campaign. The Green Party believes in diversity, and downtown Barrie is a diverse area full of local culture and history.” said Jacoby-Hawkins. “I want to take the opportunity while starting off this campaign to show the voters where I stand. I maintain an open door policy, and I hope the community will come out and ask questions,” he continued. “Democracy happens when citizens get involved.”
The Green Party achieved a long-time goal of gaining its first Member of Parliament on August 30th, when Independent MP Blair Wilson announced his move to the party. Jacoby-Hawkins is hoping that with this development and the presence of leader Elizabeth May in the debates, the riding of Barrie will be ready to elect its first Green MP.
The Campaign Office officially opens Friday with the following hours:
Monday – Friday 10 am – 7 pm
Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday Noon – 5 pm< A phone number will be posted shortly.
Canada’s broadcasters will not allow Green Leader Elizabeth May to participate in the leaders debates during the federal election campaign, the networks announced Monday afternoon.
‘The notion that I would go into debates as someone to cheer on one other party leader is absurd.’— Green Leader Elizabeth May
The consortium of networks, which includes the CBC, said three of Canada’s parties were opposed to May’s inclusion, but did not give more details.
In recent days, the Conservatives, Bloc Québécois and the NDP have all expressed their opposition to May joining the debates.
“It became clear that if the Green party were included, there would be no leaders’ debate,” the consortium said in a press release.
“In the interest of Canadians, the consortium has determined that it is better to broadcast the debates with the four major party leaders, rather than not at all.”
May calls decision ‘anti-democratic’
The Greens’ leader immediately came out firing on the decision, saying her party “may have to take further steps” and will consult with legal advisers about a possible court challenge or injunction against the debate taking place without her.
“I think it really is appalling that the media consortium is willing at this point to rewrite the rules,” May said to the CBC’s Don Newman on Monday, just minutes after the decision was announced.
She said the Greens are fielding 306 candidates across the country to run “against all those parties that don’t want to see us in the debates.”
May also dismissed the consortium’s explanation that her presence would cause the other leaders not to show up.
“I don’t think Canadians will accept this for a minute,” May said. “It’s the decision-making of a small group of TV network executives, and to do so without clear rules that are transparent and predictable and applied fairly really is anti-democratic.”
The parties that will take part in the debates are the New Democrats, the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives.
The debates will take place Oct. 1 and 2.
PM: Allowing May into debate ‘unfair’
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said Monday that his party had supported May’s participation, but that he himself would not participate if Conservative Leader Stephen Harper were to boycott the debates.
“I will say that I would like her to be there,” Dion said.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said that while he never threatened to withdraw over the issue, his preference was to have just the leaders of the four major parties in Parliament, and that the Greens should not be included in the debate because they have not elected an MP to Parliament yet.
In their opposition, the Tories and NDP cited a deal struck by May and Dion, in which they agreed not to run candidates against each other in their respective Nova Scotia and Quebec ridings.
NDP campaign spokesman Brad Lavigne confirmed late Monday that party leader Jack Layton had said he wouldn’t attend the debate if May were allowed to participate.
“We believe that as someone who’s endorsed Stéphane Dion to be the prime minister of Canada, she has endorsed Liberal candidates throughout the country,” Lavigne said.
“We said that if the Liberals were going to have two representatives, we would not accept the invitation.”
Harper said letting May participate in the debates would be in essence allowing a “second Liberal candidate” to participate, which he called “fundamentally unfair.”
“Elizabeth May is not an opponent of Stéphane Dion,” the prime minister said. “She is his candidate in Central Nova, and I think it would be fundamentally unfair to have two candidates who are essentially running on the same platform in the debate,” Harper said at a campaign event in Richmond, B.C.
He also said he expected May to endorse the Liberal party before the end of the campaign.
‘We are cutting into his base’: May
But May dismissed Harper’s claims, saying the prime minister was “clearly the leader who has the most to lose here.
“We are cutting into his base,” she said. “And frankly, the notion that I would go into debates as someone to cheer on one other party leader is absurd.”
The Greens have previously indicated that if they were excluded, they would lodge a complaint with Canada’s broadcasting regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and might launch a court challenge.
Traditionally, the consortium of Canada’s largest English and French television networks — CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global Television and TVA — has decided which party leaders would participate in the debates.
In the December 2005 debates that preceded the 2006 election, Jim Harris — then leader of the Green party — was excluded because his party had no seats in the House of Commons.
Representation in the House of Commons is an “indisputable” criterion for inclusion in the national debate, said the CBC ombudsman in a 2006 report responding to Green party complaints.
Former Independent MP Blair Wilson, who was elected as a Liberal, joined the Greens last month as the party’s first member of Parliament.
Let Greens into national debates
The full editorial.
While the Green Party of Canada has long been a credible political force in this country it has always been denied a place in the leaders’ debates at election time. But if that omission was ever justified or fair, it most certainly is no longer either. Blair Wilson, a largely unknown member of Parliament from British Columbia, has seen to that. And good for him.
By joining the Green Party four days ago, the formerly Independent Wilson has singlehandedly smashed the only remaining, legitimate obstacle to having the Green leader participate in the televised debates which are a crucial part of every national vote.
The Greens now have a sitting MP. Therefore, they belong in the national debates along with the Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois. It’s that simple. And with the next federal election expected to be called later this week for Oct. 14, the timing for the Greens, and the Canadian electorate, who deserve to hear that party’s message, could not be better.