Who is the ‘television consortium’ responsible for Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s dismissal from the debate, and what authority do they have to be playing politics in Canada?
And while I would expect some party leaders to want May excluded (Harper, and likely Layton come to mind, but for obviously different reasons), there is a definitive value to be had by her presence. First and foremost, in the sea of white men that form our top political candidates at the moment, it is refreshing to see a female candidate. And not in some sort of affirmative action sense: she is an intelligent, respectable politician, and the head of a national party. We should be proud of her achievements, and support her struggle for greater recognition.
This is a vicious Catch-22 that May is in: she is being penalized for not garnering enough recognition to deserve a spot at the debate, but this recognition can often be found in greater publicity afforded by such national events as – televised Leaders debates! She – and the rest of the Green Party, and their hundreds of thousands of followers – are being told they are second-class political players in Canada. That 6.8% of the total vote in the 2008 Election is not good enough.
Yes, the Green Party is not represented in the House of Commons. But this is under our ancient first-past-the-post system that is badly in need of an overhaul. Scratch that – it’s broken. If it ever worked, it doesn’t now. So toss it, and join the advanced nations of the Global North and expand your electoral horizon. Under a more inclusive and representational system, the Green Party could have as many as 6.8% of all seats to reflect their percentage of the vote. But to the 941,097 Canadians that voted for May in 2008, she should indeed be represented in the House.
Chantel Hebert at the Toronto Star writes that
the television consortium’s decision to exclude Green Party Leader Elizabeth May from the election campaign debates is an accurate reflection of her party’s diminishing contribution to the national conversation and the debatable relevance of her debut appearance at the same table in 2008.
Diminishing contribution? It is events like this that have an immense potential to help third and fourth (and fifth) party leaders to be on equal footing with the former Prime Minister for a few brief, shiny weeks, and to get their message out on as level a playing field as possible so Canadians can make an educated and fair choice. Don’t know what the Greens stand for? I’ll wager that May would have used the debate to do just that. And if she chooses, as Hebert implies she did in 2008, to simply rail against the incumbent, then that is a lost opportunity, and absolutely regrettable. But the choice was afforded.
If the televised Leader’s debate does not do much to sway independents, and often rarely sways the vote of those who are politically-minded to begin with, I do not understand the harm that can come from allowing the Leaders of all officially recognized political parties in Canada a seat at the table. And I do not believe that this position is necessarily a slippery slope, and that if we allow Elizabeth May a seat at the debate then we must surely allow the local leader of the Marxist-Leninist Party or the The-Rent-Is-Too-Damn-High Party a spot, although that would liven the debate slightly.
There is precedence – this is within reason. And our politics are poorer for it.