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Greens Left Out of Televised Debate

Friday, September 21, 2007

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Written by Ben Polley, Jeff Key

Last night, leaders of the NDP, Liberal and Conservative Parties of Ontario faced off in a televised debate facilitated by TVO journalist Steve Paiken and aired on seven major Canadian television stations. The 90 minute broadcast was the first opportunity Ontario voters had to see the three provincial candidates side by side, and will likely have a major impact on many voters.

But while Dalton McGuinty, Howard Hampton and John Tory took the stage, Green Party of Ontario candidate Frank de Jong could only watch. A meeting of the broadcasting consortium earlier this year made the decision not to invite de Jong to the debate, despite the fact that the Green Party has candidates in every Ontario riding this year.

Jeff Key, a representative from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, explained that the decision to invite candidates to the debate was based not only on whether the party had candidates in all ridings, but also on the presence of current members in the legislature and evidence that the party would have a realistic chance in having a material outcome in the election.

"The broadcasting consortium that assembled came to the conclusion that it wanted to use the debate to provide the most face time...for leaders of parties with the most chance of forming a new government," Key said. "Based on these criteria, we decided to exclude the Greens."

Ben Polley, the Green Party of Ontario's Guelph candidate, said the news media is creating a moving target for the Greens by constantly changing the criteria for their inclusion in the debate.

"I ran in 2003, and they stated they would not allow the Green Party because it was largely a regional party, and didn't have a full slate," Polley said. "Now they've changed it to having a sitting member [in legislature]. They're developing the rules as they go, and there's no law that says they have to let us be there. By doing this, the news media get to create news rather than report on it by excluding another voice."

As last night's televised debate began, supporters gathered at a downtown Toronto hotel to hear de Jong respond to debate questions and speak about the Green Party of Ontario platform. Technical difficulties prevented him from answering live questions posed at the official debate.

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