To Debate or Not To Debate?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Written by Scott Gilbert

The debate over which parties get to participate in national, televised debates has been going on for eons. In the US, Ralph Nader has been shut out every time, and in 2004 was even banned from attending the debate (just to watch!) despite an invitation from a major news agency. He was even hauled off the premises by event security when he showed up with valid ticket in hand.

But here in Canada, the debate is now raging harder than ever. Flickers of these sentiments about hearing from all sides could be felt last year when there was the referendum on proportional representation, and now it's the Green Party that is front and foremost in a fire of controversy.

The Greens expected to be included in the national debates this time round because they now technically have an MP on their roster, or so they argue (this interpretation is disputed). What happened was, independent MP Blair Wilson decided to join the Green party just over a week ago making him the first-ever Green Party of Canada member who holds a seat in the Commons.

Many assumed this would automatically translate into Elizabeth May (leader of the Greens) being finally allowed to participate in the televised debate. Then yesterday a consortium of national TV networks said they would ban her participation because some other parties said they would boycott the debates if she was present. The networks refused to comment further, but the CBC reports that the Bloc was not one of those in question, and Dion said he did not object to May being included.

Without the networks naming names, the laws of subtraction leave only the NDP and Conservatives. Elizabeth May charged that "It looks like it's Mr. Layton and Mr. Harper," and continued with, "I think the Canadian public deserves an answer from each of them. Would they actually refuse to appear on a stage if I was there?"

Upon questioning, NDP leader Jack Layton said he would not attend the debate if May were present because he feels she has effectively endorsed Dion and the Liberals. In response, May fired back that there is "absolutely no way" she would endorse Dion when members of her party were running against Liberals across the country.

The Prime Minister side-stepped questions on the subject by saying the networks had made the decision, but did not speak directly to any involvement he may have had.

The Greens have now launched a website and campaign in opposition to the decision, will file a formal complaint with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, and are taking the issue to court.

Lastly, May took a few swings at the consortium of TV networks, accusing them of failing to call Harper and Layton's bluff.

Here is a relevant YouTube clip on the announcement of MP Blair Wilson's crossing of the floor.

What do YOU think? Please rant and rave below, while keeping your comments to the point. We also ask that you vote in our online poll on this subject which is now live from our front page.

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  1. Posted by: john on Sep 10, 2008 @ 10:33pm

    just saw in the star today that out of ALL letters to the editor about this every single person agreed she should be included. i agree.

  2. Posted by: itshardtopost on Sep 10, 2008 @ 11:23pm

    Thanks for addressing my criticism, Scott.

    About the article, I also agree that May should be allowed to debate. I understand the reasoning that they wouldn't want to include the leaders of EVERY single political party at the federal level, which would be a gigantic mess. However, the Green Party has proven themselves to be a major contender in Canadian federal politics.

  3. Posted by: on Jun 27, 2010 @ 8:09am

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