Elizabeth May not invited to leaders debate
Published Tuesday, March 29, 2011 7:16PM EDT
OTTAWA - If the television broadcasters get their way, there'll be no election debate sequel for Green party Leader Elizabeth May.
The broadcast consortium that hosts the televised debates has decided May is not welcome to participate this time.
Consortium spokesman Marco Dube said Tuesday only the four leaders whose parties are represented in the House of Commons -- Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois -- have been invited to take part.
The Green party has yet to elect an MP to the Commons.
Dube said the five host broadcasters -- CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV, Global and TVA -- "unanimously decided they wanted to invite the four parties that have representation in the House."
He declined to explain the reasoning, other than to say "this is a programming decision that we're taking."
Green spokesperson Camille Labchuk said the party will fight once again for May's inclusion.
"Fundamentally, we expect to be treated like the other national parties," she said.
"With the support of nearly a million Canadians in the last election, it seems pretty obvious that the Greens deserve a voice at the table."
May could not immediately be reached for comment but, in a Facebook posting, she wrote: "In shock at the moment. I will be in those debates."
May was grudgingly allowed to participate during the 2008 election debates, but only after a fierce public backlash against the initial decision to shut her out. At the time, the Greens had one MP in the Commons, Blair Wilson, who had been elected as a Liberal.
May put in a feisty performance, proving to be an effective thorn in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's side. That helped propel her party to its best-ever electoral showing -- 6.8 per cent of the vote --but none of its candidates, including Wilson and May, were elected.
The Greens syphon off votes from the Tories, Liberals and NDP and even, to a lesser extent, the Bloc Quebecois. So it's not particularly in any of their political interests to give May a podium.
Last time, only Stephane Dion, then Liberal leader who had struck a limited non-compete pact with May, immediately welcomed the Green leader's participation. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Jack Layton weren't keen but eventually agreed in the face of public pressure.
This time, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc say it's up to the broadcasters to decide who to invite. The Conservatives did not respond Tuesday to a query on the subject.
"It is only natural that in our defence of democracy, we believe in open, inclusive debates throughout the election," said Liberal spokesman Marc Roy. "This being said, it will be up to the consortium to decide on how to proceed."
Dube concurred with that assessment: "It's really the broadcasting consortium who organizes the leaders' debates. We feel this is our decision."
The consortium is to meet with representatives of the four main parties later this week to discuss the timing and format of the debates. Typically, two debates, one in French and one in English, are held at about the mid-point of an election campaign.