Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Debates, Old Debates...

I'd like to take the time today to talk a bit about the yet-to-be-announced leaders' debates in this election cycle.

As no real surprise to no one, the consortium of broadcasters decided to exclude Elizabeth May from the debates this year. This was the same decision they made last year, but backed down and allowed her in after massive complaints from the public at large. Complaints continue to appear now, but whether or not they will create the same result remains to be seen.

Now, I'm going to go out on a limb and say something unpopular here: This election, I don't think Elizabeth May should be in the debate.

Allow me to try and justify that before you all start throwing rocks and twigs at me. As the election was beginning, Elizabeth May explained how she would not be undergoing a national campaign as leader of the Green Party in this election; rather, she would focus solely on winning her own riding and being active there.

As such, since she announced this and this is her goal, why would she be included in the national debates?

It is true that her party does receive a fair amount of support across Canada; more than you see with other so called 'fringe parties', and that one day the Greens will likely actually elect a Member of Parliament.

So, as it stands, is it right for the broadcasters to restrict her access to the debates based on the fact that her party had no representation in the House of Commons when the government was dissolved?

It is a tricky question.

After all, there are those other 'fringe parties'. None of them had representation in the House of Commons, but they all have party leaders who I'd imagine would love to get involved in the leaders' debates.

Keep in mind, in 2008 the Green Party received 937,613 total votes across Canada. The next largest 'fringe party', the Christian Heritage Party, received only 26,475. What this suggests is that the Greens are slowly moving from 'fringe party' to viable option in Canadian politics.

So, with that in mind, how can I say that Elizabeth May has no place in the debates this year?

Well, I'm resting most of my argument on her words in that she is more concerned with winning her own riding in this election than on waging a federal campaign. In truth, that's the only reason I'm against her being added to the debates this year. In the last debates, I supported adding May.

But given that a party leader isn't undertaking a national campaign, should they receive national coverage?

There's numerous reasons why a leader wouldn't undertake a national campaign: Lack of funding, for example. But the Green Party's past has shown that they have the funding to send May across Canada to stump for the party; and that they're capable of running a whole slate of candidates.

But May has chosen to exclude herself from the national campaign; as such, it should come as no surprise that the broadcasters have decided to exclude her from the debates as well. Whether or not this decision was reached because of May's comments at the start of the election, I don't know and I doubt we ever will...

But given that she openly stated that she was taking a national backseat, could that not have influenced the broadcasters' decision to leave her out of the debate?

It's possible. But again, I can't offer proof than that other than her words and my opinion.

So, given that May had announced that she was going to focus on her riding; why is she now suddenly infuriated about being left out of the leaders' debates? One would imagine that if she was focusing on her own riding, she was already prepared not to take place in the leadership debates.

So to come out and then condemn the decision, and more or less demand her time at the debate, May is turning her back on her own words at the start of the campaign.

Which leaves us in a bit of a bind:

Either May wants to run a national campaign, which includes stumping for the party and taking part in the debates OR she wants to focus on potentially winning the first seat for her party by shrugging off some of the responsibilities of leadership and focusing solely on her riding.

She set the tone for this herself, and can't have it both ways...But now she is trying to.

And if my opinion can be trusted, I think it can given the facts, that casts a lot of doubt on the Green's message of changing politics and ending government hypocrisy; after all, the Greens have been trying to portray themselves as the antidote to the other parties and the politics as usual message. But if May is expecting her time, despite announcing that she wasn't going to actively campaign nationally, she is showing a Green Party that is hypocritical and is running 'politics as usual'.

She excluded herself at the start of the campaign; and while I would find her exclusion objectionable by the broadcasters if she hadn't made this announcement, I can only say that when you exclude yourself you can't be surprised if others start to exclude you too.

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