Monday, September 8, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

Elizabeth May has been left out of the Leader's Debate. Again.

Not surprisingly, the blogosphere is up in arms. And rightly so - we bloggers are big on that whole "freedom of speech" thing... it's our bread and butter.

The precedent for having the Green leader present at the debates has been set. The presence of 5 party leaders at the debates, although unwieldy, was the norm in the mid-to-late 1990's. The Greens have the national support to justify it. They're running candidates in all 308 ridings - more than can be said for the Bloc. They had a sitting MP at dissolution.

The consortium of broadcasters which determine the format and rules for the debate indicated that 3 other party leaders indicated opposition to the inclusion of the Greens - and so, citing a fear that the legitimacy of the debate would be thrown into doubt if any (or all) of those 3 party leaders chose not to participate as a result, they decided that May would have to stay home on Debate Night.

Now, I happen to agree with the assertion that Liz May has thrown her political allegiances into doubt with her "non-compete clause" with the Liberals in the riding of Central Nova. Further, I (like Stephen Harper) fully expect that at some point in this campaign, May will endorse the Liberals, or at least endorse Dion as Prime Minister. But that is neither here nor there - the fact that the other party leaders should have any say whatsoever in who gets to debate and who doesn't is simply ludicrous. If the leader of the Conservative Party chooses not to participate in the only nationally televised debate because he doesn't like who else was invited, then I'm sorry, but the event doesn't lose legitimacy - the leader does. And if the leaders of the Conservatives, Bloc, and NDP all stayed home, then Dion and May should have taken advantage of the chance to present a publicly-funded, hour-long infomercial on why the other parties sucked.

Elizabeth May should be in the debate, pure and simple. It will need to be public pressure that does the trick, though - any legal recourse will be stalled and delayed until the votes have already been counted. With May in the debate, the Greens would either be delighted or horrified at the outcome - depending on which side of the bed Liz got up on that morning.
She can be a cutting, witty, informed and incisive debater. She can also come across as whiny, sarcastic, and extremely unlikeable (for evidence of this, see her response today, where she basically accused the other leaders and consortium members of sexism - Liz, for god's sake, we've had female leaders in the debates before - in fact, we had a conservative Prime Minister who was a woman!). For the sake of her party, I'd hope she was having one of her better days.

But all of this is moot and completely besides the point, unless the voters rise up and tell the mysterious "consortium" that they have, through their stated preferences, already decided they want to hear from the leader of the Greens. The air waves don't belong to Global, CTV, and the rest. They belong to us - and we want to see the ballet or car crash that is Elizabeth May in the debates.

- E.S.

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