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Will May have her day?

The five major Canadian networks have unanimously voted to exclude the Green Party from the televised debates on April 12 and 14. In the 2008 election May won the right to take part in the election because she had one seat in the House of Commons. The networks insist that she cannot participate because the Green Party does not currently hold a seat.

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Date Posted: April 12, 2011
Print Edition: April 8, 2011

By Sarah Kingston (Political Columnist) – Email

The five major Canadian networks have unanimously voted to exclude the Green Party from the televised debates on April 12 and 14. In the 2008 election May won the right to take part in the election because she had one seat in the House of Commons. The networks insist that she cannot participate because the Green Party does not currently hold a seat.

In the 2008 election the Green Party garnered 6.8 per cent of the overall vote; only 3.6 per cent less than the Bloc Quebecois, who had 49 seats in the House of Commons exclusively representing cities in Quebec. The Green Party is a national party that has 298 candidates in place at press time Sunday afternoon, and May says they will have a candidate in all 308 ridings shortly. As support for the Green Party is spread across the country they struggle to get enough votes in a concentrated area to win a seat in the House of Commons. For a party to receive federal funding it must get more than 2 per cent of the national vote. The Green Party has qualified for federal funding since 2004.

In 2008 the Green Party was permitted to participate in the debate because they had one seated member, Blair Wilson. Wilson was not voted in as a Green candidate; he was originally voted in as a Liberal but stepped down in 2007 and became an independent MP; in 2008 he joined the Green Party and became their first MP ever. Support for the Green Party has grown by 2.5 per cent of the total vote from 2006 to 2008, which is more than two and a half times the population of Abbotsford.

There has been a great amount of media attention surrounding the issue of May’s inclusion in the debates. Blogs and opinion articles have examined both sides of the story. In the Ottawa Citizen, a political consultant and writer asserted, “Greens are nothing but an over-rated, over-hyped, and over-indulged fringe party.” He also discussed the pre-election online polls and how they have inaccurately estimated the support for the Green Party in the last two elections because voters that claim to support Green will typically cast their ballot for the traditional parties.

Everyone who shows up at the polls on Election Day is there because they want their voice to be heard, to have their opinion and their circumstances count. As long as the networks attempt to silence the Green Party (they also tried unsuccessfully in 2008) Canadians will feel as though a vote for Green won’t be heard; they will think that at least they can decide between which other party will be elected. If Canadians are voting for the Green Party it is because they are not getting something they need from the traditional parties.

In the last election the Green Party got a large amount of support from western Canada. The Greens got 8.8 per cent of the vote in Alberta, 9.4 per cent of the vote in BC, and 12.8 per cent of the vote in the Yukon. Support from other provinces ranged between 1.7 per cent and eight per cent.

Some publications have accused the Green Party of being a one trick pony. Including May in the debates would show Canadians the true Green Party and they will vote accordingly. None of the other candidates have a problem with May’s participation in the debate. She also has the support of former Prime Ministers Paul Martin and Joe Clark. Paul Martin told a Toronto Star reporter, “Canadians are entitled to points of view of all of the valid players and Elizabeth May and the Green party are certainly valid participants.”

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, the chairman of the TV consortium of the major Canadian networks said, “Our decision is final and the decision is unanimous. It will not be reconsidered.” On April 5, the Green Party’s lawyer, Peter Rosenthal, will plead May’s case to the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa to review the CRTC’s rule that networks can exclude any party they choose from televised debates. May enquires, “How much longer are five media executives going to insist their opinion counts more than a majority of the Canadian public?”

An attempt to exclude a party that secured almost a million Canadian votes in the last election is wrong. It is censoring the voice of one in every 32 Canadians (according to 2006 Census). This is the equivalent to someone walking into a UFV class during a discussion and hissing at one student who reasons a little differently, “Even though you pay through the nose to be here, you don’t count. No one wants to hear what you have to say!”

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