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Chris Tindal

We Need a Fair, Democratic Debate

Posted December 6, 2005

Jim Harris and the Green Party have once again been excluded from the televised leaders' debates. I think it's important for all of us to understand how this decision was made, what reasoning (or lack thereof) was used, and why it represents bad democracy.

Canadians may assume that the process of deciding who gets to participate in the leaders' debates is made by Elections Canada, or is at least regulated. That's not the case. The decision is made by unelected television network executives in consultation with the political parties of their choosing.

One may also assume that these decisions have at least been made with consistency and fair treatment of all voices. Unfortunately, this is also not the case. Despite having no seats in Parliament in 1993, no official recognition from the Speaker, and only 75 candidates, the Bloc Quebecois was included in both the French and English debates. Preston Manning participated in the 1993 leaders' debate based on the 11,154 votes Deborah Grey won in a 1989 by-election with a 47 per cent turnout. In 1993, they only ran 207 candidates. In 2004, the Green Party received 580,000 votes and ran a candidate in all 308 ridings.

Another reason we should be in the debates is that taxpayers have given us money. Because we earned more than 2% of the vote last time, we've been receiving transfers of money from the federal government. We're therefore accountable to Canadians as a party. I say we should be forced to go on television and tell Canadians what we stand for.

Finally, the Green Party was told that 5 leaders is too many people to have in a debate. Well, that wasn't the case in 1993, 1997, and 2000 when five leaders were included. I can't say it better than George Stroumboulopoulos did when arguing why the Green Party should be included, "I'd rather have bad television than bad democracy."

To sign the online petition declaring you want a fair, democratic debate, click here.

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