Last night, the consortium of major Canadian broadcasters reversed its decision to deny Green Party Leader Elizabeth May a spot in the national televised debates. However, the Conservatives and New Democrats backed the original decision, one which left the Green Party wounded. Prime Minister Stephen Harper had even said he would not appear in the debates if May was invited.
The initial denial – an inexcusable and undemocratic move – was a clear slap in the face to anyone who supports the Green Party and who cares about democracy and freedom of speech in this country. Two separate national polls, one by Harris-Decima and the Green Party itself, showed that 77 per cent of Canadians wanted to see the Green Party leader included in the debates. Canadian airwaves are publicly owned, and the public spoke loud and clear in wanting to hear more from the Green Party and Elizabeth May. Thankfully, now they will.
The Green Party is the only global political party on the planet with representation in governments all over the world. The Green Party of Canada is a national party, which runs across our entire country – garnering 4.48 per cent of the popular vote in the last federal election – while the Bloc and Reform parties were first invited to the national debates despite never having this level of support.
In a recent interview with the Deputy Leader of the Green Party, Claude William Genest, a Westmount-Ville–Marie candidate in the upcoming general election, I asked him for his opinion on May’s exclusion. Genest replied, “The Climate Crisis is also a crisis of the dysfunctional and gridlocked climate in Parliament. It is a crisis of democracy. The most important issues of our day are being excluded from public debate by a cabal of non-elected network executives. Ask yourselves, ‘Why? What are they so afraid of?’”
The Green Party receives federal funding from Canadian taxpayers. Therefore, the 1.5 million people who support and fund our party should not be prevented from hearing what we have to say during the most critical campaign event of an election: the debates.
Canada was founded on core democratic values, and we take pride in our right to free speech. However, it seems as though our Conservative government has forgotten what Canadians value most, as their heads are buried too deep in the Tar Sands and in Afghan soil.
As the facts pile up, it has become clear that the decision to exclude the Green Party from the debates was ridiculous from every angle, and we’re happy – though, considering Harper and Layton’s attitudes toward the situation, a little surprised – that the broadcasters chose to listen to Canadians and include May. This was never a Green Party issue; it was about democracy and the right for Canadians to be informed, an issue all parties and all people should care about.
Danai Reynolds is the President of the McGill Green Party and VP Internal of the AUS Environment Committee. She invites you to visit youth.greenparty.ca to get in on the action.