Blind Man with a Pistol

Up for Debate

I despise the Green Party of Canada. They are completely divorced from the social democratic heritage of their American and European namesakes. They are the worst of mealy-mouthed bourgeois liberalism, and have made a politics based on commercial branding and reactionary populism rather than principled policies and moral courage. So when the GPC secured their first-ever Member of Parliament and asserted their right to participate in the televised federal leadership debates, I couldn’t agree more. With the other three federal parties, they’ll get along just fine. If anything, the Bloc Québécois is the odd one out.

On principle, I would like to see more small-party candidates on a televised debate stage (The Democratic Party Presidential Candidate debate on MSNBC, incidentally, had eight candidates on stage). It would be wonderful, for example, if Québec solidaire could participate in the Québec debates. The price of admission would be reasonably sized support base, probably calculated on a low vote threshold and a significant number of candidates—this would signify voter recognition, campaigning capacity and democratic legitimacy. There are no binding rules for CTV or CBC to let in anyone, of course, but as a crown corporation, the CBC owes some kind of public service during elections, which means if they value the democratic process, they should acknowledge the role of smaller parties. Of course, I don’t expect that to happen any time soon.

But, in the context of corporate media, it is clear that the mainstream media is concerned only with mainstream parties. Elizabeth May, despite the braying of NDP acolytes, has inserted her party and its platform into mainstream consciousness. Speakers like Al Gore and the increasing resonance of the environment as a political issue in general doubtless contributes to the GPC’s rise in fortunes, but May’s name repeatedly pops up in articles about environmental policy. For good or ill, Elizabeth May and the Green Party are mainstream Canada.

The GPC has a member of parliament now—in circumstances no less suspect than when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor to preserve Paul Martin’s Liberal Government. They have reached double figures in Federal polls and almost 5% in elections. They have a nationally recognized leader with nationally recognized policies. They are not a dissenting, subversive party—their economic and social politics align with most middle-class Canadians.

They deserve a spot in the debate not only based on moral and democratic grounds, but on the criteria the media has set and on the ethos by which the media governs itself. They are playing the games ‘Canada’s New Government’ and ‘the Green Shift’ Liberals have already taught us. This is how Canada does electoral politics these days. And as such, Elizabeth May deserves a seat at the debate table.

Of course, implicit in this discussions is that the debates, in their current form, are valuable to the democratic process in the first place. The suggestion that the inclusion of another party leader would detract from what usually occurs during a televised leadership debate is laughable. If anything, media execs should be jumping at the chance to include some fresh blood. It might actually attract some viewers for a change. When was the last time a leasdership debate had debate? When policies were weighed and interrogated? When was the last time a televised debate didn’t consist entirely of platitudes and slogan-lobbing? In short, when was the last time a debate changed anybody’s mind?

For her part, Elizabeth May should fit right in.

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