Political debates can be interesting if you go for that sort of thing — a few stuffed shirts sparing on issues of their own choosing, pretending to be collegial when the thin veil barely hides more Machiavellian zest.
Nevertheless, in Ottawa on April 12 the debates will air in English, followed on the 14th (subsequently changed to the 13th) by the French language version. It is expected to include the approved parties: the Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc. The Green Party is uninvited.
The snub surprised Elizabeth May and the Green Party, who want recognition as an alternative to the other parties.
Quite frankly, excluding the Greens again after the party was allowed into the last election debate is child’s play; but it means added publicity for the snubbed.
Granted, the debates are a starting point for discussion, but you can only fit so much into that timeframe, and it depends on who your audience is whether this is the best method to reach them. Young people for example aren’t as interested in scripted televised exchanges.
Alternatively, new media and new discussion formats can be used to engage prospective voters. So May and the Green Party could respond live on her website, or tweet responses live to ensure that Green viewpoints are stated on the issues the others debated. A major newspaper might pick this up and run it on their site on the night of the live debates. The Greens could also respond post debate, in other popular media, to keep the conversation going.
From another angle, this debate over May’s inclusion in the nationally televised debate may serve an additional point: to avoid another coalition government. Though the House’s elected representatives are expected to work in co-operation to benefit Canadians, regardless of their Party’s numbers, if May spoke convincingly on all relevant issues she might steal votes from the others, who want more political power. They haven’t admitted it, but isn’t it plausible?
Green Party support increased in 2008, some say, owing to May’s strong performance in the televised debates. Conservative Party support fell, presumably not just because of the debates; But could a repeat be feared?
Stephen Harper seemed out of touch on economic issues, I recall thinking; but the others seemed more aware of the high potential costs to Canadians if government failed to increase support during the recession.
Having skipped previous election debates, I watched 2008’s online, days after the event, to see how May performed after all the hoopla. The papers had reported she did well.
At the time, that debate helped widen the national discussion, and if that’s the purpose, then May should be included again. Hey, and why not other legitimate Parties?
In the case of the Green Party, however, they did gain 6.8 per cent of the vote nationally, according to Elections Canada data, which is more than 947, 000 votes. And although this wasn’t enough for a seat in the House of Commons, it points to the fact that the Green Party represents choice in the voices representing and even inspiring Canadians.
Admittedly, she could debate the three stooges for all the difference it makes to some, but the Green Party isn’t more or less legitimate because of a media consortium that both flouts and flaunts journalistic principles.
Apparently, the respect the Greens seek will come with gaining a seat (or more) in the House of Commons (via an election, and not allegiance switching, as was the case between 2006 and 2008 when Blair Wilson switched from Liberal, to Independent, to Green Party). It would definitively prove their worth and place at future discussions.
Another reality is that for all our connectivity, it’s hard to reach busy Canadians, especially with political messages, which many distrust; and leaders few believe are ethical, and committed to transparency and good government.
In this environment, May might do best with new media — the more democratized and digital media — where she commands the message and influences the conversation, regardless of media gatekeepers. Messages travel quickly this way. And this strategy might be wiser than spending money on a lawyer/lawsuit at this critical juncture, when resolving the issue might be time intensive and detract from a focused campaign.
It would be nice to see substance and truth remain the focus in election campaigns, not pettiness and sound bites — so many of which aim to misinform (i.e. coalition fear-mongering). However, in reality, that’s increasingly a dream. As a result, pundits suggest carefully reviewing a party’s platform, and where possible, their history in government. Combined, these methods reveal more about their governing intentions than a brief debate.
Best of luck in finding the party which represents the kind of Canada you would prefer living in.