Elizabeth May should be given a seat at the leaders’ debates.
Sure, there are rules against such things – no seat in the house, the party didn’t achieve 10 per cent of the popular vote … yada yada.
That doesn’t matter. Not really.
The rules, which are set by a consortium of broadcasters, are outdated.
And the networks’ decision to ignore this could hurt them in the long run.
The case for May’s involvement with the other leaders at the table is simple – she is the leader of a recognized political party that ran a national slate of candidates and won enough support last election to qualify for federal funding.
If an organization has enough popular support to qualify for federal financial support, it should be included in the debates. Period.
That’s a far better measure than the arbitrary 10 per cent threshold imposed by the faceless suits at the CBC, CTV, Radio-Canada, Global and TVA.
Consider for a moment that the Green party ran candidates across the country and pulled 941,000 votes in 2008. The Bloc Quebecois pulled 1.4 million votes – not many more than the Greens. And it is a regional party that refused to run a candidate outside Quebec.
Despite this, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe is given status at the national leaders’ debate.
And May isn’t.
Why? The coalition of network suits doesn’t want to wave a red flag before nationalist Quebec.
But that doesn’t mean May’s snub isn’t an affront to millions of Canadians – and not just Green supporters.
Now, people will start yammering about electoral reform. It is a worthy topic, but not the one at issue today, which is far simpler -Â whether May should be allowed to debate the other national and regional leaders on TV.
The fledgling political party is contributing much to the electoral process – its attack ads on attack ads (Change the Channel on Attack Ads) was a stroke of genius.
That was something a little different, unexpected.
And what the process needs is a few more voices, not fewer.
Currently, the national election debate is set by the whims of several broadcasters. They are the ones telling the electorate that May is not a viable leader.
They are hindering the national debate.
And that is ridiculous. (In the US, a commission is responsible for organizing the leaders’ debate. It is run independently of the media organizations that cover the event. That seems like an interesting model to consider in the future.)
The networks have decided May is out.
And it is the wrong decision. And the established networks play favourites at their peril.
Canadians are pushing back, through Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
This isn’t 1972 anymore. Heck, it isn’t even 1993 anymore.
Social networks and new media offer an alternative to TV. Like the Green party, these are fledgling media sources. And, like the Greens, they are gaining momentum.
They may not be fully realized in 2011, but that might be a different story in 2013.
Rest assured, through the network consortium’s decision, May has already won – her public profile is far higher than it was last week. As is her support.
Whether or not May’s on TV beside Harper, she will get her message out through Twitter and Facebook feeds and Youtube videos – because she is forced to.
And Canadians will be drawn to those sources to find alternate voices.
Because of that, the Greens, like any pioneers, will get good at it.
They already are.
As we said earlier, May should be given a seat in the networks’ antique studios.
By doing so, they might learn something. They might be surprised.
We all might.
Which is, in the end, at the heart of any good election.