Elizabeth May should be included in debates

After the first debate of this election cycle, the Maclean's National Leaders Debate showed that Elizabeth May belongs in any future debates about policy, direction, and the future of this country.

Elizabeth May should be included in debates

After the first debate of this election cycle, the Maclean’s National Leaders Debate showed that Elizabeth May belongs in any future debates about policy, direction, and the future of this country.

Maclean’s itself posted five non-partisan reasons Ms. May belongs in the debates, including the statements that “she brings welcome diversity, and “her focus on issues highlights political blustering.” Maclean’s called her role an “articulate, data-rich and civil performance.”

The Ottawa Citizen ran a headline that read “Canadians want Greens’ Elizabeth May at future debates” based on a poll conducted by Postmedia. The Huffington Post claimed that “Elizabeth May proves she deserves a spot in each debate.”

However, some media outlets were far less generous of their assessment of May, calling her a “talented distraction” (Toronto Star) and the “mouse that roared.” Really?

Of course, anyone who tuned into the debate, and the analyses of the debates that followed, realizes that every blogger or analyst has his or her own perspectives of all of the candidates, but that sounds like petty putdowns.

Many mainstream media have been quick to marginalize Elizabeth May and the Green Party. Yet Ms. May was voted Parliamentarian of the Year, Hardest Working Member of Parliament, and Orator of the Year in successive years in Maclean’s Parliamentarian Awards – as chosen by fellow MPs. Despite this recognition, she was not even invited to the debates during the 2011 election, on the basis that Greens did not have a seat in Parliament at that time.

Now that Greens have three seats in Parliament – more than the Progressive Conservatives prior to the 1997 election – the rules have apparently changed. And those 1997 PCs? Yup, they were included in the election debate. Heck, Gilles Duceppe, a federal (but not federalist) leader committed to only one province’s sovereignty ambitions, was included in the last debates.

Nevertheless, most Canadians really do want Ms. May, as well as all federal leaders, present at all debates so that we can hear her perspective. According to iPolitics on August 14, a more recent poll by Ekos shows that 71 per cent of Canadians (and 53 per cent of Conservative supporters) believe that all four federalist leaders should attend all of the debates.

So why hasn’t Ms. May yet been included in these debates, save for the original “consortium” debates for which she was finally invited, only to see Stephen Harper pull out? Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has stated that he supports Elizabeth May’s presence at all debates. Tom Mulcair is playing coy, having threatened not to participate in the consortium debates if PM Harper is not present. And Mr. Harper? Perhaps his reluctance to debate with Elizabeth May would be to avoid too many inconvenient truths.

Can Tom Mulcair and Stephen Harper explain why they want Ms. May excluded from future debates? Their reluctance seems to be going against the grain of Canadians’ wishes.

Gerald Haase

Marsh Lake

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