In light of the decision to exclude Elizabeth May of the Green Party from the national leaders debate, I think there are a few issues here:
Who’s to Blame?
If you oppose the decision, I think there are three groups at blame here:
1. The media outlets for not calling the bluff of the Conservatives and the NDP. Were they really going to skip the debates? I find that hard to believe.
2. Messrs Harper and Layton, while entirely within their right to oppose Mrs May’s inclusion, should have a real good reason for doing so.
3. The electoral system is at fault, since there is no regulation regarding the debates.
What Should Happen This Election?
In the short term, if the networks want Elizabeth May there, I think they should call Harper and Layton’s bluff. And if they decide to sit out, it’s their loss.
What Should Happen in the Future?
There should be an amendment to the Canada Election Act which provides for sanctioned debates.
Participation should be open to the leader of any registered political party who has achieved any of the following benchmarks:
1. Election of a Member of Parliament (under that party’s banner) in the previous general election, or a by-election since.
2. Official party status in the House of Commons.
3. Earned 5% of the vote in the previous general election (or other vote benchmark that would demonstrate support).
4. Having candidates in a specific number of ridings, say 75%.
To me, any of those would demonstrate a national presence, and merit inclusion in a debate.
Hopefully someone will run with this concept so we don’t have these issues in the future.