Most of us who follow politics on a regular basis already know who we are voting for this coming May. We probably could have told you the object of our political affection months before the election was even called. However there are still many people out there either leaning a little left/right or perhaps they’re still undecided. One of the best ways for these citizens to judge the candidates and make an educated decision on who to vote for is by tuning into the English and/or French leaders debate.
Unfortunately the first full week of the campaign in the mainstream media hasn’t been about the issues that are to be debated on April 12th and 14th, they have been about the debate itself and who should be permitted to participate. Just like the past leaders debate back in 2008 when Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was at first prohibited from taking part, it seems some people don’t learn from their mistakes.
The broadcast consortium that organizes the debates ruled out Elizabeth May again on the utterly illogical grounds that the Green Party has no seats in the House of Commons. The environmentally friendly party may not have any seats in the Commons, but May and her followers are constantly around 10% in most polls, roughly the same number as the separatist Bloc Quebecois. If the BQ is permitted to debate policies that affect all Canadians, surely the Green Party should be allowed to express their alternative views as well.
More importantly, the only way a smaller federal party is able to grow is by expressing their views on national television. How democratic is it to ban a federal party from debating their opponents when they have the support of around two million Canadians? Whether you agree with Elizabeth May’s policies or not, no one can deny that she has every right to be there to confront her adversaries in front of the country, even former PC Prime Minister Joe Clark agrees with this simple reasoning. The Green Party has since taken their case to federal court in a last-ditch attempt to get a seat at the leaders’ debate.
The other debate about a debate that surfaced this past week was a challenge issued by Stephen Harper to have a one on one debate with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Ignatieff accepted the offer faster than Stephen Harper could backtrack on the subject. Apparently Harper wasn’t expecting Ignatieff to say “anytime, anywhere”, Harper then chickened out.
Ignatieff’s aides portrayed Harper as a bully who never expected Ignatieff to agree to a debate mano a mano “Oops, apparently Mr. Harper had forgotten the cardinal rule,” they said. “Never push someone unless you’re sure they won’t push back.” Michael Ignatieff has issued an open letter to Stephen Harper urging him to reconsider a one-on-one debate, saying he will make it easy for him by meeting him “at the time and place of your choosing.”
Although I’d like to see a Harper/Iggy debate, Stephen Harper probably made the right choice by backing down. I personally believe Harper would have gone down for the countâ€¦ possibly with some teeth missing.