Canada's leadership debate: the Green Party will take part

Sunday, September 14, 2008

After originally excluding Green Party leader Elizabeth May from participation in the party leaders debate in the 2008 Canadian Parliamentary election, the consortium of Canadian broadcasters reversed itself and has confirmed she will participate in the events on October 1 and 2.

The consortium reported that one or more of the major parties threatened to boycott the debates if May was allowed to participate. However, by denying the Greens the networks were violating their own requirement rules after the Green Party gained a sitting Member of Parliament prior to the election being called. May responded to being shut out of the events by saying she had retained legal counsel to examine the situation.

Liberal party leader Stéphane Dion immediately supported the Greens participation, and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois assured the press they had not threatened to boycott. Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party and Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party (NDP) both said they were opposed to May's joining the debate.

On Wednesday Layton and Harper reversed their positions, stating they were no longer opposed to her attendance, and shortly thereafter the networks confirmed May would be a participant. Layton described the issue as a distraction to his campaign after facing protesters Tuesday evening.

In the Canadian political system there have been four dominant parties in recent Parliaments. Two of these, the Liberals and the Conservatives, have formed previous governments; neither the NDP nor the Bloc Québécois have even been involved in coalition government.

Should the debates be limited to only those parties likely to form a government?