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Elizabeth May's Exclusion From Debates an Affront to Democracy

07/29/2015 01:00 EDT | Updated 07/29/2016 05:59 EDT
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Elizabeth May has once again been inexplicably cut from the roster of the two highest-profile federal leaders debates of the 2015 election. The Globe and Mail and the Munk Debates have excluded May from the debates they will sponsor this year. She was denied participation in the 2008 debates, but a massive public protest got her re-instated. May was deemed by many to have won that debate.

In 2011, the Green Party leader was once again excluded from televised debates, while the Bloc Québecois was included, despite the fact that it's mandate is solely devoted to the protection of Quebec's interests in the House of Commons and the promotion of Quebec sovereignty.

There has been a national televised leaders' debate since the 1960s. A consortium composed of the CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV, Global and French commercial network TVA, have established the rules and format in each election. The consortium ground rules for inclusion in the debate appear arbitrary and absurd.

The 1993 debates included Reform Party leader Preston Manning, even though he didn't have a seat in the House of Commons at the time. Manning is no Winston Churchill but his inclusion in the debates contributed to an insanely exponential boost in his party's fortunes -- the Reform Party went from one seat to 52.

That year, Alexa McDonough's NDP had garnered only 6.88 per cent of the vote and Jean Charest's Tories had been decimated to two seats. Despite their dearth of national relevance, the two were allowed to squeeze in the door and debate the issues of the day.

May was voted the Parliamentarian of the Year in 2013 by her peers. She has introduced several private members' bills addressing issues such as literacy, fisheries, access to information and the status of women. She was the first MP to oppose C-51 and has consistently and steadfastly fought the undemocratic and immoral assault on Canadians' rights. May has punched well above her weight in the House of Commons, often with skewering wit.

In March 2013, the government pulled Canada out of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, which fights the effects of drought around the world, especially Africa. May rose in the House of Commons and put the issue in perspective: "The cost of the treaty, $300,000 a year, is roughly equivalent to half the cost of a G8 gazebo or 109 days of the care and feeding of a rented panda, less than 4 per cent of the PMO office budget, a third the cost of shipping an armoured vehicle to India, or two days of government advertising to tell us how happy we should all be with the way the government is spending our money."

May was all business though when Stephen Harper signed away control of our energy assets to China at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit in Vladivostok in September 2012. The deed was done on the last day of the meetings. This star-crossed treaty is called the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). May sent an energetic email in November 2012 that put the treaty into context: "For the first time in Canadian history, the Canada-China Investment Treaty will allow investors (including Chinese state-owned enterprises such as CNOOC or Sinopec), to claim damages against the Canadian government in secret, for decisions taken at the municipal, provincial, territorial or federal level that result in a reduction of their expectation of profits. Even decisions of Canadian courts can give rise to damages."

Elizabeth May has been at the forefront of debate ever since she was elected. There are now two elected Green Party MPs and the party is again fielding candidates from coast to coast to coast. Her exclusion from the leaders debates amounts to an outrageous affront to democracy.

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