08/14/2012 10:49 EDT | Updated 10/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Option Nationale Sues CBC And TVA Over Leaders' Debates


Quebec's upstart sovereigntist party is taking the CBC and two other broadcasters to court over its exclusion from next week's leaders' debates.

Option Nationale wants an injunction forcing CBC's French-language service Radio-Canada as well as Télé-Québec and TVA to include party leader Jean-Martin Aussant in the election debates.

Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec are running a two-hour debate Sunday night between Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois, Québéc Solidaire co-spokesperson Françoise David, Liberal Leader Jean Charest and Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault.

Then next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, TVA is hosting hourlong one-on-one contests between Marois and Charest, Charest and Legault, and Marois and Legault, respectively.

Aussant said in a statement in French that his exclusion from the debates "makes me doubt the health of our democracy."

"Despite the spirit of the Election Act and Article 423, the big broadcasters are turning a deaf ear to the enthusiasm toward our young party, notably in social media."

PQ rebel

Article 423 of Quebec's election law allows — but does not require — broadcasters and newspapers to give free airtime and space to election candidates and parties, as long as every candidate in a riding and every party represented in the provincial legislature is treated equally.

Option Nationale has one MNA, Aussant, who was one of six PQ legislators who quit the party in June 2011 to sit as an Independent. He launched Option Nationale in the months following.

But Quebec's elections authority, the Directeur général des élections du Québec, has said Article 423 doesn't apply to leaders' debates, as they are considered to be public affairs broadcasts.

Option Nationale will be in court Wednesday to argue for the injunction.

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