Yesterday, the Green Party launched a formal complaint with the CRTC over the exclusion of Jim Harris from the upcoming debates. This blatant snub begs the question, what is the criteria for inclusion in the debates?
The debates represent the best chance for the parties to get their message out, as well as contrast their platform with their rivals. The Green Party has emerged as a relevant option, obtaining a respectable 4.3% of the vote during the last campaign. This outcome despite being virtually ignored by the mainstream media, as well as no debate appearances. It would be logical to assume that a debate appearance would cement the Green Party as credible and expand their voter base.
Any article I have read on the Green Party always posits the fact that the Greens have no chance of forming a government. This argument is used by those that support the Green Party exclusion from the debates- a fringe movement, which distracts from the real options. If this is the criteria for inclusion, I would suggest a re-examination of the entire process. The NDP has no serious claim to governance, predestined to marginal status- more king maker than credible threat. Does the NDP presence distract from the real debate, diluting the arguments from the serious parties?
And what about the Bloc? The Green Party offers a full slate of candidates across the entire country. The Bloc, however, is a regional party with no realistic aspiration to govern. Does anyone even contemplate omitting the Bloc from the debates, particularly the English one? We allow a party to participate thats sole purpose is the destruction of the entity to which we vote, yet we have no room for a grassroots party with pockets of relatively strong support nationwide. Strange.
The amendments to the Canadian Election Act make sure every vote counts in a financial sense. The Green Party has targeted one million votes as a goal for this election, and that figure is reasonable. That number is substantial, by anyones measurement, and has the potential to grow if the Greens receive legitimacy through the debates. In this campaign, the media has given the Green Party sporadic coverage, but exponentially more than previous campaigns. The next logical step is too include a growing party into the national dialogue.
I wonder what role the other parties have in tempering the Green Party influence. None of the established parties want another party in play. But, a party like the NDP that claims to be egalitarian, inclusive and progressive, would surely support a Green Party appearance for philosophical reasons. Self interest may be at odds with ideals.
I guess the only way to ensure future Green Party participation is a greater vote count. However, you need exposure to increase your profile, so we have a institutional barrier that may cap what the Greens can achieve. I can understand why we don't include all the fringe parties in the debates, the clutter would make the exercise meaningless. But, the Green Party isn't "fringe" anymore, by whatever definition you choose. Democracy thrives through participation, and it is a serious mistake to omit a party that many people are passionate about.