Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thoughts on the Leaders' Debate

Day-old news: The Green Party will not be invited to the leaders' debate. Various reasons have been offered, but none of them is especially compelling. Here's my analysis:

1. The excuse from the broadcasters' consortium was that the other party leaders refused to attend if Green Party leader Elizabeth May were allowed to. For that matter, I'm sure that Stephen Harper and Stéphane Dion would be happy to have the floor all to themselves. The other leaders' desires should not be the issue. This is a chance for the public to find out what the party leaders are all about; if some of them are about boycotting a debate with a leader whose party is supported by around 10% of Canadians (nearly as many as the NDP, and more than the Bloc Québécois whose leader was invited), then they've made their statement. Let it stand. May can have the floor to herself while the others' positions remain unvoiced, but clear:

Harper: "Why do you need to hear from anyone else when you've got me?"
Dion: "Harper's not coming? If there's nobody around that I can compare to George Bush then I've got nothing left to say."
Layton: "There ain't room in this left for the two of us."

2. The NDP and the Conservatives have both painted May as a second Liberal candidate because of her and Stéphane Dion's agreement not to run candidates against one another in their own ridings. Stephen Harper added "I think it would be fundamentally unfair to have two candidates who are essentially running on the same platform in the debate."

This is just weak. Their platforms are not the same, and someone minimally informed can point out numerous differences. There may be some overlap, but that didn't stop the Progressive Conservative and Reform parties from both participating in the May 1997 leaders' debate. They were similar enough to later merge into one party... guess whose? The fact that the Green and Liberal parties aren't running candidates against one another's leaders is trivial. It's much more important to note that the Greens are siphoning off Liberal votes, which thoroughly undermines the idea that they will somehow bolster the Liberals' position. It benefits the Conservatives if anyone.

3. BQ leader Gilles Duceppe said "The rules are the rules are the rules," citing the fact that the Green party has no elected MP (their one MP is a converted former independent). But nobody else mentioned these rules, not even when the broadcasters explained their decision, so are they really the rules? And if they are then why did anybody ask you and the other party leaders? The rules should have resolved the question, right? Come on, now you're just making shit up.

UPDATE: A caller to a local news discussion on the topic claimed that there's a 19-seat cutoff for participation in the leaders' debate, and it has been exercised before. If it's true, it would be an acceptable reason, but why hasn't anybody else mentioned it?

2 comments:

Peter M said...

I really don't understand why Harper doesn't want May in the debate. It looks like it'd have nothing but upside for him - a boost for the Greens, while potentially significant in the long run, would only really help him at the moment. I mean, if anyone cared in the slightest about environmental policy, they'd already be ignoring the Conservatives. Maybe he just doesn't want to be taking shots from 4 sides in the debate.

And that 19 seat limit sounds like bunk. It sure didn't apply in 1997, anyway, when both the NDP (9 seats) and PCs (2 seats) made it to the debates.

Michael Reimer said...

Maybe he just doesn't want to be taking shots from 4 sides in the debate.

I think that must basically be it. Even if the Greens and Liberals are splitting votes, with both of their leaders in a debate with Harper they're sure to gang up on him.

And that 19 seat limit sounds like bunk. It sure didn't apply in 1997, anyway, when both the NDP (9 seats) and PCs (2 seats) made it to the debates.

I agree. It was allegedly used to exclude the BQ once, but even if that's true then it's obviously not applied consistently.