Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Case Against Elizabeth May in the Debates

No elected MPs ever means Green Party has some growing to do

With Green Party leader Elizabeth May's bid to force her way into the televised leaders' debate thwarted by a federal court, presenting the case against May joining the debate may seem like a moot point.

But Michael Coren may phrased it most succinctly: "Win seats, become a serious party with serious support and you’ll be up there on the platform."

Simply put, to treat the Green Party as a serious player in Canadian politics is seriously premature. The Green Party has never elected an MP in Canada. In its 30-year history, it's had but a single MP, who joined the party after being punted from the Liberal Party caucus. He was soundly defeated in the 2008 election. He was replaced by John Weston, a Conservative.

This is important to note because in 2008 May -- who was working in close collusion with then-Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion -- touted the defection of Blair Wilson to the Green Party as justification for her party to join in the televised leaders' debate.

Many people considered it to be thin justification in 2008. In 2011, there's clearly even less justification.

Not to mention that the idea that having an MP automatically qualified a party to participate in that debate was fairly specious. Other parties in Canada have had MPs and were not allowed to participate.

Case in point: the Labour Progressive Party, also known as a polished-up front for the Communist Party of Canada. In 1943 Fred Rose was elected MP for Cartier under the Labour Progressive banner. Yet the Communist Party, even under the LDP banner, was never permitted to participate in the televised leaders' debate.

(It's worth noting that Rose was later convicted of spying for a foreign country, the only MP in Canadian history to have ever been convicted of such an act.)

To make matters even worse for May's argument, Rose was actually elected as a Labour Progressive candidate. Blair Wilson was not elected as a Green, and did not win reelection as a Green.

Not to mention that May doesn't really bring anything extra to the table. Since May took over leadership of the Green Party, it's basically become the ABC Party, the "defeat Stephen Harper" party.

In terms of Canadian politics, there's already an app for that. It's called the Liberal Party. And the NDP. And, arguably, the Bloc Quebecois (although one is probably better off considering them to be the "destroy Canada" party).

The Green Party's case may yet actually succeed in securing a ruling that it must be included in televised debates; but the case itself will likely not be heard until after the debate has taken place.

In that case, the ruling would remain useful to have the Greens included in future leaders' debates, and that may indeed be in the best interests of Canadian democracy. But in the end, only Canadians will be the best judge of that; until Canadians have seen fit to elect a Green Party MP, it will be hard to make that argument.

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