Shame on Layton, Duceppe & Harper: May should be in the debates

Earlier today the capitalist television networks announced that Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party, would be barred from attending the leaders’ debates.

Contrary to some of the analysis I have read in the blogs and elsewhere, in the strict letter of the regulations, the networks did not do anything inconsistent in refusing to grant Elizabeth May a seat at the leaders’ debates for the 2008 election.  In 1993, the relatively new Reform and Bloc Québecois Parties had each elected their first MPs (Deborah Grey and Gilles Duceppe respectively) rather than obtaining their first MPs as a result of floor-crossing as is the case this year with the Green Party.

Thus, while I strongly disagree with the entire convention of allowing only parties that elect one MP into the debates, the blame for today’s patently anti-democratic decision cannot be laid entirely or even primarily at the doorstep of the capitalist networks (regardless of how much every Marxist bone in my body would like to do so).

The blame, it is clear, rests primarily on the shoulders of the NDP’s Jack Layton, the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe and the Conservatives’ Stephen Harper.  For being the sole party leader of the 4 main parties to advocate for May’s presence, the Liberals’ Stéphane Dion rightly deserves praise today from democrats of all stripes ranging from radical Marxist like myself to the bluest Tory.

The sort of reactionary, petty, anti-democratic inclinations exemplified by the pressure from the NDP, Bloc and Tory leaders to close off access to the debates is simply shameful.  I expect this sort of behaviour from the Tory leader who has regularly demonstrated his contempt for democracy in his draconian attitude towards the press and public ethics committees.  However, this an exemplar of hypocrisy on the part of the Bloc and the New Democrats.

Both parties claim to be social democrat, even though both parties have sadly long since forgotten that ‘socialism’, throughout its long and rich history from the Diggers of the English Revolution onwards, has always entailed radical democracy and the radical expansion of the democratic franchise.  This is an especially bitter irony for the New Democrats since they still proudly consider themselves to be the party of Tommy Douglas, a genuine and honourable democratic socialist who never forgot what that term entailed.  Without realizing it, time and time again, the NDP continues to demonstrate with their current pathetically-weak policies and their bourgeois behaviour, that if Tommy Douglas could see what his party had become, he would be spinning in his grave.

Now, let me be clear: This should not be taken as an endorsement of May.  May and her predecessor’s policies which deliberately dragged the Greens to the right and away from the parts of the proud Green tradition that I most respect, is for me simply unforgivable.  However, one’s personal opinions of the Greens are immaterial here.  This is an attack on democracy just as much as is the silencing of other party leaders such as Miguel Figueroa of the Communist Party of Canada, Dennis Young of the Libertarian Party of Canada, Connie Fogal of the Canadian Action Party and Sinclair Stevens of the Progressive Canadian Party to name only a few.  And as this is an attack on democracy, it must be the duty of every democrat to stand in solidarity with Elizabeth May and the Greens on this issue and pressure whomever they’re supporting in this election to allow May into the debates.


12 Responses to “Shame on Layton, Duceppe & Harper: May should be in the debates”

  1. 1 Beijing York 8 September, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Bravo! This is not about whether you endorse the Green Party or not, it is about embracing the spirit of democracy.

  2. 2 Jim Johnston 8 September, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Excellent post. Democracy begins with an informed electorate.

  3. 3 SECA Newsletter 9 September, 2008 at 12:25 am

    It is both shameful and highly undemocratic, no matter what your opinion of the GP. We should not forget this slimy attack on freedom.

  4. 4 spurs 9 September, 2008 at 12:35 am

    I share your indignation; however, I wouldn’t so hastily praise Dion. His decision to support May’s inclusion in the leadership debates doesn’t seem to me to have sprung out of respect for democracy, but from far more pragmatic and self-serving concerns.

    Off topic, sort of. To the extent that under our parliamentary and electoral systems we are asked to vote for a local representative to carry our concerns forward, why so much focus on national leaders? Why not more focus on policies, ideologies, and all candidates debates in contributing to an informed electorate?

  5. 5 marcel 9 September, 2008 at 12:47 am

    I agree 100% Paul. BTW Nice to see you back again, and, if you don’t mind me saying so, you’re on FIRE bro!!!

    Good stuff!! Keep it up, we need you.

  6. 6 Red Fred 9 September, 2008 at 1:43 am

    My thoughts echo yours exactly, Paul. Very well said. Nice to have you back.

    The Greens and the NDP ought to turn this into a debate on proportional representation – always a favorite topic around election time.
    Half a million Maritime voters send 25 MPs to the HoC, half a million Green voters got zero seats; no representation. We need a fair vote.

  7. 7 G-ranical 9 September, 2008 at 2:52 am

    I like lazy communists as much as the next guy(no I don’t, that’s a lie) but this article is definitely favouring the absurd idea of filling a realistic debate with partisan hacks who have no chance of gaining significant votes.

    All the parties you mentioned near the end of the article should have a voice, and this voice is their own responsibility to promote.

    Other voices that didn’t make the list?

    Every other extremist party worthy of a name.(


  8. 8 PeterC 9 September, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Ignoring, of course, the fact that none of those other parties recieved any election funding.

    The 2% bar might be a bit low, although the courts seem to disagree. Or we could talk about the number of candidates, BQ has what, a third as many as of today and I expect the greens will run at least 300. No, by any metric, May should be in the debate. So don’t confuse the issue with your straw man.

  9. 9 -PeBo- 9 September, 2008 at 9:12 am

    If nothing more, a strong show of support by left leaning Canadians will ensure Mr Harper does not get the majority that he so obviously lusts after. The Liberals under Mr Dion (god love him) are completely ineffectual, and will never engage the electorate enough to hold Mr Harper at bay. I think we all realize this. Dapper-Dan Layton is a plastic embarrassment to the left who would gladly sell his soul to Mr Harper if it gets him a smiley sound bite on the evening news.

    I humbly ask all those who would normally not vote, or who usually vote for another peripheral party (I hate the words fringe or extremist) to mark the spot next to the Green candidate in this election. Let us send a message that in Canada, Democracy is not so easily usurped.

  10. 10 carole 9 September, 2008 at 10:57 am

    i agree with your comments Paul and feel the same sentiment as PeBo in that a vote for greens would send a strong message to those politicians who are so filled with themselves that they disallow our democratic principles.

  11. 11 Bob 9 September, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Maybe the Dion twins can have their own debate, play patty cake and skip rope, and tell each other how special they are.

  1. 1 Abandoned Stuff by Saskboy :: Layton and Harper are Yellow Trackback on 8 September, 2008 at 11:45 pm

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