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.