The quality of Canadian democracy took it on the chin yesterday when the Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc took the position that the leader of the Green Party should be excluded from the TV debates.
A Bloc spokesperson later said Duceppe would have participated in the debates whether or not May was included. That left Harper and Layton insisting that they would not show up for debates in which the Green leader was present.
That Harper would do this is no surprise. He hopes that after October 14, he won't have to pay attention to anyone.
But the NDP.
NDP campaign official Brad Lavigne explained that Layton would withdraw from debates including May on the grounds "that it would be patently unfair to have two people advocating for Mr. Dion to be prime minister in the debate."
Lavigne is entitled to think that the Greens are too close to the Liberals. I'm entitled to believe, as I do, that the Greens are a sentiment in search of a party. But the fact is that a sizeable number of Canadians voted for the Greens last time. They are a federally funded party. They now have an MP, a former Liberal, who joined them. People can think what they like about this MP. But let's shake ourselves awake. The Greens are awfully similar, in size and shape, to the Bloc and the Reform Party when they were included in the debates in 1993.
Jack Layton should be prepared to face Elizabeth May head on in the debates where he can make the case that a vote for the Greens is a vote for a party that is unclear on a host of issues, and not all that good on the environment. He could use the debates to say that this country desperately needs proportional representation.
This week at York, I'm going to get an earful about this from my students. They're not old enough to remember the glory days of Tommy Douglas when the NDP was a fighting party. They're already inclined to see the NDP as an old-line party and this is not going to help.
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