In 1997, the leader of a seemingly failing party that had received only 6.88 per cent of the vote in 1993 and the leader of a party that had been decimated to two seats, squared off in nationally televised debates against not only the Prime Minister of the day and his Reform Party opposition opponent, but also the leader of a Quebec-based nationalist party that could not -- and had no intention of trying to -- take power within Canada.
If Alexa McDonough of the NDP and Jean Charest of the Tories were allowed to represent their seemingly collapsing and rump parties on the national stage in 1997, so should the obviously growing, interesting and vocal leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, be allowed to now.
Especially given that her party has two seats in the legislature.
May, unlike Tom Mulcair or Justin Trudeau, has steadfastly opposed and fought Bill C-51 from day one. She has taken strong and forceful positions on any number of issues.
But, more importantly, she should not have to justify being there at all. The Greens obviously and clearly represent a (now) major political force in Canada. They have two seats. May is widely regarded as an effective and important parliamentarian and leads a party that has every chance as doing as well or better than the Alexa McDonough-led NDP of 1997.
In fact, both McDonough and Charest led their parties back from the brink in 1997. What would have happened had they been excluded from the national debates?
Some members of other so-called "progressive" parties, the Liberals and the NDP, have claimed that May should not be included as she has no chance of winning government.
If that were true, the NDP should never have been included (and the 2011 "Orange Crush" would never have happened) in any leader's debate ever held in the history of the party until now.
Would this have been good for the political discourse in Canada?
I suspect few supporters of the NDP would claim so.
But now, for (generally ludicrous) partisan and specious reasons, the Liberals and New Democrats remain gutless and silent as the "consortium" that makes the choices around this has, so far, not said they would include May.
Her exclusion, regardless of how one feels about her politics, would make the "debate" a shallow travesty and farce and an affront to democracy.
There is literally no valid reason for the other leaders to keep May out of the debates, save one.
To a progressive, the fact that Harper, a mindlessly dictatorial conservative, does not want to debate May is hardly surprising.
But the Liberal and NDP leaders have no excuse. They need to vocally and publicly demand her inclusion. If Trudeau and Mulcair are not willing to debate Elizabeth May -- if they are not willing to stand up forcefully for basic democratic discourse and ensure she is included in the nationally televised leader's debate -- they really do not deserve your vote.