Greens and the election debate

The leaders of the NDP and Conservatives have backed down on their opposition to Elizabeth May being included in the leader’s debate. Was it common sense and an example of character? Was it mere petty politics, a response to a public outcry that May was excluded? Whatever — it’s about time.

Meanwhile, former CBC News chief Tony Burman has a piece in the Globe and Mail online calling the election debate process “a sham” and calling for  “Canadians – through the CRTC – to pull the plug on the networks and entrust this vital mission to an independent, non-partisan ‘commission’ similar to how it is done in the U.S.”

I think Burman is right. The refusal of the Tory and NDP leaders to debate May was essentially blackmail — the stand by Stephen Harper and Jack Layton that were May included they’d take their marbles and go home was juvenile at best. It was not only an embarrassing, craven way to play politics, it was a successful attempt to hold the media at ransom. If the political parties were not capable of rising above it, the media consortium that organizes the debates should have been. Independent decision making and clear rules are needed.

As things now stand Joe Clark is right: in a piece criticizing partisanship and arguing that the tone of Canadian politics has sunk, the ex-prime minister called for May to be included and slammed the system as “a club, whose members set their own rules.”