41st Election Leadership Debate

[Disclosure: I’m opposed to the very idea of political parties because ultimately citizens always pay the price when democracy is “streamlined”. ]

Who makes the decisions about the televised Leadership debate(s) ?

Elections Canada exists to ensure that our federal elections are all above board. So, one would think that they might have a say in decisions about televised leadership debates. As it turns out, one would be wrong.

Decisions about the televised debates are made by “The Consortium of Broadcasters,” namely:

A look at the consortium members reveals the two segments of our cash starved public broadcaster, two mid sized broadcasting networks and a single overwhelming gorilla in the room. CTV is indeed a vast corporate empire, which was recently acquired by the Internet/Telecom giant BCE (Bell Canada Enterprises) an even bigger behemoth.

Interesting aside: BCE ran into major conflict with the sitting Conservative Government that vowed to overturn Usage Based Billing if the CRTC allowed it to proceed. Makes you wonder who BCE wants to see in power.

“The medium Is the message” ~ Marshall McLuhan

History has shows that the most potent weapons determine political supremacy, and media coverage is one of the most powerful. In the last century, Adolph Hitler harnessed the power of media propaganda with dramatic results. It quickly became clear that smart revolutionaries or potential dictators needed to control the news media. Elections are won and lost on the perceptions voters acquire from the news media coverage.

Which is why it is monstrous that the unaccountable corporate entity “the consortium” is allowed to shape the Canadian election by dictating the terms of the so-called leadership debate.

And the decision was made to exclude Elizabeth May, the leader of The Green Party of Canada, from the debate. Ms. May was allowed to participate the last time. And she made a very good showing. Are we to infer that the “big boys” are afraid of being shown up by Ms. May?

Although the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, The New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois claimed they supported Ms. May’s inclusion in the debate, they did nothing about it.

democracy? hello?

In the Canadian political system, anyone can create a political party. That’s one very good thing built into our otherwise badly flawed system. We are not limited to two parties, we have the option of as many parties as we need.

But a political party only becomes a registered party when it is runs a candidate in an election.

But even if you run candidates in this election, if you don’t next time, your party ceases to be registered. That’s why Mel Hurtig’s National Party was once a duly registered party, but isn’t anymore.

And in fact, Canada’s one coalition government was never a registered political party at all, but rather a mix of elected Conservatives, Liberals, Independents and a single “Labour” MP that formed the Unionist Party (Canada). Political parties come and go, and the point of elections is that the citizens retain the power to overturn the applecart on election day. That is how it’s possible for a powerful majority governent to be reduced to a scant two seats.

That’s the point of an election. To let the people decide. An election is a clean slate.

It doesn’t matter that Prime Minister Harper was the Prime Minister for the 40th Canadian Government, this election is being held to determine who will form the government for the 41st. Perhaps Mr. Harper will be returned to office, but in any election there is always the chance of not getting elected at all. Today, he is the leader of a registered Canadian political party, but he is unelected as far as the 41st government is concerned.

The incumbents already have a huge advantage against challengers. Do they really need more?

Leadership Debates

Technology gives all Canadians the opportunity to witness leadership debates. But who should be included?
Since no one has been elected for the 41st Government, certainly all registered political parties should be guaranteed equal treatment.

If Ms. May, and in fact all registered party leaders, are excluded from the leadership debates, such debates are discriminatory, and wholly undemocratic.

Looking at the televised debates, a casual observer would think only four parties are running in this election.

In fact, there are NINETEEN.

If we are to have televised Leadership debates, every party registered to run candidates should be eligible to participate.

At the very least, the Green Party, with a constituency of nearly one million Canadians in the last election, should be there. Although they haven’t got a seat, I rather think that the Green Party is the one to watch. They are not a flash in the pan, and they are serious. They’ve been around for a while. They are no longer a one platform party. And they are running candidates all across the country. Which means that, unlike the Bloc who are limited to a single province, the Green Party could in fact be elected with a majority government.

The other party that I would like to see at the debate is The Pirate Party of Canada. Unlike the Green Party they are fielding only a few candidates, but their party platform is far too important to ignore in an increasingly digital world. Although the established parties act as though they understand digital issues, even with my limited knowledge of such things they fall well short of the mark.

democracy is designed to serve human beings

“The representation of parties in the House was one important factor, but we’re not going to give more information on the other criteria.

“This is a programming decision. The Broadcasting Act is clear: the decision on the leader’s debates is a broadcast consortium decision.”

Consortium Spokesman Marco Dubé

It is incredible that The Broadcasting Act gifts the decision on the leader’s debates to a “Broadcast Consortium.” Clearly this needs to fall under Elections Canada jurisdiction.

This is simply another indication of why Canadians need to be more vigilant about protecting our democracy.

Unaccountable corporate consortiums should not be deciding the course of our election, Elections Canada is charged with making the rules governing election procedures.

The Consortium chose to brush off the Green Party decision to issue a court challenge. The Green Party Leader will be excluded from the televised “Leadership debate.”

But wait: The consortium rescheduled the French language debate so it won’t conflict with an NHL playoff game.

The medium is sending Canada a message all right: a hockey game is more important than democracy.

Cathy MacLellan, Green Party candidate
Green Party Candidate Cathy MacLellan

An election isn’t a game. It’s a serious business that will impact on our lives. What happens is incredibly important to all Canadians right now because of the interesting times in which we live. Decisions made at the highest levels today will impact on Canada’s digital economy and affect our ability to compete globally.

I worry we may end with a Liberal majority government. Perhaps if the Liberal Party were led by someone like Carolyn Bennett that might not be such a bad thing, but as things stand both the Liberal and Conservative parties have proven willing to forge laws dictated by powerful special interest groups at the expense of Canadians. Even the NDP seems to be pandering to big business. To the “big boys” it is a game, and winning is everything.

Last week Waterloo Green Party Candidate Cathy MacLellan and fledgling Pirate Party candidate Steven Scott spoke about digital issues at the KWIUG (Kitchener Waterloo Internet Users Group) meeting. A late entrant to the race, Scott was working to get signatures from residents for his nomination papers to allow his candidacy for this election. And Green Party candidate MacLellan signed for him– essentially helping to field an opponent.

That little anecdote tells a big story. The smaller newer parties are routinely overlooked.  They lack vast “war chests” enabling them to buy advertising time so they never even consider airing attack ads against their opponents.

But still, the smaller parties seem to have something the “big boys” lack. Something that certainly would have been a welcome infusion in the televised debates.

Something we used to call “integrity”.



At 7:00ET, Elizabeth May will be “live chatting” her reaction to the Leaders Debate here. It should be rather interesting.

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