Will Ontario Get a Fair Leadership Debate?

X marks the ballotDeciding who will form the government is the province of eligible voters. In order to perform this duty, we must first have all the information we need to be able to make informed choices.

Leadership Debates are important because they are in essence a job interview. Just as employers are unlikely to hire someone without an interview, voters want to get a good look at the people in the running for the top job at Queen’s Park. Any leadership debate should include all the potential job applicants.

Anything less is a disservice to the citizens who will shortly be heading to the polls.

Yet the media Consortium formed to decide such things is considering excluding Ontario’s Green Party leader Mike Schreiner from participating in the televised Leadership Debate scheduled for June 3rd.

Although it doesn’t seem to be explicitly stated anywhere, the Consortium’s rule would appear to be that a party leader who has not been elected to the Legislature is prohibited from participating in the debate.

For previous leadership debates at the federal level we have seen Elizabeth May excluded on similar grounds. Yet the Green Party is known to field a full slate of Candidates across Canada. Meanwhile, recent federal leadership debates have included the leader of the Bloc Québécois. Gilles Duceppe actually stated the truth that he cound not become Prime Minister during one such televised debate. But just because the Bloc elects Members of Parliament, even if every Bloc candidate was elected unanimously, there is simply no way the leader of a regional party could become Prime Minister of Canada under our current electoral system. It certainly seems nonsensical for a leadership debate to exclude someone who might get the job while including one who can never get it.

The Green Party of Ontario isn’t just an an upstart fringe party that will be gone tomorrow, it is an established respected Provincial Party with a well thought out comprehensive political platform. Unlike the Bloc, the Green party could produce a Prime Minister or Premier. But the broadcast Consortium chooses to exclude a Party that has fielded enough MPP candidates that it could actually form a majority government.

There is no good reason not to include the Green’s Mike Schreiner in the Leadership Debate.

So I’ve written a letter:

Dear Mr. Weiers:

As you yourself pointed out in your article B.C. election proved campaigns matter more than ever, anything can happen in an election. The most important job for the news media is to ensure citizens have access to the best information. This is why any leadership debate must include any leader who might become Premier. This would certainly include the Green Party of Ontario leader, Mike Schreiner.

The argument that an unelected party leader should not be included simply doesn’t hold water. None of the party leaders thus far included in the debate have been elected to the 41st Ontario Parliament, nor is there any guarantee any of them will secure a seat. Perhaps you might want to think back to the last days of the Mike Harris or Mulroney governments. Anything can happen.

I believe maintaining TVO and CBC are important because impartial public broadcasters are an essential part of achieving balance in any modern democracy. If the consortium excludes the Green Party from the debate, Ontario citizens will not get the information we need to make informed choices. Such a decision would be anything but balanced, nor would it be good for democracy in Ontario.

We citizens need to hear from all the leaders. Now is the time for CBC to take a leadership position and ensure that Ontario gets a fair shake.

Sincerely,
Laurel L. Russwurm


Even if the Ontario Green Party doesn’t form the next government, it certainly has enough support to deserve a voice in the debate. While wearing their broadcaster hats the members of the Consortium should remember that fresh minds bring new ideas and lead to lively discussion and good television.

Looking at the issue from a democratic standpoint, surely a consortium of corporate broadcasters have no business deciding which party leaders that citizens are allowed to hear during an election.  Not very democratic, that.

It would only be fair for the Consortium to welcome Mike Schreiner, the Green party Leader, to the televised Leader’s Debate. Not just for Mike, but for all of us.

As they say on Twitter, #letmikespeak

ontario border


To lend your voice to the effort to bring the Green Party to the Leadership debate, you can Tweet directly to the media consortium head, @bobweiers (CBC’s Bob Weiers, the senior producer of CBC News for Elections & Live Events), and/or email the consortium members:

As always, you are welcome to borrow any parts of my letter that may help you to write your own.

P.S.  The Green Party has a “Let Mike Speak” Petition you can sign too..


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