[Democracy Watch Logo] [Op-ed]

All parties with two percent or more support should be in election debates, and Elections Canada should run them

Set out below is a letter-to-the-editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in slightly different, edited form in the March 31, 2011 issue of the National Post, on Canada.com and in the April 1, 2011 issue of the Montreal Gazette, and the April 4, 2011 issue of the Hill Times.


The media cartel's decision to prohibit the Green Party leader from participating in the federal election debates is an undemocratic step backwards (given that the Green Party leader was allowed by the cartel to participate in the 2008 election debates).


As Democracy Watch proposed in 2006 when the Green Party leader was similarly barred from the debates, to match the legal threshold for political parties receiving the federal per-vote public financing, any party that obtains more than two-percent voter support in the previous election should automatically be allowed to participate in the next federal election debates, whether or not they have seats in the House of Commons.


If more parties than could fit in a meaningful debate qualified to participate (which is very unlikely), then multiple debates could be held (which is a good idea and should be required anyway in which smaller parties would be excluded some of the time.  But five leaders debating is far from too many.


Clearly, the media cartel cannot be trusted to uphold democratic principles when making decisions about election debates, and so other key, needed changes Democracy Watch also proposed in 2006 are to give the non-partisan Elections Canada the power and mandate under the Canada Elections Act to run the debates, and to require all main broadcasters to broadcast them as part of their license.


No new Commission or bureaucracy is needed, especially not a private one that could not be required to acted impartially -- Elections Canada is a non-partisan public agency and already overseeing every other aspect of elections, and could easily take over the organization of election debates.

For more details, go to Democracy Watch's Voter Rights Campaign page