For most of the day on Monday, the front page of Progressive Bloggers was absolutely dominated by one topic: the decision rendered by the consortium of Canadian broadcasters to deny Green Party leader Elizabeth May a spot in the national leadership debate. The consortium, a coalition of 5 Canadian broadcasters that controls participation in the debate, claims that despite the Greens having reached the bar set last election (having a sitting MP, controversial former Liberal candidate, Blair Wilson, in Parliament), 3 of the 4 other parties have threatened to pull out of the debate if May is allowed to participate. The Globe quotes NDP spokesperson Brad Lavigne as stating “[The NDP] said we would not accept the invitation to participate because the Greens did not have an elected [emphasis mine] member of Parliament and that Ms. May had endorsed [Liberal leader Stephane] Dion as prime minister”.
The Conservatives offered a similar line of spin: May is running in Nova Scotia (specifically, in star cabinet minister Peter MacKay’s riding) unopposed by a Liberal candidate, and, according to the Globe, “could throw her support to [the Liberals] at the end of the campaign.” Indeed, as noted by the Globe, May has already raise some eyebrows by sending out a mass email in which she pledged support to a Liberal candidate running against Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Regardless, the Greens are, obviously, fuming at what they see as the latest round of Calvinball on the part of Canada’s broadcast gatekeepers, with May calling yesterday’s announcement “anti-democratic, closed door, backroom decision making” while astutely pointing out that the other national party leaders and broadcast executives involved “are all men”–a sharp jab at the blatant disparity in gender on display among the principles involved, optics that may play more of a factor in today’s post-Clinton/Palin political landscape than in recent electoral contests.
Yours truly has in the past been critical of May and the Greens’ own arguably ‘anti-democratic’ maneuvers to gain a foothold in Parliament, be it by courting Wilson or via friendship arrangements made with Dion and the Liberals. With that said, the other national leaders (including Stephane Dion, who, despite his party’s claim of support for the Greens’ inclusion, said yesterday that “I would like her to be there, but I will not participate if Stephen Harper is not there”–not exactly a ringing endorsement for “fairness”) are betraying obvious fear of what may be the wild card party of the 2008 election campaign. Support for the Green Party has been steadily increasing in key ridings, and could provoke a split on the left (and, thanks to the Greens’ classical liberal economic platform, potentially bleed Conservative votes in environmentally-conscious BC) if the party can successfully court Canadian voters beyond the Greens’ standard constituency.
As former Liberal strategist Scott Reid observes, “[i]f [May] successfully assembles a coalition that adds disaffected voters to her environmentalist basse, she could become a green Ross Perot–stealing support from others, altering the campaign’s core narrative and unpredictably affecting the result.” May claims that she doesn’t care who Canadians vote for, as long as they vote, but it goes without saying that she is going to fight to get as many votes cast her way; it makes sense, then, that the 4 other party leaders want to limit May’s national exposure as much as possible. However, by placing May and her party front and centre in what has fast become the first media firestorm of the 2008 election campaign, the scheme seems to have backfired spectacularly.
Whatever happens, it seems apparent that Elizabeth May has emerged as a serious political player, and, come October 14th, may indeed prove to be, in the words of Reid, “the most dangerous woman in Canada.”