Once again, CTV, oops, I mean the Broadcast Consortium has denied the Green Party admission to the Nationally televised Leaders debate. While it comes as no surprise whatsoever, it still begs the imagination. What is going on in the broadcast consortium’s collective heads? The criteria by which they exclude the GPC seems to change from election to election. Apparently, the requisite is that there be representation in the house of commons. I don’t know about you, but I do not believe that the rationale has much to do with the actual reason. By any other measure, the Green Party is a National Party that commands the support of approximately 10% of the electorate. That is not a small and insignificant number in a first past the post system. In fact, the Green Party is so significant, that their presence has changed the face of Parliament in a fundamental way. It is not an accident that the Liberal’s (Paul Martin Jr.’s) last majorities shrunk at the same rate that the Greens grew. A Conservative minority Government would be impossible without a fourth national party opening the door to Ontario. The Green Party raises and spends millions of dollars, fields a full slate of candidates, and has a policy platform that covers the full range of Federal responsibilities. So much for them being a fringe party.
So why did they (the consortium) do it again? I assume that this time out they have decided that it is better to give the Green Party a whack of free publicity, and a bullet proof issue in the first week of the campaign than to give them their ten minutes of fame before the whole nation. The communications job for the Green Party is now to have their cake, and eat it too. By this I mean that they need to get the petitions rolling, keep the outrage in the press, and apply more and more pressure and reel in the tens of thousands of new supporters this move will motivate. They also need to keep up the pressure on the consortium in general, and the CTV in particular for their ultimate inclusion in the debate. I wouldn`t hold my breath waiting for a turn about this time, so start preparing the ground for the couple of days before, and immediately after the debate
The issue will fade a bit as Ignatieff, Harper, and Jack slip on assorted banana peels, and trade hollow sounding invective over the coming days. In a couple of weeks though, the debate will start to loom closer, and this issue will come back in a big way if it is tended properly. The other 4 party`s have been smart enough to pretend that Elizabeth May ought to be in the debate, but that it is all the broadcasters fault. They are pretty well bullet proof on this issue, but the broadcasters themselves have stepped way over the line… So use this fact, and start bludgeoning them now. It will likely pay off with improved coverage, more or less as it did in 2005. Actually, there are plenty of neat things to do with a recalcitrant media consortium. Start speaking to the fact that the airwaves are publicly owned in Canada, and the broadcasters get to use them on sufferance. How about the fact that the only corporations that are legally allowed to provide free publicity for political party`s are the media companies? Use your imaginations folks, since the media consortia are trying to directly influence the political process, they should be reminded that they are accountable too.
So there it is. The deed has been done, and the issue is live. Let us hope that there are at least one or two people still working on it for the National Campaign at GPC headquarters in Ottawa. I know this isn`t about electing Elizabeth May in SGI, but perhaps the Party could spare a few thoughts, and a little time for the other 307 Green Party campaigns. They will need some kind of, any kind of support from the Party, and this is a good starting point.