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Get out and vote

By Catherine Burgess

Canada is in election-mode. It’s impossible to turn on a television or a radio or leaf through a paper without being blasted with party ads and campaign promises.

Stephen Harper was in St. John’s on Thursday of last week, shaking hands with our new Progressive Conservative premier and promising a Lower Churchill loan guarantee before he hopped back on a plane and jetted of to the Maritimes to continue his campaigning. The party leaders are touring the nation, meeting folks and making promises as they vie for our vote. It’s “Chaos in Chaonada,” as Stephen Colbert put it.

Amidst all the promises about education and finances and talks of how the leaders care about family values, one issue has stood out prominently this week; an issue that is not even a part of a campaign. This is the discussion over whether Elizabeth May is able to take part in the French and English election debates.

Initially, there seemed to be outrage. A party leader would be denied the opportunity to engage in debate with other party leaders? This sounds unfair and undemocratic. The Green Party leader launched a social networking campaign, voiced her frustration and said she would take legal action if this matter were not rectified. It hasn’t. The Green Party is shut out of the televised debates.

Ms. May has argued that if the Bloc Quebecois can participate in the debates, then her party should have the same opportunity. But broadcasters vetoed Ms. May because her party does not have a seat in Parliament. During last week’s At Issue panel discussion, Chantal Hebert said that the debate should be only for those parties with seats in Parliament. “There has to be a high threshold [for who will engage in the debate], and that threshold should be parliamentary representation.”

They might not have a seat in Parliament, but Canada’s Green Party did receive nearly one million votes during the last election, and was the sole political party receiving more votes than during the previous election.

Ms. May promises to raise issues that are overlooked by other party leaders, so should she not have the right to engage in this discussion and raise these concerns? Her exclusion makes it seems as though the Green Party is not to be taken seriously as a legitimate choice for voters and this should not be the case.

Ms. May was permitted to take part in the debate during the last election (albeit, after public outcry upon her initially being excluded), but there has been little movement on the issue this time around. Whatever the outcome, there needs to be some sort of fixed plan in place which determines who will debate. It is not acceptable to be inconsistent with this issue, letting a leader’s voice be heard during one election, but excluding it during another.

As a closing aside, a plea to students: vote. Our vote as the young people of Canada matters and makes a difference. Follow the election; consider the campaign promises; take advantage of the Vote Compass service offered by CBC at On May 2, take the time and vote.