Doug Rutherford

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Debate Debacle

April 2011
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Note: this is my third submission to the CBC Your Take election blog.

There was quite a bit of controversy when Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, was not permitted to take part in the leaders’ debates. The reason given by the broadcasters’ consortium that oversees this was that, since there were no sitting Green Party members at the time of dissolution of parliament, she could not take part. This was a repeat of the 2006 election debates, which was finally solved when some of the other leaders pressed for her inclusion.

This time around, some of the leaders said that there was nothing they could do and that the decision lay in the hands of the broadcast consortium. An attempt to have the Federal Court of Canada hear an expedited appeal was turned down by the court so an appeal of this in court would not take place until after the debates had occurred.

But now, there is a far greater threat to the fairness of the debates… one that has brought up by both the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party. It seems that the French language debates, scheduled for Thursday evening, will occur at the same time as a Montreal-Boston playoff hockey game. There is serious fear that people will be far more interested in the game than in the debate. In a letter to the consortium, Gilles Duceppe asks them to move the debate up to Wednesday, since the programming conflict will be “heartbreaking” for many Quebecers. Jack Layton said he suspected many people would choose to watch the game over the debate and that, “Were I not in this election, I might well make the same decision.”

After all, hockey is pretty dangerous stuff. BC doctors are being reminded that they are not to discuss hockey during operations, for example. That obviously indicates that danger of contrasting hockey with other topics, such as democracy… a battle which many think hockey will win.

What I find particularly interesting is that here are two leaders of parties asking the broadcast consortium to alter their original plans because of a hockey game. That is obviously a far better reason to change their plans than to, say, include a party leader who garnered almost one million votes last election. I guess we all have our priorities…


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