Idiots Of The Election, Part One: The Broadcast Consortium Who Won't Let The Greens Debate by Adam Bunch

Okay, so as you may remember, the Green Party kind of got screwed in the last election. They earned 7% of the vote; three percent behind the Bloc Québécois, who got 49 seats. The Greens got none. Which, you know, seems kind of weird democracy-wise.

Before that, they'd had to fight to even get included in the debates. The TV networks who run them—they like to call themselves The Broadcast Consortium but it's really the CBC, CTV, Global and Quebec's TVA—they weren't going to let Elizabeth May in because Harper and Layton were threatening to boycott it if they did.

Of course, when they announced the decision, people flipped the fuck out. There were scathing headlines and editorials all over the place. Angry emails and letters and phone calls poured in. Polls were overwhelmingly on May's side. After two days of backlash, Harper and Layton gave up. The Consortium reversed their decision; May got to debate. Hooray for democracy.

That is, until yesterday, when the Consortium announced that they learned all the wrong lessons from the debacle. This year, they say they plan on excluding her again, but they don't plan on telling us why.

You can read all about it in articles from these broadcaster's own news networks, in bizarre posts where they interview their own PR people as "a spokesman for the broadcast consortium"—without, you know, always bothering to mention that they are the broadcast consortium. CTV News, publishing a piece from the Canadian Press, reports that their own spokesman "declined to explain the reasoning". The CBC quotes the CBC's Marco Dubé, without mentioning that he works for them, as he explains the Green's current lack of a seat was one factor in their decision, but only one. As for the others? "[W]e're not going to give more information on the other criteria. This is a programming decision."

So, to recap: All the decisions about one of the most important events in our country's democratic life are made by a few people from the television industry, behind closed doors, for reasons they won't share, under pressure and threats from the major parties, with priority going to programming considerations.

Meanwhile, polls show support for the Green's is now even higher than it was in the 2008 election. They're waaay past the 2% threshold Elections Canada says you need for federal financing. And they've already proven they can  run a candidate in all 308 ridings—more than the Liberals or the Conservatives or the Bloc did last time. The only real difference this time around seems to be that they don't currently hold a seat in parliament—but that would be a pretty dubious basis for excluding them: you can win some ridings in Canada with a few thousand votes; the Greens got nearly a million from one end of the country to the other. Even he other parties are already scrambling to publicly distance themselves from decision. Ignatieff says May should be included. Layton says the NDP would be fine with it. The Conservatives and the Bloc say it's the Consortium's call and they have nothing to do with it what-so-ever.

But the CBC, CTV, Global and TVA seem content to hunker down, keep their mouths shut and hope the storm of outrage blows over quickly. The Greens, of course, have some ideas about how you can make that storm a little harder to weather. They have a list of all the appropriate email addresses you can complain to—along with other related links—here.

Photo: Elizabeth May

Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


CodyMcGraw said...

It seems strange they are banning May considering The Green Party has candidates all over the country while only ONE province can vote for the Bloc.

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