Nobody likes an exception, unless they happen to benefit from it. While there are clear rules for who should be included in Canada's federal leader debates, Green leader Elizabeth May has been making the case that she is special and that a little bit of rule-bending is no big deal.
May has been trying to convince Canadians and the courts that she deserves a seat in the federal leaders' debate. The Greens may be the most popular of the Canadian parties that don't have seats in the House of Commons and still run in every election, but they are no exception to the rule. If the Greens want to be included in the leaders debate, they need to win a seat first.
The Green Party is battling for inclusion at the Federal Court of Appeal, but the case will not be concluded before the first debate.
If you can make a case for the Greens getting into the leaders debate, you can use the same logic to argue that the Libertarian Party of Canada, the Marijuana Party of Canada, the Marxist-Leninist Party or the Communist Party should be included. Requiring parties to hold a seat in the House of Commons ensures that only major parties, which can draw broad popular support, are included and that fringe groups are not. Just because the Greens represent an issue that is more mainstream than say, communism or legalizing marijuana, doesn't mean they are an exception to needing to prove they are supported by a sufficient percentage of the population before being welcomed into the big leagues.
May is making a positive step if she hopes to be elected. Running against popular Conservative cabinet minister Peter McKay in the last election was like asking not to be elected. The move to a much more hospitable riding in Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C. increases the chance she will be elected, but she will still be up for a battle running against Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn. If she is elected then she should be more than welcome to join the other party leaders in federal debates. Until then she will find herself on the outside looking in.
There are also those who say that it would be nice to have a woman in the leaders debate. While it would be nice to see more women in the highest echelons of politics, being the only female leader is not grounds enough to be included. Merit, not the gender of party leaders, should be used to decide who is included. The male leaders are just as capable of representing the concerns of female voters, which blur beyond different issues and party lines.
Green parties have been successful in other parts of the world and while the tide may be changing, the Green Party is still a minor force in Canadian politics. The NDP, the Bloc and the Liberals all have their own environmental policy, which they can debate without the presence of the Greens. Being an environmentally focused party, the Greens often have less sophisticated and well-developed policies on other issues.