The public demands for the inclusion of Green Leader Elizabeth May in the leaders debates represent a "tectonic" shift in Canadian politics akin to the emergence of the Reform and Bloc Québécois parties in 1993, May said Thursday.
"This really is of course not just a game-changer for the Green party, but it's really a new shift in Canadian politics," May told CBC News.
"We're still experiencing a fallout from these shifts and I think a lot of voters are looking at the old parties and saying, 'Where do I belong?'"
May acknowledged the public's participation was vital to her eventual inclusion in the debates leading up to the Oct. 14 election.
In one day, more than 10,000 voters signed an online petition demanding her involvement, said May.
"My most profound hope is that the role of the Greens is to make democracy healthier whether it benefits us immediately or not."
Harper, Layton dropped objections
A consortium of networks running the October debates permitted May to enter the debates Wednesday, reversing an earlier decision.
On Monday the consortium — CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global Television and TVA — said some of Canada's parties indicated they would boycott the debate if she was invited.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Jack Layton withdrew their objections to her inclusion following widespread public backlash. They initially said May would effectively be a second Liberal in the debates, citing what they said was her preference for Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion over Harper as prime minister.
While Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe opposed May's participation, he did not threaten a boycott. Dion reaffirmed his support on Wednesday for May's inclusion in the debates.
Greens in uncharted territory
May's inclusion is a first for the Green party, whose previous leader, Jim Harris, was left out of the debates in the run-up to the 2006 federal election.
At the time, the television consortium determined the party did not have enough public support to justify an invitation to participate.