Kris Austin challenges Tories over leaders' debates

People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin took a direct shot at the Progressive Conservatives for fighting “tooth and nail” to limit dissenting voices from leaders’ debates.

Craig Leonard says Alliance leader's claims David Alward doesn't want to debate are `ridiculous.'

CBC's Terry Seguin speaks with Tory Fredericton South candidate Craig Leonard, Liberal New Maryland-Sunbury candidate Mike Pearson, NDP Fredericton South candidate Kelly Lamrock, Green Party Leader and Fredericton South candidate David Coon and People's Alliance Leader and Fredericton-Grand Lake candidate Kris Austin. 28:12

People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin took a direct shot at the Progressive Conservatives for fighting “tooth and nail” to limit dissenting voices from leaders’ debates.

Austin used the CBC political panel on Thursday to express his frustration over the Progressive Conservative party’s opposition to allowing his party into televised leaders’ debates.

“How far have we fallen as a democracy when we have the premier of the province and a party that simply refuses to have the other voices in there to be able to debate the issues?” Austin said.

“How far have we fallen as a society where the powers that be would fight tooth and nail to keep dissenting voices out?”

The Progressive Conservatives initially decided to pull out of the CBC’s televised leaders’ debate, saying they did not agree with allowing the smaller Green Party and People's Alliance to participate.

They argued the debate should only include the three main parties — the Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP.

The Tories eventually reversed their position and will appear in the CBC leaders' debate on Sept. 9.

Austin said the Tories have also tried to keep the People’s Alliance out of other leaders’ debates scheduled before the Sept. 22 election.

The Alliance leader said he believes the Tories don’t want them in the debate because they are fighting for similar voters.

“As a party, we have values that mirror the Conservative idea in terms of smaller government, less regulation,” Austin said.

“In fact, I would dare say that we are more conservative than the Conservative party is, we believe in smaller government, less taxes, deregulating, we believe in putting the power back into the hands of the people through a free vote system.”

Progressive Conservative Craig Leonard said the decisions around the leaders’ debates were taken by the party.

But he said Austin’s accusation that Alward didn’t want to debate others was “ridiculous.”

Leonard said voters should be able to hear from the parties that have a chance of forming government.

He also pointed to the alliance’s poor showing in the polls.

“What is the situation of your democracy when a party that doesn’t even register one point in popular support gets 20 per cent of air time in important debates,” he added.

In the last Corporate Research Associates poll in June, the Liberals were picked by 53 per cent of decided voters followed by the Tories with 28 per cent, the NDP with 16 per cent, the Greens with three per cent and the People’s Alliance with zero per cent.

About the Author

Daniel McHardie

Digital senior producer

Daniel McHardie is the digital senior producer for CBC New Brunswick. He joined in 2008. He also co-hosts the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.