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With election reform on the ballot, should smaller parties be included in the political debates?

September 12, 2007 | 12:50 PM

The Green Party of Ontario has launched an online petition to pressure broadcasters to include party leader Frank de Jong in the televised leaders' debate on Sept. 20. The Greens won 2.8 per cent of the popular vote in the 2003 provincial election.

If voters choose electoral reform in the Oct. 10 referendum, that 2.8 per cent could translate into as many as 13 MPPs in the future, according to de Jong. As a result, he says the Green Party should be placed on "equal footing" with the other major parties and included in the public debates now.

Green Party leaders have been invited to participate in televised debates in other provinces, notably B.C. in 2005 and P.E.I. in 2007.

The Ontario debate currently includes Liberal Dalton McGuinty, Progressive Conservative John Tory and NDP Howard Hampton, the leaders of the parties with legislative representation.

But, with electoral reform also on the ballot this time, should smaller parties have a stronger role in the campaign and its important debates? How would you draw the line?

« What matters to you | Main | Should Ontario fund faith-based schools? »

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Comments: (37)

James B (Ottawa) wrote:

The threshold idea is not bad but what worries me is that less than 14,000 votes in one riding can get a single party into the legislature but 126,000 votes across the whole province can't get a party into one debate.

Posted September 25, 2007 12:20 PM

James B (Ottawa) wrote:

I agree with Sam Archer (Toronto), in that the standard should be all parties fielding a candidate in each riding should be included in the Leader's debate.

This next comment may not apply specifically to Ontario but I always found it odd that I would have to watch the Bloc leader on TV even though I can't vote for a Bloc candidate. Meanwhile I can vote for a Green candidate as can any other Canadian, but I can't get a chance to compare their party's leaders to the others.

If a party is running a full slate of candidates then that party's leader should be in the debate. That should be the measure.

Posted September 25, 2007 12:11 PM

Scogny (Toronto) wrote:

As a staunch proponent of proportional representation, surely Mr de Jong would have agreed to keeping each party's on-air time proportional to its popular support in the last election?

He'd just have to make sure he made good use of his two and a half minutes.

Posted September 21, 2007 11:02 AM

Julien Lamarche (Ottawa_Ontario) wrote:

The rule should be like this:

Any party that in the last election:
- Obtained at least 5% of the vote
- Is among the top 5 parties percentage wise
... must be included.

If there is a new party that is polling in the top 5, then the average result in the polls since the last election are used instead of the last election.

The consortium can play arround with the thresholds in the above rules. But for 7 editors (or their bosses) to decide subjectively who gets in the debate and who is not is showing contempt for democracy.

Posted September 20, 2007 09:06 PM

Jackie Johnston (Toronto) wrote:

John Tory says all faiths have the right to the same education. I thought all faiths were allowed to attend Public schools. Are my children intitled to attend other faith baised schools?

Posted September 20, 2007 07:02 PM

Kent (Belmont_ON) wrote:

Let Frank in! While he doesn't already have a seat, the TV network execs can clearly see polling that shows an unprecedented 1 in 10 are prepared to vote for his party. When the same execs were determining which shows to air this fall, unmet public demand was likely their only criteria!

Posted September 20, 2007 05:46 PM

Wilson Bant (Toronto) wrote:

5% or one seat should be the requirement.

The Greens in 2003 did not break 3% and in 1999 did not break 1% in 1999, till they can show some consistency in their support they are nothing more then a protest vote in the best context and this decades Confederation of Regions Party in the worst.

Earn a seat, continue to gain support, and go from there.

The Reform party was not handed a seat at the debate till they had an MP in Ottawa, and I fail to see why the Green's or any other fringe party should be granted any special privileges till they get someone elected or get a significant amount of support for voters.

Posted September 20, 2007 04:16 PM

A.Lex (Markham_ON) wrote:

Yes, the Greens should be included in this debate! They are the only ones who make sense in the "faith schools" funding issue. This is the MOST fundemental issue for the future of our province. We need pragmatic, reasonable youth with clear minds not clouded with stone-age superstition and dogma. The only way to achieve this is to create ONE, secular, accessible to ALL children school system. Leave religion to consenting parents and churches/mosques/synagogues. I do not wish to waste my taxes on cildren's indoctrination.

Posted September 20, 2007 03:19 PM

Jason Strickland (Toronto_ON) wrote:

Of course the green party should be included. I'm sick of big media essentially deciding who we can vote for!

Posted September 20, 2007 01:39 PM

Melanie (Toronto) wrote:

Of course the leader of the Ontario Green Party should have been included. What kind of a "democracy" are we residing in??? Well... truth be told... not much of one at all when a referendum for the people to voice their opinions has to have a "super majority" (60%+) to pass. Isn't democracy supposed to be 50+1%??? I guess our "politicians" have forgotten the definition of "democracy" since they are now so co-opted by the corporations... who cares what the people they are supposed to be representing want. No wonder there is such apathy toward the whole corrupt system.

Posted September 20, 2007 12:39 PM

Marc Kobayashi (Markham_ON) wrote:

On the point of MMP, I agree with Chris. Nominated party candidates are still elected by the will of the people, with the difference that every vote counts under Mixed Member Proportional.

Party candidates who have done little for a party, and do not fit well into a party platform will be listed low on lists. As most people vote for a party, and then a leader, this should result in more MPPs who better represent the will of the people.

For Party candidates who have done little for a party, do not fit well into a party platform, but do have strong support in a riding will still be voted in under the FPTP portion of the MMP ballot.

Thus under MMP, there will be more MPPs who better represent the will of the people with more proportionality to the parties the people support. I'll be voting Yes to MMP.

Posted September 20, 2007 11:37 AM

Marc Kobayashi (Markham_ON) wrote:

With faith-based school funding being the hot election issue, it is appalling that the Green Party has been excluded from the televised debates.

Two-thirds of the responses on the "YOUR VIEW - Should Ontario fund faith-based schools?" are expressing opinions that are in line with the Green Party platform, and I suspect most of them don't even know it. Four-fifths of the responses on this page so far are expressing opinions that would have the Green Party participate in debates.

I commend the honourable city of Mississauga for having the courage to air their own televised debates which included Green Party leader Frank de Jong. I will not be watching the televised leaders debates on CBC, but rather Frank de Jong's live responses online.

The CBC and the other broadcasters have done a great disservice to democracy by excluding the Greens. I can only hope this transparently disgraceful choice will be reflected upon, and corrected for next time.

Posted September 20, 2007 11:35 AM

Chris Tindal (Toronto) wrote:

John, I know this is off-topic but you've said some inaccurate things that need to be corrected.

1. Italy does not use MMP.
2. New Zealand's citizens are overwhelmingly glad they switched to MMP.
3. Under MMP, everyone is elected, no one is appointed. Parties continue to nominate their candidates (just as they do now), but voters decide who gets in and who stays out. To suggest otherwise is simply untrue.

Posted September 20, 2007 10:39 AM

Andrew Stewart (Hamilton) wrote:

I am appalled by the decision of Canada's top network executives to exclude Green Party of Ontario leader Frank de Jong. I am not even a green party voter but I do believe that they have something to bring to the table in the debate.

With their support surging to very significant levels (all while having to overcome a virtual media black out of their party and its ideas) it is nothing less than a subversion of the democratic process to exclude this party. Given the landmark referendum on proportional representation in this upcoming election it is even more important to include the greens in the political debate.

We've heard plenty from the old line parties that have the most to lose if proportional representation is adopted, why are we not being allowed to hear from the party with the most to gain from it?

Posted September 20, 2007 10:04 AM

john (Ottawa) wrote:

This new electorial system has been in place in other countries like Italy and New Zealand and now they want it removed. What can happen is policy can be changed by people not elcected but appointed. What is the major thing most politicians say about our senate, and judges? They are appointed not elected. You think we have problems now regarding politicians, wait till they have appointed members who we did not vote for.


As for party allowed to take part in debates, win a seat and you should be allowed.



Posted September 20, 2007 09:44 AM

Jamie (Toronto) wrote:

I was in disbelief when I heard that the broadcasters had decided to exclude the Greens yet again! Their popularity and visibility across Canada has risen dramatically in the last few years and obviously they're being seen as a 'threat' to the boring old party lines we've been having to suffer for years.

They are running in all ridings, have excellent things to say on all issues, give fresh approaches to our government, and deserve a voice. It's no surprise they've not had a candidate elected yet when the media is doing its best to not let anyone hear much about them or their views, and our method of voting ensures the 600,000+ votes they received last election go nowhere. That is a significant amount of support from people who deserve and have the right to hear de Jong debate with those we already know everything about.

It's such a shame that this is happening in a country that claims to be a democracy.

Posted September 20, 2007 09:31 AM

Lanny (Guelph) wrote:

The "official" reason that the Green Party is excluded is because they do not have an elected member at this time. Think about that for a second. We're not voting only for the people who are already in, we're voting for who's coming next!

So, yes, the Green Party should have a chance to debate, since they have registered candidates in enough ridings to form a government (mathematically speaking).

Posted September 20, 2007 08:42 AM

Lise Naish (Kitchener) wrote:

I do think that the Green Party should be included in the debate. The networks, including the CBC, leave themselves open to accusations of bias; they appear to support only the "top" three parties.

Most news reports about the campaigns only mention those same 3 parties. And yet, with very little news coverage, the Greens are closely behind the NDP in the latest polls.

Posted September 20, 2007 08:25 AM

John Sankey (Ottawa) wrote:

If a party has never elected even a single member to the provincial legislature, they shouldn't waste our time on a leaders' debate. Only potential leaders should be there.

Posted September 20, 2007 07:42 AM

David Visser (Kingston) wrote:

I do not see any reason why the Greens should not have a say. The NDP almost disappeared in the late 90's but they were at every debate. Are the other parties scared?

Posted September 20, 2007 07:29 AM

Mike Livngston (Windsor_ON) wrote:

It's clear that a significant portion of the electorate in Ontario (and the rest of Canada, for that matter) are fed up with the "meet the new boss - same as the old boss" routine.

However, the established parties, and the media and corporate whores who promote them, will have to be brought kicking and screaming to this reality.
The sooner the better, in my view.

Posted September 20, 2007 07:22 AM

Jennifer Murray (Grand_Bend_Ontario) wrote:

Absolutely! The extreme arrogance of not only the three big parties, but the CBC, who are hosting this debate, should assume the voting people don't want to hear from the Green Party has made my decision for me.

Frankly, I, and many people I talk to are sick of the big nasty machines who spend huge dollars to try to destroy eachother. They behave like children who've never grown up and will do anything to get their way.

We've out grown you! They have all disappointed us. I will be voting Green!

Posted September 20, 2007 07:13 AM

Peter Bird (University_of_Waterloo) wrote:

Not allowing the Green party to participate in the televised debate is stifling their right as party on the rise to be on an equal footing with the larger ones. Keeping the same political parties on the televised debate will just promote stagnancy in our system. Sign the petition at www.letfrankin.ca

Posted September 19, 2007 03:12 PM

Paul (Unionville) wrote:

The debate is a televised program and the rules are made up by the broadcast corporations and the parties themselves subject to the rules of Elections Ontario. It isn't in the interest of any of the three main parties to include the Greens. The shame is that the broadcast corporations didn't include the Green party over the objections of the main parties.

I, for one, won't be watching the debate as a result of the exclusion of the Green party.

Posted September 18, 2007 07:32 PM

Kathie Nunno (Owen_Sound_Ontario) wrote:

I support the smaller parties participating in the debates, especially as the main parties are proving unreliable in keeping their campaign promises. It's all about accountability!

Posted September 18, 2007 08:05 AM

Douglas Connors (Ottawa_ON) wrote:

I agree that smaller parties, such as the Greens, should be included in debates. That said, I also believe in a threshold.

Otherwise, we get useless debates with 9 candidates as we are seeing in the US primary race.

I believe that current rules state that the party must have won at least one seat AND have a certain percentage of the overall vote (at least I am more certain of it being the case federally), but I may be wrong on that.

I would make it an either/or proposition, even if it meant raising the percentage of vote a tad.

It seems to me that when a party consistently is polling at more than 5%, it should be included. The Greens are usually around 8% nationally, and according to Decima, they are at 11% in Ontario.

That should be considered more than enough.

Posted September 14, 2007 02:07 PM

Jack Cox (OakvilleOntario) wrote:

Yes to including the Green Party, but no on anyone else unless they hit a certain threshold of voting percentage in polls such as 7%

Posted September 13, 2007 03:40 PM

Marc Kobayashi (Markham_ON) wrote:

I would like to thank you for placing the Referendum link on the "Ontario Votes 2007" main mage so quickly.

Now if you could also change your mind on my other issue, and let Frank de Jong participate in the leaders' debate, I would be extremely grateful, and rescind my previous comments.

Posted September 13, 2007 02:40 PM

Chris (Waterloo) wrote:

More cooks in the kitchen, thats exactly what we need in Canadian politics...

Posted September 13, 2007 12:11 PM

Sam Archer (Toronto) wrote:

Given that leaders' debates are broadcast province-wide, participation should be limited to those parties fielding candidates in most (or better yet, all) ridings across the province. This would cull out the regional independent candidates while recognizing the smaller parties seeking province-wide support.

Posted September 13, 2007 10:54 AM

Bob Parry (Mississauga) wrote:

Ontario, and Canada as a nation, has changed dramatically since the creation of our electoral system. We have people from all over the world, from all walks of life, from many different religions and ideologies. Yet, we are governed mainly by white Canadian men from a select and narrow ideological perspective. The demographic of our nation and province demand that we expand to include the diversity of opinions and beliefs of Canadians -- all Canadians -- not just the minority that actually get to rule. My opinion is that a political party that fields candidates in a majority of ridings in an election should be represented in the debate.

Posted September 13, 2007 08:37 AM

Ron (Ottawa) wrote:

Depends on what you want out of the debates -If your primary objective is information, the debate format (as it is usually constructed) is of little value; you will not hear anything you couldn't have learned from the party platforms, news, press releases, speeches etc during the campaign so having any and all parties represented is just a larger group wasting your time.

For me, I watch the debates to observe the two leaders who are most likely to be the next PM or Premier - How do they handle themselves? Are they quick to grasp a point and respond intelligently? Do they provide thoughful responses? etc.

Having third or forth tier parties there only interfers with the pace and cuts into the time available to analyse and assess the two with a shot at the top job. - Have a debate with all the registered parties for information purposes if that is what people want but also have a debate solely between the top two contenders (top three if there is a reasonable expectation any of the three could win). Baring this two debate method, limit the participants to the leaders of official parties in the house. You want on the stage - earn it - get some seats.

Posted September 13, 2007 12:54 AM

Eric James (Windsor_ON) wrote:

I think that small parties such as the Green Party should be allowed into the Leadership Debates. For two reasons.

First of all, specific to Ontario, there is a question of whether or not our means of electing our representatives should be changed. This change will in principle bring about changes in the make up of the assembly and specifically give more seats to the Green Party and other 'fringe' parties. For that reason alone the Green Party, at least, should be allowed to take part in the debate and explain to Ontario voters what kind of role they would play in a parliament that would have a larger Green voice.

Secondly, there are gains being made by the Green Party and they have a vast amount of information that should be brought to the debate. In the context of the last federal election the Green Party had a whole platform together that had insight on a vast list of issues that matter to Canadians. This provincial election is no exception.

I am a Liberal but I would love to see more insight and issues being brought forward during the campaign and specifically during the debates.

Posted September 13, 2007 12:10 AM

M Murphy (Brampton) wrote:

I think there should be established criteria on who eligible to participate in the main Leaders Debate. Just because you like the party doesn't mean it should be included in the main debate, even if they are championing the issue de jour.

Whatever the threshold is will have to apply to other parties that come down the road as well in subsequent elections.

I don't have anything against the Greens, but lets face it, they haven't elected a single MP or MPP/MLA anywhere in the country. Which means we will have to go by opinion polls, which is fine, but be prepared to apply the same courtesy to other fringe parties as well.

Posted September 12, 2007 08:21 PM

Roy Meidinger (OrtonOntario) wrote:

I'm surprised and dismayed that the Green Party was excluded from the debate. I'm not sure if the other parties are worried or if the networks are now deciding electoral policy.

Posted September 12, 2007 05:39 PM

Marc Kobayashi (MarkhamON) wrote:

"To find out what people think about the Ontario referendum being held a month from today, the Toronto Star stopped some 50 people at Yonge and Bloor Sts. Just one person knew about it." (Toronto Star - Sep 10, 2007)

How about placing a link to "Ontario referendum 2007" on the "Ontario Votes 2007" main page, instead of it being hidden somewhere on the "Features" page?

It's already bad enough when the Environment & Education are turning into the top election concerns, and then the CBC is involved in denying Green Party Leader Frank De Jong from participating in the Leaders Debates. I had higher expectations from the CBC to champion a change from our old and failing democratic system, but you are sadly disappointing. You have become part of the problem instead of the solution by shrugging off the responsibility of educating the masses through non-bias media.

Posted September 12, 2007 05:37 PM

Royal (Kingston) wrote:

Of course the Green Party should be included. The party is becoming increasingly significant in Canadian politics with a message that is significantly different than those of the established parties.

I have grown increasingly bored with the same old rhetoric spewed by the 3 main parties and have welcomed the fresh new ideas I have occasionally heard from the Greens.

No doubt the main party leaders don't want to include the Green Party because they fear that more people would be like me an vote for this alternative if their message was actually heard.

Posted September 12, 2007 01:20 PM

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