Ontario election 2014: Greens' Mike Schreiner feels shut out of debate
Party leader complains broadcast consortium chose 'mud-slinging scandals' over debate
The leader of the Green Party of Ontario is voicing his displeasure about being left out of the televised Ontario leaders debate.
“I guess that the entertainment value of mud-slinging over scandals past and empty promises about the days to come is greater than what I have to offer,” Mike Schreiner said in a media release Tuesday. “All I’ve got is honesty, integrity, and a set of policy initiatives that I know would be good for Ontario.”
- Ontario Green Party says their ideas are what's worth your vote
- Ontario Greens want Catholic, public school boards merged
- Green Party leader hopes for breakthrough in Guelph
- Ontario Votes 2014: Complete election coverage
Ontario’s major party leaders face off tonight at 6:30 p.m. The debate can be seen on CBC TV and online and heard on CBC Radio One.
Schreiner is a candidate in Guelph, where he’s trying to supplant Education Minister Liz Sandals.
The Green Party is fielding a full slate of 107 candidates.
The party was also the first to release a platform.
“One of our platform demands is that we want to make sure the rules are fair and are equitably applied,” Schreiner said. “I see all three parties are able to put their self-interest before fair and transparent rules.”
The Green platform includes merging the public and Catholic school boards, lowering payroll taxes for small businesses and getting commuters home faster by creating a dedicated transit fund for infrastructure, among other things.
“People all the time tell me, ‘Mike, politics is broken. I’m sick of the three status quo,’” Schreiner told host Rita Celli Wednesday on CBC Radio's Ontario Today. “If you’re sick of the politics as usual, you’re sick of the status quo, the gimmicks, the scandals, the boondoggles, there is an alternative and that is the Green Party.
“Vote for the change you want. If you don’t vote for the future you want, you’re never going to get it,” he said.
It’s not the parties that decide which leaders participate in the debate. The broadcast consortium organizing the debate (which includes the CBC) decides on whether to allow the Greens to take part.
Two weeks ago, CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said the consortium was unanimous in deciding to invite leaders of the three parties with representation in the Ontario Legislature, "one of the key criteria in determining who should be included in the debate."
"It was a decision motivated by wanting to provide Ontarians with an opportunity to see the leaders who sit in the House debate the issues," Thompson said.
Cheryl Collier, a political science professor at the University of Windsor, called the question of whether to include the Green Party in the debate “a thorny question.”
“I understand the reason why the consortium left the Green party out. They are the ones responsible for having to wear the ratings,” Collier said.
Green Party leaders in other provinces have been at the table during televised debates.
However, Collier said the Green Party has more cachet and is stronger in B.C., for example.
In 2008, Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May was part of the national leaders debate. She was initially shut out of the debate, even though the party had a sitting MP, Blair Wilson. Wilson was elected as a Liberal, left the party and sat as an independent MP before joining the Greens while Parliament was still in session.
The Green Party of Canada was ready to go to court if a consortium of television networks didn’t include May in the debates. The leaders of the NDP and the Liberal Party eventually asked that May be included in the debates that year.
“I’m not sure inclusion and non-inclusion made a difference at all,” Collier said.
Collier called the 2008 five-person federal leaders debate “a coffee chat.” She said the broadcast consortium may still cringe about that televised debate, which she described as “one of the worst debates we’ve seen on television.”
Collier said the more participants there are, the more the debate is “watered down.”
May wasn’t invited to participate in the 2011 leaders debates. She went on to win her seat in that election to become the first elected Green MP.
“We have always maintained we just want to know what the rules are,” Schreiner said. “It upsets our members and supporters that they don’t know why we aren’t allowed in.”
Green Party spokesperson Candice Lepage says that more than 8,000 people have signed the "Let Mike Speak" online petition.
A second online petition, started by what Lepage describes as "an independent supporter," has more than 4,000 signatures.
Collier said the Green Party of Ontario is not yet seen as being a serious electoral player.
"But it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg question. If you are not seen as being worthy enough to be part of the debate, how are you to be seen as a playing on a level playing field with the other three parties?" she asked.
Tonight's Ontario election leaders debate
The leaders' debate, hosted by journalist Steve Paikin, begins at 6:30 p.m. ET and runs until 8 p.m. ET.
- Watch it live on CBC News Network and CBC Television.
- Listen live on CBC Radio One (Ontario only).
- Watch livestreaming video online and take part in our live blog at cbc.ca/ontariovotes.
- Get a debate wrap up and analysis on CBC Television News at 11 and online at cbc.ca/ontariovotes.
- Rate the leaders performance after the debate at cbc.ca/votecompass