May not welcome in leaders' debates: networks
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"This is an unacceptable, outrageous, high-handed attempt to shut down democracy in this country," May told CBC News.
May said the decision was made by a group of people with no set rules or criteria.
"I’m really in shock. I thought this matter was settled and I think most Canadians thought it was settled."
She questioned how a party like the Bloc Québécois — which only fields candidates in Quebec — can be included, but her party, with candidates in each riding, is shut out of the debate.
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The broadcast consortium is made up of representatives from CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV, Global and TVA.
Spokesman Marco Dubé confirmed the group decided unanimously that a formal proposal will only be made to the leaders of recognized parties in the House of Commons — Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois.
"The representation of parties in the House was one important factor, but we're not going to give more information on the other criteria," Dubé said.
"This is a programming decision. The Broadcasting Act is clear: the decision on the leader's debates is a broadcast consortium decision."
The consortium will be presenting proposals on debate formats to the four parties this week, he said.
May was initially excluded from the debates in the 2008 election, but a public outcry forced other party leaders to agree to her participation.
She said Tuesday that she is "absolutely determined" to take part this time and would consider legal action. But she also called on Canadians to contact the broadcasters to allow her to participate.
Ignatieff wants 1-on-1 debate with Harper
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said he believes May should be included in the debate, but added he'd also like to have a one-on-one debate with Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.
The Conservative Party said it would accept the consortium's decision and believes May is "fully capable of arguing her own case."
Meanwhile, NDP campaign spokeswoman Kathleen Monk said that her party is "fine" with May being in the debate and that there should be clear criteria for who is allowed to participate.
"We believe in open debates that are based on consistent and understood rules," Monk said in a statement. "We support consistent criteria that outlines who is included and why.
"If certain leaders are not invited to participate, I think it is reasonable for them to know why."
May is running in the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, just outside Victoria, against Tory Gary Lunn, the Conservative government's minister of state for amateur sport.
With files from The Candian Press