Politics

Trudeau cites his daughter as a reason for Elizabeth May to join debate

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has been excluded from the Munk leaders' debate in Toronto next week, just as she was excluded from a similar event in Calgary last week. Justin Trudeau says May should be allowed into all debates, partly for the sake of his six-year-old daughter, who saw only men on stage last week.

All-male debates send the wrong message, Liberal leader says

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is pressing the Munk debate organizers to allow her in to the event next Monday. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press )

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau offered moral support to the Green Party on Monday, saying its leader Elizabeth May should join the Munk leaders' debate next week, partly for the sake of his six-year-old daughter, Ella-Grace.

May has not been invited to the Munk debate, and was excluded from the Globe and Mail leaders' debate last week in Calgary, which was an all-male affair, including the moderator.

"On a personal level, my daughter watched my debate on last Thursday night, and it kind of bugs me," Trudeau said in Toronto.

"There wasn't a woman among them. I think yet another reason why Elizabeth May should be in the Munk debate, and in all debates."

Justin Trudeau waves to the crowd of supporters as he holds his son Xavier, while his wife, Sophie Grégoire, holds their daughter, Ella-Grace, in 2013. Trudeau says he wants Green Leader Elizabeth May to be part of the leaders' debates so Ella-Grace can see a woman on stage. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
The Green Party is pressuring the Munk organizers to allow her participation, in part by asking the Canada Revenue Agency to audit the Aurea Foundation, the charity that finances the Munk debates.

Charities are forbidden by law from engaging in partisan activities, and the Greens have obtained a legal opinion suggesting that the exclusion of May amounts to partisanship.

Rudyard Griffiths, president of the Aurea Foundation and Munk debate organizer, has said only parties with 12 or more members in the last House of Commons are being invited to the event, following rules set out in the Parliament of Canada Act, which sets 12 seats as the minimum for recognizing a party in the House.

The Greens' lawyer, however, says the Income Tax Act, which governs charities, makes no mention of the Parliament of Canada Act, and so May must be allowed to participate or Aurea should lose its charitable status.

No responses

Green spokesman Julian Morelli said Monday the party has had no responses yet from letters sent Friday to Griffiths and to the Canada Revenue Agency. The agency told CBC News it cannot comment because of privacy provisions of the Income Tax Act. Griffiths has not responded to requests from CBC News for comment.

Trudeau, who attended the Calgary debate and is confirmed for the Munk debate, would not comment on the legal arguments, but said May should be at every debate.

"I was disappointed, and I have said it many times, that Elizabeth May is not being included in all these the debates," he said when asked about the Munk controversy.

"She should be in the Munk debate, because of all of the different issues facing Canada and the world.… She should have been in the economics debates in Calgary."

David Walmsley, editor in chief of the Globe and Mail, left, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper pose for photos before the all-male leaders' debate on Sept. 17. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated the Conservative Party's stance that organizers are entitled to set the criteria for debates and parties then decide whether they want to attend. The Conservatives have agreed to five leaders' debates, compared with two in the last election, said Kory Teneycke.

Harper was to be a no-show at Monday night's women's issues event in Toronto, where the other leaders are sending videotaped interviews.

"We've received dozens of invitations," Teneycke said. "We can't do them all.… and we haven't really made comment on those we haven't chosen."

"I'm curious why this [women's issues event] particularly stands out of the dozens of dozens of debate requests," he said.

Morelli said the Green Party is considering other options for the Munk debate, including again using Twitter to allow May to send video and text messages through the evening, as she did for the Calgary event last week.

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