As in 2008, the decision has been made to exclude Green Party leader Elizabeth May has from participating in the televised (and widely watched) English and French leaders’ debates, to be held on April 12th and 14th. The decision was made by a consortium of television broadcasters based on regulations established by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”). One of the key features of the CRTC rules is that broadcasters do not have to include the leaders of all political parties in election-related debates.
In 2008, after an enormous public outcry and the threat of legal action, the broadcasters backed down and allowed May to participate in the debates, thus setting the precedent for the inclusion of the Green Party Leader and for a leader of a party with no seats in the House of Commons. This time, though, the threat of legal action wasn’t enough and after it seemed Ms. May would not be allowed to participate, the Green Party filed an application for judicial review in the Federal Court of Appeal on March 31, 2011.
In Canada, just as in Ireland, broadcasters’ duties of fairness are often tested by smaller parties’ claims to participation in election events, such as leaders’ debates.