Canada's Green party is sitting in fifth place in recent polls, but it's been getting first-party attention after its leader was denied a seat at the televised debate table this week.
The Greens, under leader Elizabeth May, have done a masterful job garnering support for their plight to be part of the debates, particularly among social media enthusiasts, and more recently from former Tory prime minister Joe Clark, who called it "unjustified and undemocratic".
The arguments for inclusion have been well articulated including the fact the party has almost one million voters, candidates in every riding and it's a national party
The arguments for exclusion have been meek. That is, until this morning when respected CBC political panelist and Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert wrote a column Thursday arguing against May's participation.
Hébert repeats the TV consortium's argument that only parties with seats in the House of Commons should be able to take part. She also introduces several new arguments:
- The Greens are still seen as a 'one-issue' party and that issue, the environment, has fallen off the federal radar.
- May's decision to focus her efforts on her personal campaign in B.C., without a seat in Parliament, weakens her national stature.
- In the 2008 debate, May spent more time criticizing the Conservatives rather than extolling the virtues of her own party.
There are other dissenting voices in the debate as well. While Vancouver Sun columnist Barbara Yaffe would like to see "at least one skirt at the table", May's party isn't really on the national political radar.
Despite the ultimate outcome, not being invited to participate in the leadership debates might be the best thing that happened to the Green party.
The debate controversy has catapulted it, at least temporarily, to the front pages of the national newspapers and is the 'topic du jour' of social media.
Kieran Green, director of communications for the Green party, said its website experienced an incredible 63 per cent jump in visitors the day after the debate announcement.
It could be the best free publicity available.