Manitoba Greens petition to get in debates

The Green Party of Manitoba is taking action to ensure that its leader, James Beddome, is included in the upcoming televised debates.

“In the interests of democracy and the opportunity to have all perspectives heard, we are asking that the chief electoral officer involve Elections Manitoba in assuring a fair and level playing field by requesting that the leader of the Green Party of Manitoba be permitted to participate in the televised debate,” their website states.

The party will also be submitting the petition to members of the local media.
Beddome said he felt Manitobans would be losing out if they weren’t able to hear “the different perspective the Green Party has to offer” during the televised debates.

“That’s what’s so important, because I think if Manitobans heard what we had to say, a lot more Manitobans would vote Green,” he said.

The Manitoba Greens have also enlisted the help of federal party leader Elizabeth May, who spoke at the University of Winnipeg last Wednesday evening, in their push to be included in the debates. May was initially excluded from the televised leader debates during the 2008 federal election, but let back in due to public protest.

In the 2011 federal election, “it was the parties and the media who worked together to keep me out,” she said.

“I’ve seen how undemocratic it is to keep the Greens out of the debates and I’m certainly supporting James [Beddome] and other parties provincially in their campaigns to get in the debates.”

While addressing a packed crowd at the U of W, May argued that by keeping the Greens out of the upcoming debates, there would be a lack of attention paid to many issues concerning Manitobans, such as food security, water issues and sustainability.

“Once I was kept out of the [federal election] leaders debates, guess what? Climate change wasn’t an issue. What we were doing in Libya wasn’t an issue. Amazing how many issues didn’t come up because I was excluded at the federal level,” she said.

However, a spokesperson for Elections Manitoba explained that they would have no jurisdiction over whether Beddome is included in the televised debates or not.
“We have five registered parties in Manitoba and they’re all treated equally from this office, and it’s beyond our mandate to police any debates,” explained Mary Skanderbeg, manager of Elections Operations.

There is only one section of the Elections Finances Act that gives Elections Manitoba jurisdiction over the actions of the media, Skanderbeg explained, which addressed the amount publications can charge for advertising from political parties.

“That’s the only part of the act that addresses anything about the media,” she said.

Beddome explained the party is arguing that by not including him in the debates, the NDP, Progressive Conservatives and Liberal Party would be receiving a donation in kind in the form of free advertising from the local media, which he argues would be in violation of the Elections Finances Act.

“Our basic position would be is that if we’re running in more than half of the ridings and could conceivably form government, then to not include us in the debates is in effect a donation in kind of free advertising to the other parties,” he said.

As of the Sept. 13 deadline, the Greens are running in 32 of 57 — or just over half — of the province’s 57 ridings.

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