Greens’ leader urges other parties to boycott French debate that excludes her

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Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has called for other party leaders to boycott an upcoming French-language debate that has excluded her.

In a statement Saturday, May said her “expectation of inclusion” in a leaders’ debate is “entirely legitimate.”

“The citizens of Quebec, and francophones across the country, deserve to have access to a full and fair debate that includes all leaders. Democracy — and fairness — demand it,” she said.

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Hosted by TVA and moderated by Pierre Bruneau, the French language debate — Face-à-Face 2019 — is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 2, between 8 and 10 p.m. TVA announced the debate on Friday. TVA Nouvelles called it the first chance to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau debate before this year’s election.

Other leaders confirmed for the debate are Andrew Scheer of the Conservative Party, the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, and Yves-François Blanchet of the Bloc Québécois.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the 2019 federal leaders’ debate

“As for Elizabeth May of the Green Party and Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party, TVA’s management said it only invited leaders whose parties are represented in Quebec and who have already won seats in the province,” a translation of an article on TVA Nouvelles said.

TVA Group’s vice-president of communications Véronique Mercier said in an email Monday night that TVA has “invited the leaders of the parties that have elected representatives from Quebec.”

“TVA Nouvelles will of course provide coverage of other parties and their programs, on-air interviews included,” she said.

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The Greens are calling it a violation of the”democratic principle of full and fair debate on election issues” and demanding that TVA “respect the inclusion criteria established by the Leaders’ Debates Commission.”

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The Green Party currently holds two seats in the House of Commons. One seat was won in the 2015 general election. The other was won in a byelection in May. Both Green MPs are from B.C.

This is not the first time May has not been invited to an election debate. In 2015, she was excluded from at least three major election debates.

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“By excluding Elizabeth May from the debate, TVA is failing to provide citizens with a real portrait of their options in the upcoming federal election,” Green Party deputy leader Daniel Green said in the Saturday statement. “It’s even more disappointing given the intense interest in the climate emergency.”

The Greens have kicked off an online petition to let May into the debate, calling TVA’s decision “outrageous.”

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“After decades of pressure, the Green Party is now included in all English debates,” the petition says. “But now this major French network is making up its own rules and putting so much at stake.”

The latest Ipsos poll done exclusively for Global News shows that, in Quebec, the Greens were polling at about 7 per cent among decided and leaning voters. That was good for fifth place behind the NDP, which was polling at 15 per cent. The Ipsos poll, published Aug. 19, surveyed 187 Quebecers using an online survey.

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Global News has messaged the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, and the Conservatives, asking if May’s call for a boycott has affected their decision to participate in the debate.

As of Monday afternoon, the Conservative Party and the NDP had responded. The Tories said they had “nothing to add regarding the Green Party statement.”

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An NDP spokesman pointed out that Singh had said “Sure, why not” when asked earlier this week if May should be in the debate.

“I look forward to debating all leaders in the many debates (before) this election. It’s up to TVA for who they invite,” the emailed statement from Singh said.

The Leaders’ Debate Commission is also hosting two leaders’ debates next month in the lead-up to the election. Global News is a broadcaster included in this commission.

The commission’s debates — one in English, one in French — will take place Oct. 7 (English) and Oct. 10 (French) in Ottawa. All party leaders — Scheer, Singh, Trudeau, May, and Blanchet — are invited to these debates, except for Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada.

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The commission’s criteria for including party leaders in a debate are that they meet two out of the following three requirements:

1) Representation in the current House of Commons by a member elected under the party banner;

2) A sense that the party intends to run candidates in at least 90 per cent of electoral districts; and

3) The party’s candidates either garnered at least four per cent of valid votes in the last election or hold a “legitimate chance” of winning seats, based on polling data and at the discretion of the debates commissioner.

— With files by David Akin, Global News staff

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