In the Globe today, Jeffrey Simpson seems a little off his rocker as he talks about early preparations for the televised leaders' debates for the next election.
Last election, there was a large public outcry as Green Elizabeth May, with the support of the Liberal leader Stephane Dion and many media commentators (including Simpson), pushed successfully for to be included in the debates. Resisting against her inclusion were the television networks, as well as Conservative Stephen Harper and the NDP's Jack Layton, who threatened to boycott were May included.
The NDP confirmed late Monday that Layton had said he wouldn't attend the debate were May allowed to participate, on the grounds that she has already effectively endorsed Dion for prime minister.
"We have someone else who wants to be in the debate who actually supports the leader of one of those [other] parties," Layton said of May.
"I don't agree with that position. I think what we want to do is take on the same old same old, which is the Conservative and Liberal governments in power year after year."Finally, public pressure forced Harper and Layton to relent and May was included.
Now, though, Simpson has had a change of heart. We need a new formula for determining who gets to take part, he says:
Set the following criteria. Leaders whose parties get at least 15 per cent of the popular vote and/or whose parties have 50 seats (roughly 15 per cent) in the House of Commons can participate in the nationally televised debate in English in the main network.
The same criteria could be used in French. Leaders whose parties commanded 15 per cent of the vote (in Quebec) can participate in debates on the main channels; interviews would be reserved for the others.
That would, naturally, exclude the Green Party. Sorry, Elizabeth.
And depending on whether the "and" or the "or" is used in Simpson's example, the Greens might not be the only party excluded from Simpson's dream debates.
It could also exclude the NDP for they only meet half that rule, having gotten 18.2 per cent of the vote for 37 seats in 2008. And it would definitely exclude the BQ from the English-language debates as they fail on both measures, earning 9.97 per cent and, with 49 seats, falling one short.
The NDP would be out in Quebec too, having fallen short of Simpson's threshold with 12.18 per cent of the vote in 2008.
So, under Simpson's formula, the English debate would be Harper and Michael Ignatieff head-to-head, while Quebec would be Duceppe-Ignatieff-Harper. The other leaders would get an hour-long interview on a specialty network. Maybe they can reno a cottage with Mike Holmes or something.
I agree that the debate format has become lame. Personally, I think it would be sweet to watch Ignatieff mop the floor with Harper head-to-head. And there is a certain irony here, given that Layton pushed to hard to exclude May.
But excluding the NDP is ridiculous and I feel fairly confident in saying it would never happen. It can't without the agreement of the other parties, and they wouldn't agree to it for the backlash would be fierce. The backlash was bad enough when the NDP and Conservatives tried to exclude the Greens. It won't happen.
Let's look at improving the format, but let's not be ridiculous either. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers