Opinion: why the Green Party deserves to participate in Ontario election leaders debates

Media groups are preserving an outdated idea that there are only three real parties in Ontario

Let’s be honest. Despite the relentless 24/7 campaigning that will take place during the Ontario election over the next month, many Ontarians only have the bandwidth to make a decision based on what they see and hear in televised leaders debates. And they deserve to hear from the Green Party.

We received more than 233,000 votes in the last provincial election, just under five per cent of the total ballots cast. That’s enough to make us qualify for per-vote public funding like the other main parties. But because media executives make decisions about who gets a seat at leaders debates, our voice won’t be part of tonight’s first debate hosted by CityNews, or other debates being planned. It’s undemocratic and it’s wrong.

Doug Ford’s leaked video about carving up the Greenbelt for developers is sure to be a topic of discussion tonight, and yet the party that has arguably spoken out most on the need to defend our water, farmland and greenspace won’t get a word in.  

More than 20,000 Ontarians want us there. They have signed the petition at fairdebates.ca and they have joined the campaign to get #MikeAtTheMic. Both Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath have welcomed my inclusion in leaders debates.

But the decision is not up to them. It’s not even up to you. It’s up to Elections Ontario, and it’s up to CityNews and the Ontario Broadcasters Partnership (which consists of CBC, CHCH, CPAC, CTV, Global News, and TVO) that seem intent on cutting out Ontario’s fourth party.

What the media groups are doing is preserving an outdated idea that there are only three real parties in Ontario. That might have been true in the past. It’s not true anymore. It’s not true in New Brunswick or PEI or BC, where Greens were elected after making debate appearances. If you want an example of the power a smaller party can wield with a handful of seats, look no further than Andrew Weaver’s Greens in BC.

What you won’t hear in Monday’s debate is how we’ll stand up to the nuclear lobby and hold the line against big developers. How we’ll put people and planet first and be honest about how we’re going to pay for it.

Ours is a plan to leap into the new economy with clean tech and a real plan for a 100 per cent renewable energy future. Ours is a plan to cut the red tape that is keeping people in poverty through a Basic Income Guarantee for all.

The debates will come and go. But what ultimately matters is your vote. And the only wasted vote is the one you don’t believe in.

Mike Schreiner is leader of the Green Party of Ontario.

news@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto

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