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ELECTION 2011: May not invited to leaders’ TV debates

Day 5: The news dominating the headlines today is the exclusion of Green party leader Elizabeth May from the leaders’ debates. No date has been set yet for the English and French language debates, but they usually occur about two weeks prior to election day, so likely April 18-19. Commentary also emerged on climate change, health care, the Enbridge pipeline, and the two wars Canada is now fighting.

COUNCIL OF CANADIANS: Climate and energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue writes, “With an election coming up, the Harper government’s failure to even come close to what is needed in terms of emission reduction commitments and investments in energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy, while continuing to support and lobby for the fossil fuel industry, needs to be exposed.” To read her full commentary, go to her blog at http://canadians.org/energyblog/?p=479.

MAY NOT INVITED TO LEADERS’ DEBATES: The National Post reports that on “Tuesday (the) five host broadcasters – CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV, Global and TVA – ‘unanimously decided they wanted to invite the four parties that have representatives in the House’ to participate in the debates.” Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said he supports the inclusion of May in the debates. An NDP spokesperson said it was up to “the consortium to decide the venue, format and participants…we think it would benefit the process to have clear criteria so that this matter is dealt with fairly.” It might be noted that if our electoral system were based on proportional representation, the Green party – with its 7 per cent popular vote in the 2008 election – would have 23 seats in the House of Commons and this wouldn’t be an issue. Incidentally, under proportional representation, the Conservatives would have 117 seats, not 143.

NDP TO RAISE HEALTH CARE: The Globe and Mail reports, “Canadians are about to hear a lot more from the New Democrats on the problems affecting the Canadian health care system. The party will devote the largest amount it has ever spent on advertising in its campaign history in the run-up to this election, and part of that money will be used to purchase television spots with a health-care message. ‘People are very concerned about health care. We are hearing it all across the country, the five million Canadians that don’t have family doctors. We’ve got lots of people who need home care and long-term care, and help with the price of prescription medicines,’ NDP leader Jack Layton said during a campaign stop in Kitchener, Ont.”

CANADA HEALTH ACCORD: The Vancouver Sun reports, “Some tough decisions are coming down the pipe in the next few years: Health transfers from the federal government to the provinces are growing six per cent per year under a deal that ends in 2013-14. Cutting that rate could spark a bitter war with the provinces.”

ENBRIDGE PIPELINE: The Globe and Mail reports, “The future of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway (pipeline project from northern Alberta to the West Coast) is riding on the success of Stephen Harper’s re-election campaign. …Both the Liberals and New Democrats have demanded the government impose a moratorium on oil tanker traffic in the Queen Charlotte Sound, near the proposed pipeline’s terminus in Kitimat, B.C., fearing the increased traffic could result in an environmentally devastating oil spill. Such a moratorium would effectively kill the project. …New Democratic Party MP Nathan Cullen – who represents the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding that includes Kitimat – is looking to turn the election campaign in his northern B.C. riding into a referendum on the Enbridge pipeline project. He said his constituents see little economic benefit for them, but considerable risk to the environment and an economy that depends on fishing and tourism.”

WAR NOT AN ELECTION ISSUE: Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom writes, “Like Libya today, Afghanistan never made it to the centre of any election campaign. No major party bothered to question Canada’s Kandahar deployment in the 2005-06 campaign. In 2008, Liberals and Conservatives conspired to make Afghanistan a non-issue. So, too, this time. Perhaps the politicians are right. Perhaps Canadians don’t care that their soldiers are sent off to battle in faraway places with so little thought. Ho-hum. Today Libya; tomorrow Iran. Who knows? Maybe Chad’s next. Still, it seems a curiously offhand way to deal with one of the most important actions a nation can undertake. The leaders spend more campaign time on tax-splitting.”

NO WORD FROM AFGHANISTAN: The Halifax Chronicle-Herald reports, “The federal government has restricted media interviews of officials in Afghanistan because of the election campaign, a move that one critic says hampers the public’s understanding of Canada’s mission in the war-torn country. …A spokesman for the Canadian International Development Agency (said Tim Martin, Canada’s top diplomat in Afghanistan) would not be granting interviews in the duration of the five-week election campaign. …Chris Waddell, a journalism professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, said any attempt at preventing dialogue with federal officials is a convenient excuse for Ottawa to avoid scrutiny of its efforts in Afghanistan, a subject that could become particularly sensitive as Canada nears the final days of the mission and questions about its success are raised. Waddell said officials paid by taxpayers in charge of programs funded by the public should be held to account, regardless of an election.”

TODAY’S POLL: Quebec has 75 seats in the House of Commons. The Montreal Gazette reports, “If the polls are to be believed, the Liberals are in big trouble in Quebec. …In the Quebec segment of Léger’s national poll, the Liberals were in third place at 18 per cent, behind the Bloc at 39 per cent, with the Conservatives at 22 per cent, and the NDP at 16 per cent. In the CROP Quebec-only poll, the Liberals were in fourth place at 11 per cent, behind the Bloc at 38 per cent, the Conservatives at 23 per cent and the NDP at 20 per cent.”

WHERE THE LEADERS ARE TODAY: CBC reports, “Conservative Leader Stephen Harper kicks off the morning with an event with local candidates at Hydroform Solutions in Brampton, Ont. Harper is then scheduled to hold a rally with local candidates at Des Sources Secondary School in Montreal Wednesday evening. New Democrat Leader Jack Layton is scheduled to spend the day in Ontario, starting with a morning announcement at The Kitchen Studio in Oshawa. Layton is then expected to tour the MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Plant in Brampton, followed by a campaign rally at Wychwood Barns in Toronto on Wednesday evening. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is the only candidate hitting the West Coast on Wednesday. He is scheduled to begin his morning in Vancouver, where he also campaigned Tuesday afternoon. Ignatieff is expected to make an announcement at the Medicine Shoppe in the morning, before travelling to Winnipeg for a townhall discussion at the Franco Manitoban Cultural Centre.”