Although there are usually a dozen or so political parties registered with Elections Canada at any given time, not all party leaders are invited to the debates. The stated criteria for inclusion have shifted over time with the maneuvering for political advantage, but the typical criteria set by the debate consortium has been that a political party needs to have representation in the House of Commons. Over the years, there have been at least three and as many as five, leaders at each such debate. Public criticism of the debates has emerged outlining that corporate media executives decide who is allowed to be heard in a public forum critical to deciding elected officials. Given the overlap between governments and corporations, there is a conflict of interest having corporate executives impac

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  • Although there are usually a dozen or so political parties registered with Elections Canada at any given time, not all party leaders are invited to the debates. The stated criteria for inclusion have shifted over time with the maneuvering for political advantage, but the typical criteria set by the debate consortium has been that a political party needs to have representation in the House of Commons. Over the years, there have been at least three and as many as five, leaders at each such debate. Public criticism of the debates has emerged outlining that corporate media executives decide who is allowed to be heard in a public forum critical to deciding elected officials. Given the overlap between governments and corporations, there is a conflict of interest having corporate executives impacting elections. There have been calls to have Elections Canada set up an impartial debates protocol. Following the 1988 federal election, after a decision of the Attorney General of Canada to stay a prosecution under the Broadcasting Act initiated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) against several Canadian television networks, at the instance of the CRTC, a private prosecution was instituted on behalf of the Green Party of Canada by former Chief Agent and Treasurer Greg Vezina against CBC, CTV and Global, claiming that these broadcasters had breached the Television Broadcasting Regulations 1987, because they had not included the Green Party and other accredited and registered small political party leaders in the leaders' debates during a federal general election and had failed to provide equitable time to them. In R. v. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation et al., [1993] 51 C.P.R.(3d), the Ontario Court of Appeal held that debates were not of a partisan political character. The Court believed that while the participants in a debate may very well be partisan, the program itself, because it presented more than one view, was not. The court therefore ruled that debates were not covered by the relevant section of the regulations and notwithstanding provisions of under the Canada Elections Act limiting, restricting and in many cases prohibiting contributions of political advertising and broadcasting, declared both acts to be 'a complete code' and therefore there was no requirement to provide any time at all for parties or candidates excluded from debates during election campaigns no matter how many candidates or parties were excluded so long as two or more were included in such programs. (Broadcasters and other media used the same reasoning to exclude commentators and representatives from smaller parties in news and public affairs panels and programs both during and in between elections in Canada.) The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada which refused to grant leave to appeal (without reasons as is the custom) in decision 23881 by Justices La Forest, Sopinka and Major JJ, released on May 6, 1994. Subsequently, the CRTC issued Public Notice CRTC 1995-44, Election-period broadcasting: Debates, which stated, In view of this judgment, the commission will no longer require that so-called "debates" programs feature all rival parties or candidates in one or more programs. In both the 1993 election and the 2000 election, Greg Vezina working as an independent producer, the Green Party and the Natural Law Party of Canada organized All Party Leaders' Debates which invited the leaders of all registered and accredited parties to participate. On both occasions the leaders of the major parties declined, but the leaders of the other smaller political parties participated. While all other members of the Election Broadcasting Consortium failed to broadcast the 1993 program after announcing they would, in both the 1993 and 2000 the one-hour debates were carried on CBC Newsworld and the debates and another hour of town hall questions and answers afterword on CPAC (English: Cable Public Affairs Channel and in French: La Chaîne d'affaires publiques par câble). The 2000 Debate was the first of its kind broadcast and archived on the Internet on the Democracy Channel website Prior to the 2008 election, the Green Party, which, from at least the 1997 election until 2008, was consistently the highest-polling party among those without a seat in Parliament, had unsuccessfully argued on several occasions for a role in the debates. Some commentators have questioned the rationale for allowing the Bloc Québécois to participate in the English-language debates, given that the Bloc does not contest any ridings outside the predominantly French-language province of Quebec, and garners little support from that province's anglophone residents. In the 1993 French-language debate, Reform Party leader Preston Manning opted to make only an opening statement, as he was only fluent in English at the time. However, as parties with seats in the House of Commons prior to the election, they qualify (or qualified) regardless of this criticism. In 2011, there was considerable controversy about the exclusion of Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who had participated in the 2008 debate. (en)
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  • Although there are usually a dozen or so political parties registered with Elections Canada at any given time, not all party leaders are invited to the debates. The stated criteria for inclusion have shifted over time with the maneuvering for political advantage, but the typical criteria set by the debate consortium has been that a political party needs to have representation in the House of Commons. Over the years, there have been at least three and as many as five, leaders at each such debate. Public criticism of the debates has emerged outlining that corporate media executives decide who is allowed to be heard in a public forum critical to deciding elected officials. Given the overlap between governments and corporations, there is a conflict of interest having corporate executives impac (en)
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  • Canadian leaders' debates (en)
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