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May urges rivals to boycott debates after judge rejects legal challenge

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

Andy Clark/Reuters/Andy Clark/Reuters

A bid by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to obtain a court order demanding that she be allowed to take part in next week's leaders' debate has ended in failure.

Federal Court Justice Marc Nadon refused to make an emergency ruling in the case, saying there was not enough time before the first televised event on Tuesday night for the court "to perform its duty in a satisfactory manner."

Ms. May has been fighting a decision by a consortium of television broadcasters that said last week she would not be permitted to take part. The Globe and Mail spoke to the Green Leader on Tuesday after the court decision was announced.

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Globe: What argument was made by the consortium of broadcasters to keep you out of the debate?

May: The lawyer for the consortium ignored all the Charter arguments and all of the democracy arguments. The lawyer for the consortium did say ,"if Elizabeth May was included in the debates, other leaders might not participate and then there would be no debates at all."

Globe: What is your response to that argument?

May: I think this raises some significant questions. We know that in 2008, the real reason I was excluded initially was the threat of a boycott by Jack Layton and Stephen Harper. (Mr. Layton has said from the outset this year that he wants Ms. May to take part in the debates.)

I liked Joe Clark's turn of phrase that it was basically a blackmail threat.

In 2011, I think a lot of the experts and a lot of the citizens have been baffled by the real reason for the consortium decision. In the consortium's press release, the reason given was this was a programming decision.

I think that many Canadians understand that this leaders' debate process operates without any rules, or guidelines or criteria.

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Globe: What do you hope happens now?

May: I want the other leaders to step up and demonstrate that they believe in the principles and the practice of a healthy democracy by telling the consortium that there will be no debate without me.

Globe: What was your response to the ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal?

May: I was so shocked to hear what the consortium's lawyer argued in court. And that was a bigger shock than the Federal Court of Appeal saying it could not find it possible to clear the docket and to hear our case on the merits before Tuesday.

Globe: What is your next move?

May: Perhaps there is an additional issue we can raise at a different court, but getting to court before Tuesday is very challenging. The more likely route to a democratic debate lies in public outrage and the overwhelming levels of public support for me being in the debates.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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