With the leaders debates now over, one result is clear: Elizabeth May, as leader of the Green Party, should have been a debater.
Why? Not just to include a woman among all the men, although, as a former human-rights commissioner, I find that an acceptable reason. It's just not the only reason, because there are at least three others that made her exclusion a national injustice.
My first reason is that, since her party is fielding candidates in every constituency across the land, she's on a par with the other leaders. "How's that?" you ask, given that her party did not hold a single seat in the last Parliament.
The reason is constitutional. At this point in the election campaign, no party holds a seat. Once Parliament was dissolved by the Governor-General and the election called, there were no MPs. And there won't be any until the election has been held, the writ has been returned, and the new MPs have been sworn in.
All the parties, therefore, are on the same footing - that is, except the Bloc Québécois, which has candidates only in Quebec. So, like the Green Party, the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats have candidates across the country and, also like the Green Party, none has a single MP. Thus, like the other party leaders, the Green Leader should have had a chance to say her piece. She and her potential voters had a right to it.
But an even more compelling reason is that, with Ms. May out of the picture, Canadians heard no voice raised on behalf of the environment. The prospect of global catastrophe appears not to have crossed the other leaders' political radar screens at all.
Quite apart from what Ms. May and her party may have deserved, the voters deserved to hear a responsible appeal for action to replace obfuscation at the cabinet table. The facts deny the justice of Canada's ecology policy being shaped by what is good for western oil and gas corporate prosperity.
The silence that replaced her voice is a judgment on everyone responsible for excluding her from this national forum. It demonstrated that Canada's humiliation at the Copenhagen climate-change conference raised not even a whisper for a long overdue, shamefully delayed, ecology policy.
Did not the debates themselves demonstrate that hiatus between responsible recognition of a crisis and a passive indifference to reality?
The third reason Ms. May should have been included in the debates is a very simple one. Her participation in the previous election's round table showed she's the best debater of the lot. It would have been a far more edifying experience for electors if her incisive, articulate unravelling of issues had been part of an otherwise mediocre pair of debates.
Would she have outclassed the other leaders? Well, who'd believe that to be a serious threat to the debates? After all, which party leader would surrender the chance to reach Canadians without spending a dime of his campaign treasure chest?
It's too late to right the wrong now. But it's not too late to recognize the thinking that made it possible. It's a judgment on everyone who accepted this offence against the people's right to hear.
Reginald Stackhouse is a former member of Parliament.