Green Party leader Elizabeth May comes out swinging as national broadcasters deny her a seat at the nationally televised October 1 & 2 Federal leadership debate.

A consortium of television networks claimed Stephen Harper and Jack Layton threatened to boycott the debates if May was included, citing Harper’s concern that May was acting in support of the Liberals – an accusation that sounds eerily reminiscent of Layton’s New Democrats propping up Harper’s minority government for the past year. Apparently, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe did not threaten to boycott, but did express his desire that the debate include only leaders of the four major parties. Stephane Dion stated he supported May’s participation, but would not take part in a debate if Harper were absent. Perhaps the broadcasters should have called Harper’s bluff – do they really think Mr. Bully would sit out a “leaders'” debate? This is a guy that wouldn’t miss a board meeting of the Calgary minor hockey association. If no one showed, who would that look the worst on?

The sheer lunacy of May’s exclusion at best makes very clear the priority national media and the Conservative government place on environmental issues and the imminent crisis that is global warming – at worst, it points to the very real existence of a deeply-rooted intent to back-burner the environment indefinitely in favour of protecting the oil and gas industry and Canada’s other manufacturing interests.

While May seeks legal counsel, the national broadcasters will no doubt scramble to come up with a more palatable, less actionable reason for the Green exclusion, mindful of the fact that in the last Federal election, May was excluded from the leadership debate because the Greens did not hold a seat in the House – a situation rectified when former Liberal and Independent MP Blair Wilson crossed the floor to join the Green Party as its first member of Parliament.

That May should be allowed to participate is undeniable, but beyond the obvious democratic, sexist and free speech implications, the issue raises a serious concern about whether the responsibility for the survival of the planet should be entrusted to our elected officials. The future of the earth should not be a mere politcal football to be tossed around, carbon taxes initiated, then withdrawn at the whims of parties trying to win favour with the loud SUV-driving, me-first, world-second lobby.

The newly-formed non-partisan group Canadians for Climate Leadership brings together high profile leaders from the environment, business, science and academia to demand the federal government do far more than pay lip service to climate change. This group includes former Prime Ministers Kim Campbell, Joe Clark, Paul Martin and John Turner, as well as respected Forest Ethics activist and spokesperson Tzeporah Berman and Nova Scotia businessman John Roy, a long-time supporter of green business practices and sustainable development. The groups draws deeply from a large number of people committed to change.

Canadians for Climate Leadership is the first group in Canada to being together power players from sectors that could actually effect change and lobby the government in meaningful and powerful ways. They will be launching a timely campaign tomorrow called PowerUP Canada, designed to enact tough domestic laws and provide Canadian leadership in the drawing up of international agreements on controlling green house gas emissions.

Regardless of who moves into 24 Sussex Drive, the first order of business in Parliament for the new government should be to sign over every decision regarding the environment and the regulation of green house gas emissions to the Canadians for Climate Leadership. They are far better-suited to make the tough choices and accept the fallout than any of our political leaders who really, really, really want to do something for the environment, but people just get so mad at carbon taxes. Enough lip service.

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