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Greens credit regular Canadians for including May in debates

The federal Green Party credits the vocal protests of thousands of Canadians for getting leader Elizabeth May into the televised leadership debates, a dramatic reversal of Monday's decision by Canada's broadcasters to deny her a spot.

"It was a spontaneous reaction," Green spokesperson John Bennett told The Tyee. "Our phone lines have been inundated for two days."

On Monday, CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global Television and TVA blocked May from participating in the debates on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, after the Conservative and New Democratic parties expressed strong resistance.

In the days following that decision, more than 20,000 people registered their disapproval by signing a petition on that called for May's inclusion, Bennett said.

"This was a grassroots revolt against the Conservatives, NDP and the network consortium," he said.

Bennett said he even had NDP members send him angry e-mails stating that they would vote Green in defiance of their party.

Further steam was added to the movement after The Globe and Mail published an op-ed piece by former Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark today arguing that May should be allowed in the debates.

"Her participation would demonstrate that Canadian politics is inclusive, not exclusive," he wrote.

The New Democratic Party and Conservatives reversed their initial opposition today, and the network consortium followed suit.

Bennett said the Greens were not in contact with any of the federal parties or broadcasters before today's turnaround, adding that ordinary Canadians should be thanked for the decision.

"The public forced the politicians to be democratic," he said.

High profile Vancouver-Centre Green candidate Adriane Carr told The Tyee that today’s reversal was a historic moment that would significantly boost her party’s election chances.

“I expect that not only will May’s participation mean an increased vote, it will mean the election of green MPs.”

This year marks the first time a Green Party leader has been included in the televised debates. The Greens have never elected a member of Parliament, though they received more than 660,000 votes in the 2006 federal election.

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for The Hook

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