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Layton backs May's participation in leaders debate

Young Green Party supporters hold signs during the kick-off of Elizabeth May's election campaign in Saanichton, near Victoria, on March 26, 2011.

DEDDEDA STEMLER/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jack Layton says he would like Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to take part in the election debate and wants the broadcast consortium that decides who is in and who is out to clarify its criteria.

"We would be fine with her being there and what we think is there needs to be some rules established," Mr. Layton said on a campaign stop at a cabinet maker in Oshawa east of Toronto on Wednesday.

"Right now there's no transparency," he said. "There's this closed-door decision making process. Canadians don't know what this consortium is up to when it makes its decisions and we think it would be good if she were to be there."

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When asked to explain why, in his mind, Ms. May should be allowed to take part, he replied: "I think it worked out fine last time. That's my criteria."

That's a different position than the NDP Leader took in 2008 when he was at first evasive on the issue of Ms. May's inclusion. He then suggested she should not participate because no Green had been elected to Parliament and because the Liberals had struck a deal not to run a candidate in Ms. May's riding.

It was a stand for which he was roundly criticized and he was forced to change his mind.

"We initially took the view that she should not be there and we said we will follow the rules that they lay out," Mr. Layton said. "I reflected on it that time. I decided that was not the right position to take and in 2008 we supported her participation and we would be absolutely fine with it this time around as well."

But the calculations that determine the structure of the debate should be far more open, he said.

"The odd thing about this whole process is that it's made by some group of people behind closed doors who own the media or who make the decisions for the media," Mr. Layton said.

"We don't know what their criteria are, they've never published the criteria. They've never told Canadians what the rules are. I can understand a certain frustration by people involved in our democracy when they turn around and see these decisions being made, apparently on an arbitrary basis."

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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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