There's something to be said for having a greater number of viewpoints represented in the Canadian political system. However, when smaller parties fail to add anything new to the discussion, it is time to put them to rest.
The Green Party of Canada somehow managed to become the darling of the media in the 2008 federal election campaign. They were included in all the polls, given a disproportionate amount of coverage in the press, and their leader—Elizabeth May—was even included in the national leaders debates. On top of this, May was essentially given a handicap in her riding when she made a deal with the Liberals not to run a candidate in Central Nova. Yet despite all of this, the Greens once again failed to capture even a single seat in the House of Commons.
It took a lot of work on the part of Elizabeth May and her party to gain the legitimacy that they received during the election campaign. May even had the guts to stand in front of the national media and proclaim that she was left out of the debates due of sexism on the part of the media and the other parties, even though she knows full well that other female leaders—such as Alexa McDonough and Kim Campbell—were included in previous debates because they were leaders of real political parties.
After May's protests gained prominence by the same mainstream media that was keeping her out of the debates, the decision was made to include her. However, May failed to add anything meaningful to the English language debate. What Canadians got was a fourth left-wing party that joined the others in a combined attack on the Prime Minister. The Greens were supposed to take the opportunity to show Canadians that they are no longer a one-issue party. Instead, they proved that their ideas are fairly similar to the other opposition parties, with a slightly more conspiratorial tone to them (get out of NAFTA? you've got to be kidding me!).I thought that at the very least, they would present a strong environmental platform. However, May's entire stance on the environment seemed to be that the Liberal's had the correct policy, but did not go far enough.
The irony of the whole situation is that the Green Party's strategy of playing with the big boys may have backfired. Now that all the major parties have an environmental platform of some sort, it would appear as though there is no longer a need for the Green Party. If their goal was to bring environmental issues into Canadian politics, then they have already succeeded. Also, despite the fact that they were given every opportunity to succeed, the Greens once again proved to be a complete and utter failure at the polls. With a popular vote share of 6.8% some media outlets were lumping them in the "other" category in their election night results. A stark contrast from virtually every poll conducted during the campaign, which featured the Greens alongside the parties that actually have representation in the House.
The Green's share of the popular vote may also be misleading, as they appear to be capitalizing on protest votes, rather than inspiring people with their ideas. I have not talked to a single Green voter that voted for them based on their platform. In fact, I have talked to numerous people who claim that the Greens have a conservative economic platform, showing a complete lack of understanding of the Green message. I suspect that if people took the time to read the Green Party's platform, they would find that policies such as high carbon taxes and withdrawing from NAFTA would have an extremely negative impact on the Canadian economy and they would probably receive far less than 6.8% of the vote.
We need to realize that the Green Party does not represent a mainstream Canadian point of view and that their continued failures on election day underscores this point. There are many fringe parties in this country and if we're going to let one of them into the debate, then why not let them all in? In the next election campaign, we should not feel bad about ignoring the Green Party and leaving them out of national debates. Wait until they succeed in electing a single Member of Parliament before we start treating them as an equal to the parties that actually have support amoung Canadian. At the moment, an independant MP has more of a right to be included in a leaders debate than Elizabeth May does. Why should we continue to let the Greens play in the big leagues, if they can't even score a goal?