St. Thomas University will continue to host CTV’s New Brunswick Leaders’ Round Table despite backlash over the fact that it will only feature three of the five registered party leaders.
David Coon of the Green Party and Kris Austin of the People’s Alliance were not asked to participate in the debate that will take place at St. Thomas University’s Kinsella Auditorium this Thursday at 6:15 p.m.
“It’s important to recognize that it is a CTV roundtable and CTV can invite whichever leaders they want to,” said Jeffrey Carleton, director of communications at STU.
“I can’t speak for CTV but I know they’re driven by time limits, they’re driven by effective format and what is best for their viewers,” he said.
STU hosted the CTV round table in 2010 and, while neither the Green nor the People’s Alliance parties were invited then, Carleton said they did not receive the harsh reactions they are finding this year.
Carleton said that the decision to host the debate given the exclusion of certain leaders was discussed within the university community, but ultimately they decided to go ahead with it.
“Do we want to get in the business of starting to adjudicate speakers, what they say, their content, their form, of people who use our venues?” Carleton said.
“We have about 400 events a year and we’re very reluctant to go down that path for on-campus or off-campus groups who use our venues.”
But there is still concern that the roundtable won’t give voice to all opinions.
“It’s absolutely undemocratic,” said Coon.
“You’ve got five registered political parties in New Brunswick. Rogers TV and CBC both recognized that and included us. CTV for I guess their own agenda decided not to and we think it’s an affront to democracy,” Austin said.
The Green Party and the People’s Alliance are two of five registered political parties in New Brunswick. They are joined by the Progressive Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP), all three of which will have their leaders make an appearance at Thursday’s debate.
While both the People’s Alliance and the Green Party are without representation in the Legislative Assembly, so is the NDP.
“If the rationale was they only wanted leaders of parties who had seats in the legislature well then there should only be two leaders. There’s no difference between the New Democrats and Greens in terms of our status in this democracy,” Coon said.
The Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations sent a letter last Friday to Dawn Russell, the president of STU, expressing their concerns over the decision.
“STU’s decision to accept the request of CTV to host a debate which limits the number of leaders to three, as opposed to all five, flies in the face of the true spirit of democracy… It is most egregious to see STU, an institution of higher learning, accept to host this debate on its campus,” wrote Jean Sauvageau, president of the Federation.
“The Federation has asked CTV to invite Mr. David Coon (Green Party) and Mr. Kris Austin (People’s Alliance) to the 18 September debate. Short of this, the Federation asks that STU refuses to partake in this undemocratic undertaking and withdraws its offer to host the debate.”
The Brunswickan is still awaiting a reply from CTV.