Pubdate: Fri, 27 Apr 2001
Source: Chilliwack Progress (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 The Chilliwack Progress
  Author: Robert Freeman, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Canadian Marijuana Party)


Despite a nearly full slate of provincial election candidates, the B.C. 
Marijuana Party isn't being invited to take part in a BCTV television 
debate next week.

Chilliwack-Sumas candidate Norm Siefken says the stations move is "blatant 
censorship" and "a slap in the face of democracy itself." "It just seems 
very unfair and undemocratic, and I'll go so far as to say it's 
irresponsible for BCTV."

The party is holding a protest Monday outside the station's Burnaby studios 
where the leaders of the B.C. Liberals, New Democrats, Green Party and B.C. 
Unity meet for the debate.

Mr. Siefken says if BCTV were being reasonable and fair "then the B.C. 
Marijuana Party would have to be included" in the debate based on the 
number of candidates it is running in the election, and the party's 
popularity as shown by the TV station's own Internet poll. The website poll 
shows the B.C. Marijuana Party coming second behind the B.C. Liberals.

But BCTV news director Steve Wyatt says the station decided to limit the 
debate to a "manageable" four parties selected on the "diversity" of their 
political views rather than how many candidates they may have. The Green 
party has been politically active in the province for years and has not 
been invited to previous television debates, he says. "They've earned their 
political stripes, and they've earned their place in this debate."

B.C. Unity, which "inherited a lot of people and ideas of the B.C. Reform 
party" offers the debate a view "from the right-wing end of the political 
spectrum," he says.

Mr. Wyatt adds that the station offered the B.C. Marijuana Party a spot on 
a special 90-minute broadcast following the main debate. But B.C. Marijuana 
party President Marc Emery says he was "insulted" by the offer and accused 
the "corporate conservative media" in Vancouver of "eliminating us from 
their reporting" and ignoring the story of "millions of Canadians" whose 
lives have been "ruined" by the war on drugs.

He also says the station could have expanded the debate forum to include 
the B.C. Marijuana Party which would have been more interesting than the 
boring four mainstream parties, whose platforms are already known to most 
voters. "We're the party the people might be curious about," he says.

Mr. Emery confirmed that he's the major financial backer behind the party, 
and that he can't point to donations from union, corporate or members as 
proof of popular support. But he says most of the money he has contributed 
to the party comes from his "cannabis-related" businesses. "In a sense, 
thousands and thousands give me the money," he says, to fund the party 
through their purchases.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager