August 30, 2008 / 6:24 PM / 9 years ago

Canada's Greens gain first seat in Parliament

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A member of Canada's Parliament joined the Green Party on Saturday in a move that could boost the fledgling party's bid to participate in televised debates in the expected fall election.

Blair Wilson, a Vancouver-area legislator now sitting as an independent after he left the Liberal Party amid a finance investigation, will be the first Green to hold a federal legislative office in Canada or United States.

"Today we make history," said Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose minority Conservative government was elected in January 2006, seems almost certain to call a general election next week, and one of his advisers has pointed to October 14 as a likely election date.

The Greens have never won a seat in a Canadian federal election, but some of their candidates have finished ahead of opponents from more established political parties including the New Democrats and Liberals.

The Greens have fielded as many candidates as the other parties in recent federal elections, but they have not been allowed in the party leaders' televised debates partly because they do not have a sitting member of Parliament

"We have established ourselves as party that should not be described as fringe," May told an Ottawa news conference.

But she met an early rebuff from Harper's office, which pointed to her electoral cooperation Liberal leader Stephane Dion -- Dion is helping her to try to win a seat by not running a Liberal candidate in the district she is running in.

"Our view is there should only be one Liberal candidate in the leaders debate," said Harper spokesman Kory Teneycke. "Mr. Dion must stand on his own in the debate."

The Greens say their exclusion is especially unfair because the separatist Bloc Quebecois, which has seats in Parliament but runs candidates only in the French-speaking province of Quebec, is allowed in the debates.

Wilson, who represents a wealthy suburban area of Vancouver, resigned from the Liberal caucus last year amid a family dispute over money and a complaint about his campaign financing during the 2006 election.

He was cleared of wrongdoing by Elections Canada, but the Liberals declined to take him back. May said the Greens thoroughly investigated the incident before accepting Wilson.

"That which does not kill you makes you stronger," Wilson said, sitting next to May at the news conference.

Political observers see the Greens as a potential problem for the leftist New Democrats, but they may also take votes from the main-opposition Liberals, who plan to make a proposed carbon tax a major element of their election platform.

May said the Liberal's anti-global warming plan took ideas the Greens had already proposed.

Reporting Allan Dowd and Randall Palmer, Editing by Chris Wilson

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