The CBC recently kicked a contestant out of Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister contest. They told her that, after studying her application, they realized she broke a rule and in consequence, was ineligible.
CBC said it would have to disqualify her because they wanted to “be fair and apply the rules equally.” Then last Friday the competition’s 10 semi-finalists were announced.
The narrowed-down list of Parliamentary hopefuls includes two who, according to contest rules, also should have been disqualified.
24-year-old Camille Labchuk said she was disqualified because she ran for Parliament as a Green Party candidate in Moncton, N.B. in 2006. “It was abundantly clear on my resume I had run,” she said. “I made no secret of it.”
One of the contest rules states competitors cannot have run for or been elected to any federal, provincial or municipal political office.
Labchuck, a native of P.E.I., was the front-runner in the online voting before she was removed from the competition’s website on Jan. 9. Had she won the Web Winner contest, she would have automatically advanced to the semi-finals and had a shot at the $50,000 grand prize.
Prior to entering the contest in November, Labchuk asked CBC associate producer Richard Maerov whether her history in federal politics would disqualify her. The next day he e-mailed her back saying, “You’re good to go!”
With that, Labchuk started her campaign. “I poured my heart and soul into it,” she said.
“For the past two months, I’ve devoted hundreds of hours into researching policy, writing scripts, filming . . . The news that I was kicked out was utterly crushing.”
CBC head of media relations Jeff Keay acknowledged the show’s producers made an error when they told her she was eligible. “It was a serious oversight,” he said. “We feel badly. But we have to apply the rules to maintain the integrity of the competition.”
Another of the contest’s rules asks that all contestants “post a speech of three to five minutes on YouTube . . . If the video posted exceeds the maximum of five minutes, the applicant will be disqualified.”
According to that rule, two of the contestants chosen as semi-finalists should have been disqualified. Ashvin Singh’s video runs 5:26; Elizabeth Croteau’s runs 5:03. “It’s clear,” Labchuk said, “they’re applying the rules selectively.”
Labchuk is currently considering her legal options. She said she might sue CBC for damages. “I don’t know for how much,” she said, “but something sufficient to compensate for the 200-plus hours I’ve spent on the competition, my videography costs and the missed opportunity of winning cash prizes.” Labchuck said she will also factor in the missed opportunities of meeting former Prime ministers who make up the judging panel and other influential Canadians.
Keay wouldn’t comment on Labchuk’s claim that she should be compensated.