Why Maxime Bernier’s Exclusion From Debates Weakens Canada’s Democracy

Millions of Canadians oppose many of the draconian measures that have been imposed over the past year and a half, a position Bernier has represented in contrast to the other federal leaders.

This has been a disturbing year and a half in many ways.

One of those ways has been the revelation that we don’t have many ‘rights’ at all, but rather we have ‘privileges.’

Being able to leave your home.

Opening your businesses.

Seeing your family.

Getting on a plane.

Getting on a train.

Walking around your neighbourhood without having to explain why.

Gathering to worship.

Those are all things many Canadians assumed were ironclad rights.

Yet, it has turned out that they are nothing but privileges that can be doled out, and taken away, at the whim of our politicians.

This should have been one of the biggest stories of the past year and a half, as it represents a fundamental rearrangement of our rights as individuals, and dramatically tips the balance of power away from individual freedom and towards state control.

In a truly free and democratic nation, that would be a cause for widespread debate, and those who oppose the increasingly draconian actions of our politicians – would be represented at the highest levels.

However, as we well know, Canada has more of a ‘managed democracy,’ where the ‘acceptable’ range of debate is artificially constrained and limited, largely by the centralization of the party structure which imposes and rewards conformity, and by the relationship between Canada’s government, political parties, and the establishment press, who all have a vested interest in ‘keeping Canadians in line.’

So, when a politician ‘dares’ to push in another direction, and represents those who don’t follow the official ‘accepted’ position, they are generally pushed away and efforts are made to reduce their voice and influence.

With that in mind, consider the news release issued by the Leaders’ Debates Commission:

“Commissioner David Johnston has invited the leaders of five political parties to participate in the upcoming leaders’ debates taking place at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Québec on Wednesday, September 8 (French) and Thursday, September 9 (English).

The Leaders’ Debates Commission based the decision on the participation criteria set on June 22, 2021.

Leaders of the following political parties are invited to participate in both debates:

    • Bloc Québécois
    • Conservative Party of Canada
    • Green Party of Canada
    • Liberal Party of Canada
    • New Democratic Party

In order to be invited to participate in the leaders’ debates, the Commissioner decided that a leader of a political party had to meet one of the following criteria:

    • Criterion (i): on the date the general election is called, the party is represented in the House of Commons by a Member of Parliament who was elected as a member of that party; or
    • Criterion (ii): the party’s candidates for the most recent general election received at that election at least 4% of the number of valid votes cast; or
    • Criterion (iii): five days after the date the general election is called, the party receives a level of national support of at least 4%, determined by voting intention, and as measured by leading national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recently publicly-reported results.

On Monday, August 16, 2021, Commissioner David Johnston sent letters to the Bloc Québécois, Conservative Party of Canada, Green Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada and New Democratic Party inviting them to participate in the two leaders’ debates.”

Based on the polls they selected, the commission decided that the People’s Party of Canada did not qualify, and would thus be excluded.

Notably however, the Green Party, and the Bloc are both invited.

In the most recent EKOS poll, the PPC is at 5%, 1 point behind the Bloc, and 1 point ahead of the Greens.

In the latest Mainstreet Research poll, the PPC is at 7%, tied with the Bloc, and 4 points ahead of the Greens.

In the latest Nanos poll, the PPC is at 4%, 1 point behind the Greens and the Bloc.

In the latest Leger poll, the PPC is at 3%, 1 point behind the Greens, and four points behind the Bloc.

In the latest Ipsos poll, the PPC is at 2%, four behind the Bloc and three behind the Greens.

And, in the latest Abacus Data poll, the PPC is at 4%, 2 behind the Bloc and 1 point ahead of the Greens.

Now, considering the margin of error in polls, generally 3.5% points, this means a party that polls at 4% could be at 7.5%, or 1.5%.

What matters is the range, and looking at the ranges in the polls above, it’s clear that there is good reason to believe the PPC could get as many, or more votes than the Greens, and even more potentially than the Bloc.

It would have been very easy for the commission to have given a small margin of error for debate admission.

If the cutoff is set at four, the margin of error could have been 1 point, meaning the PPC would have been allowed in.

But how interesting is it that the cutoff just so happens to narrowly exclude the PPC, yet includes the Green Party?

Gatekeeping

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has done a series of great videos on ‘gatekeeping,’ explaining how the rising centralization of power in government benefits the elites, while blocking opportunity for most Canadians.

Unfortunately, that kind of gatekeeping goes beyond the economy, and extends deep into our political system.

The fact is, even if you believe the polls showing 70%-80% of Canadians want further restrictions and/or vaccine passports and mandates (though the struggle of the Liberals early in the campaign would indicate many Canadians are telling pollsters what they think is the ‘socially acceptable answer), that would still leave many millions of people who oppose those measures.

Indeed, there has been strong opposition to the power grab by politicians all through the past year and a half, and no federal leader has done more to represent Canadians who hold those views than Maxime Bernier.

Leaving him out of the debate is not just about depriving he and the PPC of a platform, it’s about depriving many Canadians of the opportunity to have their views represented at the highest level.

Further, the comments by some – like Jagmeet Singh – that Bernier shouldn’t be in debates because his views shouldn’t get a platform, shows a total lack of respect for the idea of free expression.

If our country can’t even debate something as fundamental as when the government can and can’t deprive people of our rights, then what is the point in calling ourselves a democratic nation?

Canada needs less ‘managed democracy’ and more actual democracy, with a free and open competition of ideas that leaves the decision making in the hands of the Canadian People, not some self-interested elites.

Spencer Fernando

Photo – YouTube

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