Why listen to Bernier?

Chantal Hébert made an interesting case the other day. She wrote in the Toronto Star that Maxime Bernier of our new People’s Party of Canada should be allowed to be part of the leader debates for the October 21 election. Despite it being doubtful that Bernier will retain his own parliamentary seat for Beauce in the election, the columnist thinks he has a contribution to make.

Hébert makes her case by complaining that people want to exclude Bernier because of his party’s policies. (The new democrats have complained that the PPC promotes “hateful and intolerant ideas.”) She notes that similar complaints were made about the Bloc Québécois and the Reform Party when they first appeared on the electoral scene.

She argues that the form of populism Bernier espouses has already taken root in the United States and is rampant throughout western Europe. She sees no reason to sweep this truth under the rug. She would prefer to address it head-on.

The only problem with her viewpoint is that time on national television is an expensive commodity and these arguments would be better handled in high school civics classes. Teaching tolerance and open-mindedness is not something you can convince people of in the hard pace of a political debate. And definitely not coming into the wind-up of a national election.

My one serious argument is that reality is there are currently 16 federally registered political parties in Canada and if they all were give access to the debate, it would be cumbersome and a frankly boring affair. It is bad enough that we will have five party leaders representing their respective parties in the two debates. It means that politeness will become more important than spontaneity and there can be little interaction between the leaders.

I think voters learn more about these so-called leaders when the debate is open and honest. They need to address each other and call out their dishonesties. The moderator is not there to referee but to ensure each is heard.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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