Bill Kelly: Let all the federal leaders debate

People's Party leader Maxime Bernier is seen in Montreal on Friday, December 14, 2018. Bernier, leader of the nascent People's Party of Canada, recently appeared on a Quebec TV news panel, the pundits laughed at his suggestion that Ottawa could force an oil pipeline through the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson. CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

The Leaders’ Debates Commission has invited the leaders of the Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green and Bloc Quebecois parties to participate in the English language and French language debates, which will occur just days before the federal election in October.

Excluded from the political fracas, at least to this point, is the leader of the newly formed People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier.

The rationale for the exclusion is that, apart from party founder Bernier, there are no Members of Parliament who were elected as People’s Party members; well, of course not, since the PPC wasn’t formed until after the last federal election! (Bernier himself was elected as a Conservative and founded the PPC in 2018.)

READ MORE: Majority of Canadians want change in Ottawa, Ipsos poll says (July 17, 2019)

But, if these debates are to be an informative vehicle for Canadian voters to determine who will represent them in the next Parliament, why not include all of the political leaders?

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I can understand the desire to exclude fly by night, fringe political movements, but Bernier is a long-time veteran in the political arena, and he came within a whisker of becoming leader of the Conservative Party not too long ago.

I’m certainly no advocate of Bernier as a political leader, or the policies of the People’s Party. Quite the opposite actually. But national polling indicates that there is some interest and possibly some support for what he’s trying to sell.

It’s strange logic, really; you can’t be in the debates because you don’t have any MPs, but if you’re excluded from the debates, the chances of gaining enough public support to have elected members is remote, at best.

READ MORE: Meet the people drawn to Maxime Bernier’s movement

It’s the same rationale that kept Elizabeth May and the Green Party out of the debates in the past, but there seems to be a political double standard at play.

The Bloc Quebecois is, in reality, a regional political party that shows little to no interest in issues that don’t pertain to Quebec, yet its leader, Yves-Francois Blanche, gets an invitation to debate a wide range of issues on the national stage.

I don’t think that anyone feels that the People’s Party is going to be a major factor in the upcoming election, but that’s not the point.

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I just don’t like the idea that some commission is deciding who should and should not take part in the democratic process of electing a government.

Let all of the leaders debate, and let Canadian voters decide.


Bill Kelly is the host of the Bill Kelly Show on Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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