Why We Welcome Maxime Bernier to the Federal Election Debates

A quick update for you this morning that we wanted to pass along.

We are no longer planning to hold our Suits and Boots Leadership Roundtable debate in Calgary next Thursday, September 26th. It’s been cancelled.

Why is that? Because It’s no longer needed.

Three weeks ago, we thought it was not right that Maxime Bernier, Peoples’ Party of Canada leader, was apparently shut out of the nationally televised leader debates. It’s almost too rich to think that a strong opponent of supply management would be shut out of these debates by a government appointed board that controls access to the “vote market”.

So we launched our Calgary roundtable idea, and approached Mr. Bernier with our invitation to participate. He accepted. He was gracious, helpful and truly thanked us for taking the initiative, but made it clear he wouldn’t participate unless we had the other national party leaders on the same stage. That was totally fair game, and we accepted the challenge.

Just as we announced our Calgary event last Monday and went out to the other parties with our invitation to participate, the Leaders’ Debates Commission (which is another terrible Liberal idea in the first place) announced it had a change of mind and was, after all, inviting Mr. Bernier to participate in its two debates.

So, we cancelled our Calgary event and instead will devote our time, energy and money towards helping elect Conservative candidates like these three we highlighted on Thursday.

Having Maxime Bernier in these televised debates is good for the election campaign, good for all Canadians, and good for the Conservative Party. And we say this as strong Conservatives committed to helping Andrew Scheer become the next Prime Minister of Canada.

It’s a matter of principle and an interest in the man’s politics and personality that make us welcome Mr. Bernier to the national debate stage.

On principle, if Elections Canada has recognized the PPC as a national Party, and if Mr. Bernier has nominated candidates that have been accepted by Elections Canada in 300 or so ridings, why should he not be on stage?  If anything, he’s more of a legitimate national Party leader than Yves-Francois Blanchet, who leads a “federal” Party with no candidates outside of Quebec. Don’t get us going on that.

But it’s the politics and personality of Mr. Bernier that are the most intriguing reasons why we’re glad to see him on stage. Nearly half of the Conservative Party members supported Mr. Bernier in his leadership bid, which was focussed largely on issues of the economy, free markets and the fight against supply management. Here in Alberta, this “cowboy from Quebec” was clearly at home on the range.

But the Maxime Bernier we all saw and knew in May of 2017 doesn’t seem to be the same person we see today. His policies have veered to the right, his populism has taken on a new and more strident tone. Even his social media postings have gone from being quirky and edgy to now being over the top rants and attacks. “ That’s not the same Max we knew before” – we hear that all the time.

His messaging on the environment and immigration today set him apart from most Conservatives and even bring him closer to policies that he ridiculed on the leadership campaign trail. The leadership candidate who attacked Kellie Leitch’s views on Canadian values, saying “We don’t need this karaoke version of Donald Trump”, appears to have turned, to many of us, into someone who seems to be comfortable with the Trump views on immigration.

Or has he? Who knows? He’s never been seen in a debate. He’s never had his positions tested under fire, live and in a structured format. Every single Conservative and every Canadian should get the chance to see him defend his policies under fire from other leaders. We’ll see how he stacks up, and we’ll see how he performs when it counts the most. And then we’ll see how many Canadians will follow him on October 21st.

It’s our bet that most Conservatives who may have been looking with some interest at the PPC will take a step back from there after the national debates.

It’s one thing to start a Party from scratch and build up a bona fide campaign apparatus. It’s another thing to emerge as a qualified candidate to become our next Prime Minister. A national debate goes a long ways towards helping most people make up their mind on that question.

Given what’s at stake, given his solid pedigree as a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister and second-place Conservative leadership contender, and given Mr. Bernier’s unfailingly charming personality and optimism on everything he does, we truly welcome him on stage.

Who’s afraid of Maxime Bernier? Who doesn’t want him on stage? Jagmeet Singh. Elizabeth May. And others.  

But not us. Bring it on.

Rick Peterson
Founder & Director
Suits and Boots

1 Comment

  1. I signed a petition requesting that Maxime Bernier be allowed to attend all the debates. I am not a Bernier fan. I do agree with some of his points but they are a little too right for my liking. I look forward to hearing him though as I do think he makes a lot of sense in some areas. Will not change my mind however and will vote Conservative. All parties should be represented who have all the requirements in place, after all where will our democracy be without free speech.

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