At this moment, Maxime Bernier has not been invited to the official leaders’ debates being held on Oct. 7 and 10.
The Bloc Québécois, Conservative Party, Green Party, Liberal Party and the NDP have all been invited as of now, leaving Maxime as the sole federal leader of an active large scale party to be left out.
That lonely position could change if Bernier can provide three to five ridings where they have a chance to win, according to Elections commissioner’s own private polls.
While presumably everyone to the left of Bernier, especially the NDP may be celebrating, the truth is, the exclusion of upstart parties are nothing to be celebrated. In an open and democratic society, they should even be condemned.
The consortium was meant to remove the hodgepodge of debates that previously ruined the quality, and provide for Canada a set schedule where we could clearly see the differences between the candidates involved.
Right now, some leaders have been invited, but a party with more than 300 candidates carrying its banner in the upcoming election could be left out.
This does not send a message that the debates are really about ideas.
Rather, to many who mistrust the status quo, the decision looks clearly like one meant to support the established parties which have already won a seat.
Democracy and the public tools around should be designed in a way to hinder new ideas. Right now, our poorly organized system as executed does just that.
Leaving us with debates where old ideas are welcomed, and new leaders pushed away.
Looking deeper into the issue, I would argue even the Liberals themselves would agree that the current Commission’s rules as executed do not actually help the Canadian electorate make an informed decision.
For example, the Leaders’ Debates Commission published the following rules in October of 2018, highlighting exactly what it would take to allow an individual into the debate.
To be invited the party had two fill two out of the three cases.
- Have at least one member elected under the party’s banner;
- Nominate candidates to run in at least 90% of all ridings; and
- Have captured at least 4% of the votes in the previous election or be considered by the commissioner to have a legitimate chance to win seats in the current election, based on public opinion polls.
In November 2018, Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould said that Maxime Bernier would qualify for the debates as leader of the People’s Party of Canada if the party nominated candidates in 90% of ridings as she considered at the time that Bernier would qualify as a PPC MP.
As of now, the Commission is saying a completely different story than what Karina Gould told Canadians in 2018. Bernier’s MP status do not count, nor will the fact that his party continues to raise almost as much as the Greens while remaining competitive in his own riding. Instead, Bernier will have to show that he can win three to five seats, a bar that many would consider exceptionally high for any start-up movement.
This decision in effects sets a precedent where most modern political movements, even those which are well funded and well organized are relegated to the backwaters of history for multiple elections to come.
This needs to be fixed, and it’s high time political leaders from across the aisle called out the flawed process for the good of democratic institutions.