Politics

Maxime Bernier argues he deserves place in leaders' debates

Maxime Bernier argues he deserves place in leaders' debates

Maxime Bernier argued that not inviting him to take part in the official election debates means excluding the only political party leader who has anything different to say.

"It won't be a real debate if I'm not there," Bernier, the leader of the People's Party of Canada, said to candidates and supporters at his party's first national conference in Gatineau, Que., on Sunday.

"It will be a phoney discussion where they attack each other on their superficial differences."

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh are set to participate in an Oct. 7 English-language debate and a French-language debate on Oct. 10.

David Johnston, the former governor general and the commissioner of the debate organizing group, previously told Bernier in a letter that the People's Party has not yet met one of the criteria to participate in the televised debates — namely that the party isn't represented in the House of Commons by an MP who was elected as a member of that party. Bernier was elected as a Conservative in 2015 before leaving to start his new party after a failed Tory leadership run.

Johnston also said that, based on a survey of recent opinion polls, including the CBC News Poll Tracker, the People's Party would have a difficult time actually getting one of its candidates elected in the Oct. 21 election. Bernier said in a statement that relying on current polling data is unfair.

Dismissed political rivals

At Sunday's conference, Bernier said the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Greens and Bloc Québécois all share similar views on things like immigration, climate change and supply management in the dairy sector.

Bernier dismissed his political rivals as espousing varying degrees of left-leaning views, including the Conservatives.

He accused both the Conservatives, a party he represented for over a decade, and the Liberals of catering to those they think will elect them.

"While the other parties look at polls and focus groups to decide what they stand for, and pander to every special interest group, we follow our principles," said Bernier, who said his party does not do any polling.

Those other parties have all qualified for the October debates, under criteria established by the federal government.

Bernier said he is confident the head of the Leaders' Debates Commission will change his mind and allow him to join the others onstage.