Although it would have made for great television, officials with the federal leaders debate made the right call by not including Maxime Bernier.
The guest list is capped at five: Justin Trudeau (Liberal), Andrew Scheer (Conservative), Jagmeet Singh (NDP), Elizabeth May (Green) and Yves-François Blanchet (Bloc Québécois), the latter who won 10 seats in the last election.
Criteria includes having one sitting member elected under the party banner and candidates running in at least 90 per cent of the ridings.
The final consideration requires that a party either have earned four per cent of the votes cast in the 2015 election, or candidates with a “legitimate chance” to win seats this fall.
Bernier, the leader of the newly-established People’s Party of Canada, has a seat in Parliament, but won as a Conservative. He’s disqualified from participating in the debates because his party does not have a “legitimate chance of electing more than one candidate in the next federal election,” — at least that’s what debates commissioner David Johnston thinks.
Debates work best when they’re one-on-one. That’s impossible to do in Canada with a multi-party system. But, they need to draw the line somewhere.
With every new leader added to the panel, it takes away one-sixth the speaking time from those with a legitimate chance of winning. Extending the time of the debate beyond two hours is challenging for the participants and audience members only have a limited attention span.
Bernier also isn’t the only leader staying home. There’s the Libertarian party, National Citizens Alliance, National Advancement and Christian Heritage ... among others.
When May was left home from a national debate in 2011, she famously took to the internet and watched the debate in real time and answered the questions posed to the panel.
It was brilliant. She received more exposure than had she been in attendance.
Here at home, The Daily Courier hosted an election forum in 2011 and only the two front-runners — Walter Gray and Sharon Shepherd — were invited. The others (all who finished far behind) grumbled, but audiences appreciated the chance to see the two with the most realistic chance of winning going head-to-head.
While supporters of the People’s Party of Canada will disagree, much the same way Greens did in 2011, limiting the event to five candidates is logical.