Maxime Bernier excluded from federal leaders’ election debate

The Leaders’ Debate Commission, the body organizing two major federal election debates, has invited the leaders of five political parties to participate with the notable exception of People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier.

He has been left off the list, at least for now.

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 have secured tickets to both the Oct. 7 English-language debate and the French-language affair on Oct. 10.

These debates will be carried by a consortium of major television broadcasters, including CBC.

In a letter to Bernier, David Johnston, the former governor general and the commissioner of the debate organizing group, said that the People’s Party has not yet met 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.

Beyond that, Johnston said a survey of recent opinion polls led him to conclude that the People’s Party would have a difficult time actually getting one of its candidates elected in the Oct. 21 election.

“At this time in the electoral cycle, we do not consider that the People’s Party of Canada has a legitimate chance of electing more than one candidate in the next federal election,” Johnston said in a letter to Bernier explaining his decision to keep him out of debates.

“The commission has consulted available opinion polls, riding projection sites and independent pollsters. None of these sources project, at this time, that the People’s Party of Canada has a legitimate chance to elect more than one candidate,” Johnston said.

Johnston said the decision to exclude Bernier could be reversed if the party submits a list of three to five ridings where the party believes it is most likely to elect a candidate — and then, Johnston said, the debate commission would conduct independent polling of its own in those ridings to verify that Bernier’s chosen candidate has a reasonable chance of winning that seat.

The commission will make a final decision by Sept. 16, 2019.

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