Maxime Bernier’s letter to debate commissioner David Johnston

The Leaders’ Debate Commission sent the first round of invitation to its two official leaders’ debates, including in it the leaders of the Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic, Green and Bloc Québecois parties. Absent from the invitation recipients was Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada.

In his letter to Bernier, debate commissioner David Johnston requested information on three to five ridings in which the PPC believes it has a legitimate chance of victory, to satisfy the criterion that “candidates endorsed by the party have a legitimate chance to be elected in the general election in question.”

Today, Bernier sent this letter to Johnston, citing five ridings in which PPC candidates have considerable profile, as well as media monitoring findings showing more coverage of Bernier than of the Green and Bloc Québecois leaders, who were invited to the debate.

Maxime Bernier’s letter to debate commissioner David Johnston by Andrew Lawton on Scribd

The Liberals want to end fake news, but who decides what that is?

If you’re singing the fake news blues, the federal government wants you to believe it has the answer.

My Loonie Politics column this week tackles the announcement made by a panel of cabinet ministers laying out how the Justin Trudeau’s government plans to safeguard this year’s federal election.

You can read the full column here if you’re a Loonie Politics subscriber. (If not, use promo code ‘Lawton’ for a discounted subscription.)

Here’s an excerpt:

Canada’s long-awaited answer to foreign interference in elections has arrived, but it seems to create an opening for domestic meddling — by the government itself.

With nine months to go until this year’s federal election, a team of ministers from Justin Trudeau’s cabinet announced this week a “sweeping series” of measures aimed to safeguard Canadian democracy.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally I don’t know, but a glaring question remains after the government reiterated its commitment to purging misinformation from social media sites: who decides what misinformation really is?

Facts are black and white, but interpretations of them aren’t always so clear, especially when politics is concerned.

Most people would agree social media companies should spike content posted by Russian bots falsely linking politicians with criminality.  But what about content that isn’t as easy to parse?

Such as a claim that a carbon tax is nothing but a cash grab.  Or a study critical of the government’s track record on economics.  Or someone saying the Liberals have been dishonest about their balanced budget plans (or lack thereof.)

These all sound like critiques that fall within the boundaries of civilized debate, but they share something in common: all were called “fake news” by high-ranking government officials.

Discount Maxime Bernier at your peril

A part of me feels as though I’m spending too much time writing and talking about Maxime Bernier and his exit from the Conservative Party. But, at the same time, it’s one of the most interesting–and potentially disruptive–episodes of Canada’s politics for several years.

While I will endeavor to diversify, I also won’t apologize for shining the necessary light on this, especially as what it is Bernier is creating continues to become a bit more clear. In my Loonie Politics column this week, I look at Bernier’s fundraising success right out of the gate, and also the polling that’s showing he’s making an impact. As I note, there’s no guarantee he’ll maintain that support for the next 13 months, but it’s a start that should worry the Conservatives.

You can read the full column at Loonie Politics, for which you can pick up a discounted subscription by using the promo code ‘Lawton’.

A Nanos poll, commissioned by the Globe and Mail, found Bernier’s as-of-yet-unnamed party enjoys 17 per cent support among Canadians, with 12 per cent unsure.

This is far from majority — or even minority — government territory, but it’s a strong enough showing for him to be a spoiler for the Conservatives, or, if the number increases, a potential official opposition leader.

What Bernier is able to accomplish electorally will depend not only on his support, but also the distribution of it.  He’ll be able to win votes in Quebec that are generally closed off to conservatives.  His support in Alberta will be strong.  In Ontario, where Conservatives sometimes win with razor thin margins, he has the potential to sabotage the Conservative Party of Canada’s path to a majority.

Anyone telling a pollster this far out from an election that they’ll vote for Maxime Bernier’s party irrespective of its name, platform, candidates and debate performance is either a diehard supporter or someone merely flirting with an exciting, new anti-establishment party.

A fuller picture of what the party is all about will help cement new supporters, but it may also lose support from the fair-weather types who so readily boarded the Bernier bus.

This is all to say that no one should count him out.  Not Andrew Scheer, not the media, and not the Liberals.

This isn’t a prediction, but a warning.  Ignoring or downplaying grassroots movements is an easy way to look like a fool.