A very different political rally for a very unique political party-that was the scene Sunday when People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier stopped by the Napanee Lions Hall.
Emceed by Alberta-based stand up comedian Brett Forte, the event drew about 200 people to the hall to hear Bernier speak, as well as a handful of PPC candidates from the surrounding ridings. Among those to speak was Hastings-Lennox and Addington PPC candidate Adam Gray.
In a different approach from most rallies, Forte cracked jokes about all the leaders running in the upcoming federal election-including Bernier. Among the jabs taken at the event’s headliner was his recent Twitter comments about 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist who is sailing from Europe to New York to speak at a United Nations climate change event. Bernier grabbed headlines when he tweeted the teen, who has spoken openly about having Asperger’s syndrome, was ‘mentally unstable.’ Forte joked picking online battles with kids is what political leaders do when they’re not invited to national debates, to which a laughing Bernier pointed out she was a teenager, not a kid.
Bernier has since apologized for commenting on Thunberg’s condition, going on to say she is a ‘pawn’ to shield criticism on the subject of climate change, while also saying she was ‘brave’.
Thunberg for her part never directly responded to Bernier’s series of tweets.
After the candidates from the surrounding local ridings offered a brief pitch about themselves, Bernier had the floor.
“After 11 months, we have riding association organizations in every riding in this country,” Bernier told the audience gathered at the Lions Hall. “We were able to do that because we have 41,000 members.”
“We have the right policies, there’s no political correctness with us,” the former Conservative MP turned party founder and leader said as he offered his take on how the PPC has garnered as many members as it has just shy of the one-year anniversary of its Sept. 14 launch. “We want to put Canadians first and our country first and the people first. We are saying what needs to be said in the political debate.”
On the topic of debates, he called on his supporters to help him get into the national televised debate. The debate is scheduled to take place in English on Oct. 7 and in French on Oct. 10 at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.
“Our biggest challenge right now is to be known,” said Bernier. “I can say that maybe half of our population don’t know that we exist. We must be out there…It’s so important for us to be at the national debate. Because without us, it won’t be a national debate.”
A ruling as to whether or not Bernier will be allowed to participate in any televised debates is expected to come down Sept. 16.
If he’s not granted an invite, he called on his supporters to offer any ideas they have to take part in the debate, such as live streaming his responses through a social media format.
Any exposure would likely be welcome for the PPC, as a CBC poll lists them as holding 2.8 per cent of the vote ahead of next month’s election, behind the Bloc Quebec (4.4), Greens (10.6), Liberals (33.5) and Conservatives (33.8).