People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier has cancelled a federal election speaking engagement with the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce scheduled for Friday.
In an email to the newspaper, Carole Cunningham, director of events and administration with the Chamber, confirmed Bernier had cancelled "due to a change in his schedule."
"Registrants will be notified of the cancellation," Cunningham wrote.
News the federal party leader would be kicking off the chamber's federal election forum series on Aug. 27 was met with criticism on social media last week.
Paolo Fongemie, the former mayor of Bathurst, was among those who tweeted disapproval.
"Who's next? Leader of the Rhino party?" he wrote on Twitter. "I have 0 tolerance for anyone who promotes fear, hate, racism, etc."
But Chamber CEO David Duplisea defended Bernier’s inclusion.
“Whether you love him or hate him, he is part of the national landscape,” Duplisea told the newspaper. “There are People’s Party of Canada candidates running. There is one right in Saint John. You’re going to hear about it. (The party) is part of it.”
In the 2019 federal election, the People’s Party ran 315 candidates in its inaugural campaign. None of the candidates won a seat – including Bernier, who lost his own Quebec riding. The party had fewer than 300,000 votes, and did little better than independents in its ridings with 1.7 per cent of the popular vote.
On Sunday, Bernier learned he would be left out of the national leaders' debates, according to a decision from Leaders' Debates Commissioner David Johnston. The decision was based on new criteria from the Leaders’ Debates Commission.
In order to qualify for the debates, the leader of a political party has to meet at least one of three criteria. Those are on the date the general election is called, the party is represented in the House of Commons by a Member of Parliament who was elected as a member of that party; the party's candidates for the most recent general election received at least four per cent of the number of valid votes cast; and/or five days after the general election is called, the party receives a level of national support of at least four per cent based on voting intention, as measured by leading national public opinion polling organizations.
- With files from Mike Landry
Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal