Maxime Bernier got value for money. Finally, not "his" money, but money spent on him by a businessman.
For the price of a few billboards ($ 60,000) across Canada, the leader of the People's Party won hundreds of thousands of dollars in media coverage of his anti-immigration message. As a bonus, he saw the posters removed by the display company (Pattison). And suddenly, he can complain about the censorship of the political debate imposed by the "totalitarian left pack".
Let's start with the ad. "Say NO to mass immigration," says the panel installed in Quebec City. Let's first look at the capital letters. In French, a sentence, a newspaper title has only a capital letter to the first word. Someone wrote on Twitter with a lot of accuracy: who is this Masse that we want to prevent from entering Canada?
You have to go to Edmonton or Halifax for the original English version: "Say NO To Mass Immigration".
Several people protested on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. Maxime Bernier has been playing since the founding of his party on the fear of immigration, fear of the foreigner, fear of Muslims in particular.
But in itself, we can not see how we can ban this message. With an objective of 330,000 immigrants this year, Canada is among the countries that welcome the most foreigners. One in five Canadians (20.7%) was born outside the country. It is one in seven in the United States (14.3%). One can find the expression "mass immigration" sensationalist, alarmist, intended to worry or fabricated to evoke a form of invasion. We can say that integration is particularly good here. In short, we can have the opinion we want, but it is indeed a massive immigration on an international scale.
Maxime Bernier wants to reduce it by more than half, reducing it to 150,000 people a year or less. It is a position that, in itself, is perfectly defensible.
It may be judged badly economically, made to seduce xenophobes, & c. But this position can legitimately be expressed in a political campaign, flyer or billboard.
That's what Pattison said on Sunday morning when the first reviews came out. We do not endorse commercials and we believe that Canadians do not want us to be the referee of what they can see or not see, said this first release. If there is going to be a debate, we encourage people to talk to the advertiser, Pattison added. To the extent that the message did not violate the Canadian Advertising Standards Code or the company's standards, there was no reason to remove it.
Then, in this cycle of accelerated indignation typical of the era of social networks, criticisms multiplied. Unable to handle this flow (which would surely have calmed down), obviously distraught, Pattison issued a second release. Maybe a boss is back from vacation, will know.
Suddenly, these same perfectly legitimate posters were to be removed "as soon as possible".
"Viewing Pattison has never intended to offend or insult the public in any way by allowing these advertisements to be broadcast. "
A gesture totally unjustified, if not by the panic fear of being associated with the controversy. A gesture all the more deplorable that it gives the manual to all the discontent: tap the messenger, it will drop the message.
And that allowed Bernier to say that "the totalitarian leftist pack" (as opposed to the democratic Leftist pack?) Had proceeded to a censorship operation. Operation he should rejoice because, paradoxically, it has shown these few pubs to millions of people who would never have seen … He would have planned everything he would never have achieved such a perfect result.
The ad was funded by a group on behalf of True North Strong and Free, funded by a mining businessman, Frank Smeenk. We have been in the "pre-election period" since June 30, according to the law, and this expense by a third party was perfectly legal.
Are we so worried about the democratic debate or the judgment of citizens that we prefer to suppress politically dissenting or extreme positions, rather than countering them with rational arguments?
Last week, there were legitimate concerns about Elections Canada's unclear policies regarding "third parties". For example, ecological groups have been warned that spending at least $ 500 to talk about the importance of fighting climate change could be considered partisan advertising by a third party. In the United States, the Supreme Court has completely opened the floodgates for interest groups or individuals. But in Canada, these influencing techniques are strictly regulated. All the better, it limits the influence of money in the countryside.
But it is still necessary to differentiate the scientific information and partisan messages that push to elect or defeat a candidate.
As Maxime Bernier has doubts about climate change (or does not understand, we do not know, since he talked about the CO2), taking a stand on this issue would become partisan …
We are not talking about ways of fighting it or adapting to it. We are talking about the very fact of climate change, which is the object of an overwhelming scientific consensus. The expression of obviousness, which is not accompanied by a partisan position, should not be accounted for in the same way as this kind of ad.
Is there really so little confidence in the judgment of the public? The same who chooses the governments?