In light of the Pittsburgh massacre on Saturday, October 27, the federal NDP is calling for the cancellation of a debate with American alt-right agitator Steve Bannon as one of the speakers.
Bannon, who framed much of Donald Trump’s divisive message during the 2016 United States presidential campaign and in the early months of Trump’s administration, will debate conservative commentator David Frum in the Munk Debates. The debate is scheduled for Friday, November 2, and was advertised months before the NDP’s call for it to be cancelled.
The debate between Bannon and Frum will be about the future of western politics being populist not liberal.
North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney said right-wing, fear mongering voices such as Bannon’s are getting louder, but so is her party’s opposition.
“We have continued and will continue to stand up, remind people that we have to make sure the voice is strong, that we're willing to have conversations but we're not willing to have conversations that are full of hate and fear-mongering that really put people in harm's way,” said Blaney.
She said Saturday's shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was an appalling act of anti-semitism.
“This senseless attack is merely the latest episode in a series of crimes inspired by hate and prejudice, such as anti-semitism, Islamophobia and homophobia,” she added. “Canadians are rightly concerned by the rise of violence and bigotry.”
Created in 2008 and held in Toronto, the Munk Debates focus on policy issues and bring prominent thinkers together in discourse.
Blaney said freedom of speech is very important but those freedoms can create an environment that is not safe.
“We have to be consciously aware of that and what those impacts are,” said Blaney. “As political leaders, we need to be mindful of the discourse and must raise our dialogue by promoting respectful debate based on inclusion instead of division.”
During her regional media teleconference on Tuesday, October 30, Blaney also discussed the departure of NDP MPs since the 2015 federal election, many of whom were high profile party stalwarts.
Former leader Tom Mulcair retired, Kennedy Stewart was just elected mayor of Vancouver and Sheila Malcolmson left the federal NDP to run for the BC NDP in Nanaimo.
Five other MPs are expected not to seek re-election in 2019 after serving at least eight years.
“Despite the spin on this,” said Blaney, “not only is that level of turnover not unusual, it is arguably healthy and important for a party and for the house as a whole.”