The local candidate for the People’s Party of Canada says he is pleased to be able to share his ideas at the debate table, less than a week after GuelphToday reported he wasn’t being invited to debates in Guelph.
Last week, GuelphToday reported that Mark Paralovos, who is running under the People’s Party of Canada banner, was not invited to the upcoming Guelph Chamber of Commerce debate, a Guelph Coalition on Active Transportation (GCAT) event or the 100 Debates On The Environment event.
Reached on Wednesday, Paralovos said he has since been invited to the upcoming Chamber and GCAT events.
He knows not everybody is going to be happy with the decision.
“Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with perceived positions of my party or me personally, having the option to know what is on offer is more important than short term hurt feelings or difficult discussions,” said Paralovos by phone on Wednesday.
Paralovos said governing the country is more important than the cancel culture, referring to the trend of boycotting someone with an unpopular opinion or perceived offensive behaviour.
“An idea should be shared and then if it’s a bad idea, you find out really fast because people say it’s a really bad idea and here’s a much better idea that solves all of those problems,” said Paralovos.
“If you can beat one idea with another idea, that’s the best way to go about this. If you can’t argue and convince your way through a debate and instead you have to silence your opposition, that tells me you don’t have very good arguments,” he added.
Guelph Chamber of Commerce president Shakiba Shayani said they followed the Leaders' Debate Commission criteria for which candidates could stand in the local debate. If the party was not represented in the national debates, the local candidate from the same party would not be invited to the debate in Guelph.
“We followed their criteria and at the time it came out it was made clear that the People’s Party did not meet (the criteria),” said Shayani.
Earlier this week, the commission said People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier would now be allowed to participate in the leaders' debate.
“When the commission identified they did meet (the criteria), we then changed our invitation and extended it to our local candidate,” she said.
In a letter sent to the federal debate commissioner, NDP leader Jagmeet SIngh said he was disappointed at the decision.
"It is wrong that Mr. Bernier be given a platform to promote an ideology of hate that spreads prejudice and disinformation," said Singh in the letter.
He said Bernier has courted racists to run for the party.
Paralovos said there is a misconception that his party’s stance on immigration is about race. In its platform, the People’s Party of Canada promises to lower the number of refugees the country accepts by more than half and accept a larger proportion of skilled economic immigrants.
“I am a first-generation Canadian. Both of my parents are immigrants and only one is now a citizen, so I am not anti-immigrant,” said Paralovos.
“I am no racist in any stretch of the word. I am looking at this purely from a fiscal standpoint and fiscally it’s a nightmare,” he said of the current government's policies on immigration.
As it now stands, the Chamber debate will include the local candidates for the Green Party, NDP, Liberal Party, People’s Party of Canada and the Conservative Party.
After telling GuelphToday last week that he was not invited to several events, Paralovos now says he is invited to all of the upcoming events he knows about, with exception of the 100 Debates on the Environment scheduled for Oct. 3.
“That’s the only one I haven’t heard back from. I don’t know if there are other events I just haven’t been invited to,” said Paralovos. “I hope that they do.”
Paralovos said he is also invited to a debate Oct. 1 at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School and an Oct. 4 debate at Village by the Arboretum, as well as a Sept. 26 event hosted by the Coalition for Social Justice.