By: Greg Staley
Written On: 2021-08-31
*Updated to include Mr. Prang’s response 2021-09-02 @12:25 PM*
Cole Squire, the Peoples Party of Canada (PPC) candidate for the riding of Brantford-Brant in Ontario was refused entry to the Brantford Chamber of Commerce’s (BRCC) all-candidates debate. The BRCC said that “additional COVID-19 safety protocols” would be in place at the event. These safety protocols, outline in an email to Mr. Squire included wearing masks at all times while inside of One Market (except for candidates while filming), providing “proof of vaccination from a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization” or if a candidate or guest was unable to provide Proof-of-Vaccination, the candidate and their guest would be “required to undergo a Rapid Antigen Screening test that must be negative.”
In responding to the BRCC’s decision to preclude him in the debate, Mr. Squire held an impromptu press conference outside of One Market. Mr. Squire told a group of supporters who had gathered that he had let them know (BRCC) through email correspondence that he did not agree to disclose his private health information or be subject to a rapid antigen test as he is healthy. He had offered to attend the debate virtually but the BRCC wouldn’t allow it as they said the production standards of the event “eliminates the option of including participation via a personal remote video feed.”
The BRCC told Mr. Squire that he wouldn’t be allowed to attend the debate virtually but that it was fine for him to attend the fireside chat virtually and for him to send a 2-minute video in lieu of him not being able to participate in the debate in person.
In email correspondence with Diverge Media, David Prang, the CEO of the BRCC said that “The Peoples Party of Canada candidate for Brantford-Brant was refused entry to the debate for several reasons.” Some of these reasons included being “over 20 minutes late to the studio.” Mr. Squire arrived at 9:40 am instead of the 9:15 am time that the BRCC had requested.
The BRCC CEO then said that Mr. Squire only told him of his intention to not test or disclose his medical status the day of the debate. “He only then directly communicated with me that he was refusing to follow the rules of the debate that were required to ensure the safe participation of all candidates, staff, and volunteers.”
The issue with Mr. Prang’s response is that it isn’t true.
Upon reaching out to Mr. Squire, the Peoples Party candidate revealed to Diverge Media an email he had sent to David Prang on August 29th. In his email to Mr. Prang, Mr. Squire said “I will agree to masking and social distancing but I will not disclose my private medical and health information nor do the rapid testing.”
This is a direct contradiction of the statement that David Prang gave Diverge Media when he said that he waited until the day of the debate to communicate that he was “refusing to follow the rules of the debate.”
Responding to his disappointment of not being allowed to debate the other candidates at the BRCC event, Mr. Squire said that he had been hopeful that today there would still be a sense of democracy and freedom in the country but said “unfortunately that was not the case.”
The PPC candidate for Brantford-Brant said “to make it even a bit more absurd, this is a COVID-19 vaccination centre building. So anyone in there that’s scared of this virus is clearly going in there to get vaccinated anyway.” Mr. Squire said that he went into the building respectfully with a mask on and socially distanced but was turned away by David Prang from the Brantford Chamber of Commerce.
One Market, the location in which the debate was held is also a campus for Wilfrid Laurier and was chosen as the location to host the debate by the BRCC. This means that candidates were subject in part to Wilfrid Laurier’s COVID-19 rules. In their email to Mr. Squire, the BRCC said that “these rules were developed by the production partners, in consultation with Wilfrid Laurier University.” The reasoning given by the BRCC for these rules is that it was “for the safety of each of the candidates, the single guests permitted in studio, RogersTV and Brant One staff.”
What isn’t clear is why the BRCC couldn’t hold host the debate as an outdoor event that could accommodate all candidates. After all, many of the political campaign stops by political leaders during the election campaign have been held at outdoor events with pop-up tents used to protect the sound and lighting equipment. One would think during the “fourth wave” of COVID-19 that instead of jumping through asinine COVID-19 rules to host an indoor event, it would have been more prudent to host the event virtually or outdoors.
Diverge Media asked Mr. Prang why the event couldn’t be held outside like many other politicians were currently doing on the campaign trail. Mr. Prang’s response to Diverge Media was that “there was no reason to go outdoors when we had suitable studio space to do it safely.”
Whether intentional or not, the decision by the BRCC to hold this all-candidates debate at the One Market location with these COVID-19 rules in place prevented an indigenous man who lives on the Six Nations reserve from having the opportunity to represent the Peoples Party of Canada’s positions on key issues. Issues that the party fundamentally differs on compared to the others like lockdowns/restrictions and COVID-19 vaccine passports and mandates.
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