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EDITORIAL: Bad optics

Maxime Bernier left the Conservative Party of Canada last August to sit as an independent MP and launch a new federal party, the People’s Party of Canada. He visited The Telegram on Friday to answer questions about his views on many issues, including equalization and immigration.
People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier. — SaltWire Network file photo

The headline on a CBC story from a Tacoma fishing derby was an understatement, to say the least.

“‘We all make mistakes,’ says woman who got bit by an octopus she put on her face,” the headline read.

Jamie Bisceglia put the cephalopod on her face to try to help a friend win a fishing derby photo contest. Instead, the poison bite took her to hospital.

“I’m not here to, you know, try to make myself look good, because I know I don’t,” Bisceglia told CBC’s “As It Happens.”

“We’re human. We all make mistakes.”

If anyone might sympathize with that sentiment and ill-timed photo, it might be People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier.

Or perhaps, more frighteningly, Bernier doesn’t see his latest photo-op as a mistake at all.

Last week, Bernier had his photo taken at a PPC rally with prominent white nationalist Paul Fromm, with Fromm later posting on social media that Bernier has “both the charisma and determination to put CANADA FIRST.”

And this week, Fromm is publicly backing Bernier, saying “Support the People’s Party of Canada — real immigration reform at last.”

Bernier has maintained that allegations of racism against him and his neophyte party are false.

Bernier’s campaign has said that Bernier was not aware of Fromm’s leanings when the picture was taken, a message similar to what Bernier said about having his picture taken with what appeared to be members of the anti-immigration group the Northern Guard. At that time, Bernier said he had his picture taken with hundreds of people. “I don’t have time to inquire about their views,” he said.

Bernier has maintained that allegations of racism against him and his neophyte party are false. “I don’t care one bit about people’s race or skin colour. I have said many times that racists and bigots are not welcome in our party,” he told supporters. “We care about shared values, culture and identity.”

Bernier and his party have argued for reducing the number of refugees Canada accepts, and the party’s policy also talks of the need for border fencing to keep refugees from crossing into Canada illegally from the United States, a position that outsiders have condemned.

But complaints about Bernier’s new party aren’t just coming from outside the party, either: a Winnipeg riding board for the PPC resigned in its entirety, saying in an open letter, “The biggest problem we face locally though, are our own supporters. Racists, bigots, anti-Semites, and conspiracy theorists have large presence in the public conversation surrounding the People’s Party of Canada.”

But back to Fromm and the PPC.

The more obvious the company you keep, the harder it is to extricate yourself from their grip.

Let’s put it another way.

The problem with having an octopus on your face?

All those suckers, let alone the poisonous bite, make it hard to extricate yourself from its multitude of tentacles. Sometimes, people learn that the hard way.

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