Steve Bannon—known for his popularization of the alt-right—is to defend populism this week at a Toronto debate against conservative commentator, and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, David Frum. But in light of the Pittsburg synagogue shooting last weekend, Torontonians are beginning to question if inviting Donald Trump's former political chief strategist for a debate now is such a good idea.
The Munk Debates entitled "The rise of populism" will take place in Toronto's Roy Thompson Hall this November 2nd. Bannon and Frum will respectively argue for and against the motion: Be it resolved, the future of western politics is populist, not liberal.
The federal NDP is pushing to cancel the event altogether out of respect for the victims of Saturday's tragedy. NDP MP Charlie Angus told the CBC he believed Bannon's extreme views only serve to feed social divisions and create climates where Jewish and Muslim communities feel attacked.
Despite Bannon's history of provocative and inflammatory rhetoric, other Canadian politicians maintain he should still get a chance to speak. Liberal MP Adam Vaughan admitted he would have preferred it if Bannon had not been invited, but ultimately said it is not up to politicians to decide who can and cannot speak.
The leader of the People's Party of Canada Maxime Bernier, who left the Conservative party to form his own to run against Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in 2019, likewise said having a debate is part of Canadian democracy.
Commenters online are split about his appearance in Canada. Many seem to generally disagree with the idea of deplatforming someone because you deem their ideas too harmful, as that may only add further credence to their cause.
Others have noted Bannon probably will not clarify notions of populism as much as he will likely just continue to inflame more harmful ideas. Furthermore, while the Synagogue attack was tragic and untimely in line with this debate, it seems public perception suggests it might not be as directly relevant to this particular event as others claim after all.
Steve Bannon is set to appear with David Frum at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto this Friday, November 2 at 6:45 p.m. Tickets have been sold out.