Wednesday, October 27

Bernier sees larger role for People’s Party after stronger showing in election: Interview


Full Comment podcast: PPC vote share grew as it rode the wave of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine passport, but Bernier said there’s “opportunity to grow”

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Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada didn’t win a single seat in Monday’s federal election, but the party’s growing popularity means it may be poised to play a larger role in Canadian politics.

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Bernier told the National Post’s Full Comment podcast the party plans to hire a larger team and build out its organizational structure in the wake of the election, thanks in part to a new ability to have some campaign expenses reimbursed by Elections Canada.

The episode of Full Comment, hosted by Postmedia’s Anthony Furey, will be released Monday.

During the election the party only spent the money it had raised from supporters, Bernier said, putting it in a good financial position. And because the party received more than two per cent of the vote, Elections Canada will reimburse half of its expenses.

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“Now we will have more money in the bank to be able to build the party and build the organization across the country,” Bernier said.

The PPC rode a wave of anti-lockdown, anti-mask and anti-vaccine passport sentiment to claim more than 830,000 votes, or 5.1 per cent of the Canadian electorate — well up from the party’s 2019 showing of 292,703 votes and 1.6 per cent of the total vote count.

While Bernier acknowledged the party primarily focused on opposition to public health measures in its campaign, which may not play a major role in future elections, he said he sees the party as having an “opportunity to grow” given the Conservative Party of Canada’s recent move towards the centre of the political spectrum.

“I believe that the Conservatives will go further to the left just to be able to be in government, but if you have a conservative government that won’t do anything conservative, it’s a waste of your vote,” he said.

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He accused Conservative leader Erin O’Toole of not being a “real conservative” and advancing “the same policies as Trudeau.”

The party’s plans to build more pipelines, eliminate carbon pricing, withdraw from the Paris Accord and adjust the equalization formula will resonate with disaffected right-leaning Conservative voters, Bernier told Furey.

Now we will have more money in the bank

Bernier, who failed to win his own riding of Beauce, in Quebec — which he previously represented for the Conservatives — said he’ll have more time to travel the country and grow the party’s support.

Since losing the Conservative leadership race to Andrew Scheer in 2017 and founding the PPC in 2018, Bernier has become a controversial figure. During the pandemic he made multiple appearances at anti-lockdown rallies across the country, including in St-Pierre-Jolys, Man ., where he was arrested for violating health restrictions.

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Purple PPC shirts and signs were a regular sight in the crowds of protestors dogging Trudeau’s campaign.

Numerous experts have drawn connections between the PPC and extremist views.

“The PPC’s new wave of support has been galvanized by a single issue, that of public health measures like’vaccines passports,’ but the party itself is far from that,” said the Canadian Anti-Hate Network in a Sept. 14 blog post “It’s a party of enabled bigotry, as evident by its history of attracting a whole lot of white supremacists in both its lived election cycles.”

Bernier speaks at a protest rally outside the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) headquarters ahead of a federal election in Toronto on Sept. 16.
Bernier speaks at a protest rally outside the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) headquarters ahead of a federal election in Toronto on Sept. 16. Photo by REUTERS/Chris Helgren

According to the CAHN, multiple PPC candidates attended a white supremacist conference in June, and the PPC riding director who was arrested by the RCMP for throwing gravel at Trudeau at a London campaign stop ran multiple white nationalist social media accounts.

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Bernier told Furey he disputed the characterization of his party as racist, given there is some diversity in his candidates.

On Friday, Twitter restricted Bernier’s account for 12 hours after he encouraged his followers to “play dirty” with journalists who were seeking comment on connections between his party and extremist views. He shared the email addresses of three reporters, whose efforts to reach him for comment he described as “disgusting smear jobs.”

CTV News reporter Christy Somos shared a screen capture on Twitter of a message from a PPC supporter, which called for her to be sexually assaulted and murdered, and encouraged Somos to kill herself. Global News reporter Ahmar Khan shared screen captures of messages from PPC supporters that he said were anti-Semitic and Islamophobic.

“Journalists have a legal and ethical obligation to send questions and request comment from our politicians,” the Canadian Association of Journalists wrote on Twitter. “Going after them for doing their basic duty is unacceptable and dangerous behaviour.”

Bernier addressed his tweet in the podcast, saying reporters were trying to “discredit” the party, and said he plans to ignore journalists and get his message out on social media.

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