Moving from the fringe to 4th place, the PPC complicates the conservatives’ path to power
In a recent campaign event, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole couldn’t quite bring himself to say the name of the man who could end up thwarting his shot at power.
People’s Party of Canada (PPC) leader Maxime Bernier has gone from leading a small fringe group with lukewarm support to leading a right-wing party which the CBC Poll Tracker says may have the fourth largest share of the vote on the 20th.
After the last election campaign, a CBC News analysis showed that, even with its rather dismal level of support, the PPC probably cost the Conservatives seven seats in the House of Commons by dividing the votes (six seats went to the Liberals, one to the NDP). With polls suggesting support for the PPC is now well above the 1.6% of the vote it received last time, its impact could be even greater in 2021.
When asked recently by CBC News what he plans to do to slow Bernier’s momentum and prevent a split-vote scenario that could give Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau another term, O’Toole didn’t say big. – something – and never mentioned Bernier by name.
O’Toole was asked three questions about the former Tory minister turned PPC leader at a press conference on Sunday and dodged each one.
“I remind Canadians that if you are tired of a Liberal government that is constantly in scandal, corrupted in its essence by Mr. Trudeau’s constant ethical inquiries, there is a team and a leader who can replace it – the Conservatives of Canada, ”said O’Toole in the end. said when in a hurry.
WATCH: O’Toole asked about increasing People’s Party support
His party’s campaign materials insist that Canadians have only four choices in this election. “If you don’t care about creating jobs in Canada and standing up to the Chinese Communist Party, there are three parties to choose from. If you do, you have only one choice – Canada’s Conservatives, ”read a recent press release.
While polls suggest that some support for the PPC comes from novice or infrequent voters, there is no doubt that the PPC draws at least some support from former Conservative voters.
“The Conservative Party is no longer a Conservative Party,” Craig Mostat, a former Conservative PPC supporter from Edmonton, told CBC News.
“They bend over backwards to do whatever the Liberals do,” he said, referring to the party’s more moderate conservatism under O’Toole.
Outgoing Conservative MP David Yurdiga backs Bernier and Shawn McDonald, the local PPC candidate in his Fort McMurray, Alta. horse riding.
“We are the real conservatives. We bring people home,” McDonald told conservative online outlet True North.
WATCH: O’Toole asked about Conservative MP endorsing Bernier
Some pollsters – especially those who use more anonymous collection methods, like interactive voice response (IVR) – show higher levels of PPC support than companies using live telephone agents or an online forum to poll the public on their voting choices.
While major polling companies across the country cannot agree on how much support the PPC enjoys, it is clear that the party is much more powerful now than it was in the 2019 campaign.
“There are definitely a lot more people jumping on the PPC bandwagon, even compared to two months ago. It’s really getting bigger and bigger,” said Rodolpho Menjivar, an infrequent voter in the Alberta who voted Liberal in the past but plans to choose the PPC this time around.
“People are looking for another option because they don’t like what everyone else is doing.”
Philippe Fournier, poll analyst at 338Canada, said the strength of the PPC could cause problems for the Conservatives in close races in prairie cities like Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. In 2019, the party narrowly won seats like that in Charleswood — St. James — Assiniboia — Headingley and Edmonton Center Alberta against the Liberals.
“The PPC could get more votes than the Bloc Québécois in this election, which was unfathomable only a year ago,” Fournier said. “We can say with certainty that many of their supporters previously voted Conservative.”
Fail to launch – then a sudden resurgence
Bernier’s dramatic break with the Conservative Party in 2018 was a troubling development for some Conservatives who feared that a fractured center-right vote would guarantee Liberal victories for years to come.
At the time, however, most Tory insiders – especially those who had known him from his time as minister in the Harper era – scorned Bernier’s potential political impact.
They feared a split vote, but they didn’t think Bernier was well equipped to start a new party and fight in a meaningful way in enough constituencies to make a big difference.
The PPC’s poor performance in 2019 – Bernier lost the Beauce seat he had occupied for years – reinforced opponents.
But the COVID-19 pandemic led to a political realignment, breathing new life into a party that seemed almost dead.
Public health measures such as the closures have slowed the spread of the virus – and probably saved lives – but they have also angered and frustrated some Canadians who have seen their livelihoods destroyed as economic life and social stopped.
The PPC becomes the party without lockdown
The federal Conservative Party and some of its provincial counterparts, such as the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, have generally shown deference to public health officials who have called for restrictions – a sane position during a pandemic but which has also generated a reaction from people who are bristling with the limits of their freedoms.
The PPC welcomed these voters with open arms. A party promising a radically smaller government with fewer regulations was suddenly adopted by people who saw government as an oppressive force.
Bernier, a libertarian who has long denounced government excesses, has become a champion of the “more blockades” crowd, appearing regularly in well-attended protests against these restrictions.
Pressure from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for a vaccination mandate for federal officials and the traveling public has also given Bernier another cause as he warns of what he calls Canada’s descent into the “Tyranny”.
“We are the only national political party against vaccine passports. We believe in freedom of choice – everyone should be able to decide for themselves,” Bernier said at a recent rally.
O’Toole opposes Trudeau’s proposed vaccination mandate, but said he would let provinces introduce their own vaccination passport programs.
Bernier’s speech to voters also includes a plan to “define” the CBC, balance the budget quickly, cut all foreign aid, “say no to the UN” – an organization he calls “a dysfunctional organization” – and withdraw from the Parisian climate accord.
“More and more people are coming to our side. You can count on us, ”said Bernier.
WATCH: PPC leader Maxime Bernier arrested by RCMP
But it was Bernier’s staunch opposition to the idea of vaccine passports – the credentials that people vaccinated against COVID-19 can show businesses to make day-to-day operations safer – that drew Menjivar.
“What I particularly like about them is that they refuse vaccine passports and mask warrants. I don’t believe in compulsory things imposed on people and in the inability to travel if I don’t no vaccine. ”he said.
“People just want to be left alone and not be called bad guys for not getting their vaccine. We just want to live and be able to do everything we did two years ago.”
Fournier said polls suggest it was Bernier’s anti-vaccination rhetoric on the passport that is behind the party’s rise.
“We know from pre-election polls that anti-vaccines made up about eight to 10 percent of the Canadian population,” Fournier said. “He is taking his message to new heights to appeal to these people.
“And if it goes from 1.6 percent in 2019 to seven or eight percent or more in this election, that would be an incredible achievement.”