Following Canada’s federal election in September, many journalists and commentators remarked that voters elected a near-identical parliament as they did in 2019. One key difference, however, is the People’s Party of Canada’s (PPC) performance.
While the PPC failed to gain any seats, they received significantly more votes than in 2019. The party, led by far-right politician Maxime Bernier, increased their vote share from 1.6 per cent to 5 per cent. The 844,122 votes the PPC received is more than double what the Green Party, which has existed for 35 years longer, received. This is a cause of concern for many, given the vocal support the PPC has garnered from many of Canada’s most prominent white supremacists and neo-fascists, including neo-Nazis Paul Fromm and Faith Goldy.
Omar Kinnarath, an organizer with Fascist Free Treaty 1, notes the importance of the COVID-19 pandemic in the PPC’s fortunes.
“They found success – if you can call it that – in this election, because they campaigned heavily on the COVID-19 vaccine issue and concentrated (on) getting votes by opposing vaccines and vaccine mandates,” he says in an email to The Uniter.
The PPC’s proposed COVID-19 policy included repealing vaccine mandates, firing the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and supporting provincial measures geared toward “protecting the most vulnerable” while opposing larger-scale lockdowns, according to their website.
“They took the political opportunity to cater to the anti-vax movement, which gave them more votes than their actual policy,” Kinnarath says.
Kinnarath has firsthand experience with the party’s dangerous tactics. After he successfully lobbied to have the venue for a planned PPC event cancelled, the Winnipeg Centre branch of the party shared his name, photo and home address on social media and falsely accused him of being a “terrorist.” Kinnarath filed a lawsuit against the PPC in 2020.
Dr. Malcolm Bird, associate professor of political science at the University of Winnipeg, has a less critical take on the party, calling the PPC’s performance in this election “a pretty impressive uptake.” While COVID-19 issues have certainly galvanized some voters into supporting the PPC, he believes it is more than a “COVID-19 pandemic” protest party.
“I think their views on the pandemic, vaccines and freedoms is part of the story, but I definitely don’t think that this is all of the story,” Bird says.
“This party represents values, issues and policy ideas that are resonating with a big chunk of the electorate,” he says. He cites their fiscal and energy policies as examples. However, a poll by Forum Research found that PPC voters had very different reasons for supporting the party. Apart from anti-vaccine and anti-vaccine-mandate views, PPC voters were also motivated by factors like climate denial, approval of former United States president Donald Trump and opposition to abortion rights and gun control.
Ideologically, the PPC has been described as “right-wing,” “classical liberal,” “libertarian” and “far-right.” Their supporters persistently followed Liberal leader Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail and protested at his events, occasionally violently.
Kinnarath says that given “right-wing populism and ultra-nationalism is at its height worldwide right now,” he thought the PPC would get more votes.
“I know from personal experience from the amount of threats and trolling that (I) have received in the last two years that there is a sizable minority of Canadians that sway on the side of Trumpism and flirt with fascist politics,” he says.
Bird notes that, while the PPC is a libertarian-oriented party often associated with people on the right, his sense is that “they’re drawing from a whole host of different constituencies and groups of Canadians that are attracted to their platform.”
It is unclear whether the PPC has a future in a post-COVID-19 world. In addition to being accused by many of espousing racist views (particularly with regards to immigration), it is essentially a one-man show focused on leader Bernier. In fact, the party has yet to have a leadership convention.
“The PPC is a cult of personality and one man’s vanity project, nothing more,” Kinnarath says.
Published in Volume 76, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 21, 2021)