Ibbitson: The People’s Party is far outside the mainstream of Canadian politics, but it deserves representation and Mason: Maxime Bernier’s disgraceful election campaign

Two very different takes on Bernier and his campaign, Ibbitson arguing that PPC political representation in Parliament is preferable to no representation, as better that they feel being shut-out:

Word has it that Chelsea Hillier’s campaign is gaining traction. If the votes split the right way, the People’s Party of Canada candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London could win the Southwestern Ontario riding on Sept. 20. Here’s hoping she does.

To preserve a healthy democracy, Ms. Hillier – who is the daughter of rogue Ontario MPP Randy Hillier – along with party leader Maxime Bernier and a number of other PPC candidates should be elected to the House of Commons.

The People’s Party is far outside the mainstream of Canadian politics. Some of its more ardent supporters fuelled the protests that dogged Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign. (Ms. Hillier’s former riding president, Shane Marshall, was dismissed and has been charged by police after he allegedly threw gravel at Mr. Trudeau.) Mr. Bernier’s rhetoric – “When tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our duty” – can be incendiary.

It is reasonable to suspect that many, if not most, of the demonstrators harassing health care workers and patients outside hospitals will be casting a ballot for the PPC.

Nonetheless, the People’s Party of Canada is a legitimate political party that deserves representation. It reflects the views of almost two million voters. Suppressing the voices of those voters will only worsen their estrangement from the mainstream.

The PPC platform is straightforward: It would cut back on immigration by as much as 75 per cent and eliminate multiculturalism as a policy. Newcomers would be interviewed to ensure they embrace “Canadian values and societal norms,” which are “those of a contemporary Western civilization.”

Canada under a PPC government would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change while lowering the bar for oil-and-gas pipeline approvals. It would direct the Bank of Canada to lower its inflation target from 2 per cent to 0 per cent; balance the budget in its first mandate; cut back on equalization payments; let provinces run their health care systems as they see fit; lift many gun restrictions; and oppose “vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and other authoritarian measures.”

Not my cup of tea – and then some. But similar policies have been implemented at one time or another in the United States and some European countries. In other countries, populist right-wing parties are prominently represented in legislatures.

As Erin O’Toole has moved the Conservative Party toward the centre, some voters on the party’s right appear to have abandoned it for the PPC, which has the support of about 7 per cent of eligible voters, according to Tuesday’s Nanos tracking poll for The Globe and Mail and CTV News. That’s more than four times the 1.6 per cent the party polled in the last election and more support than the Bloc Québécois or Green Party command.

In a House of Commons that fairly represented the will of the electorate, there would be about two dozen PPC MPs if that level of support were translated into votes on election day. But due to the vagaries of the first-past-the-post voting system, the party could be shut out, which would further alienate right-wing voters who have already lost faith in their political institutions.

There could be plenty of reasons why so many people are drawn to the People’s Party. They have become resentful and untrusting over the loss of manufacturing jobs. They are stressed by the pandemic. Some of them resent the increasing number of non-European immigrants. This is racist, but it is how they feel. And they enjoy the self-empowerment that comes from rejecting authority.

While most of us agree that making vaccination mandatory for workplaces, public transportation and other shared spaces is essential to protect the vulnerable and defeat the pandemic, others see such restrictions as attacks on their personal freedom. And many of them distrust the scientific consensus around vaccines, just as they do when it comes to climate change.

Mr. Bernier seeks to be their voice. If their voice is silenced – if PPC members fail to break through in Parliament, just as Mr. Bernier was unfairly denied representation in the leaders’ debates last week – they will find another way to be heard.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-the-peoples-party-is-far-outside-the-mainstream-of-canadian-politics/

Gary Mason, on the other hand, focuses on just how much Bernier has changed for the worse and the reactionary politics he preaches:

Election campaigns are bruising, generally thankless affairs, in which the mood of the candidates is inextricably linked to the proximity of the finish line.

That is, unless you have nothing to lose, then you can often enjoy the experience and get more exposure than you ever imagined – or frankly, deserved.

Welcome to Mad Max Bernier’s world.

Mr. Bernier leads the People’s Party of Canada. This is his second federal campaign as front man of a political entity he founded in the wake of a failed bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2017. (He lost by a hair to Andrew Scheer.) But this time around he’s attracting far more attention than he did in the 2019 election.

The pandemic has not been good for much, except, perhaps, Mr. Bernier’s political fortunes. It’s not the kind of bump with which most people would be happy to be associated, but then, beggars can’t be choosers. Many of the deplorable anti-vaxxers who have been protesting outside hospitals and angrily confronting Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail have found a home in the PPC. (A former PPC riding president was recently charged with assault with a weapon after allegedly pelting Mr. Trudeau with gravel at a campaign event.)

They have been drawn to the party’s emphasis on freedom and liberty and its “governments-have-no-right-to-tell-us-what-do” credo. A passionate, if not flakey libertarian, Maxime Bernier is capitalizing on the intersection of a pandemic and a federal election. His party has given voice to those who believe vaccine mandates and passports are an infringement of their constitutional rights.

Prior to now, Mr. Bernier and his party have mostly been an easily ignored sideshow. His questioning of human-caused climate change and his horrible mocking of climate campaigner Greta Thunberg were enough to make most normal-thinking people tune the party out long ago. The sketchy nationalists the PPC seemed to attract were a concern, but not any threat to our security. If he wanted to hold meetings and quote Ayn Rand, fine. If he wanted to be an outlet for the country’s conspiracy theorists, okay.

But what he’s been doing on the campaign trail is not kosher. Not by any measure.

Mr. Bernier recently wrapped up a three-day tour of Alberta, where, according to polls, the PPC enjoys more support than almost anywhere else in the country. He held a few well-attended events, including at a church at Spruce Grove, just outside of Edmonton. Hundreds, virtually all without masks, crammed inside the church hall to hear Mr. Bernier ramble on about how horrible it is that governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to restrict people’s rights.

“Because we know that without freedom, there’s no human dignity, equality of rights and economic prosperity,” he told his audience. “And we know that freedom is the foundation of our Western civilization.”

He pulled out a quote he uses often: “When tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our duty.” It’s a line familiar to many far-right militia organizations.

Here’s the biggest problem: Mr. Bernier is giving cover to all those out there who are refusing to get vaccinated, not because of some underlying condition, but because they simply don’t want to. This phenomenon is stalling our pandemic recovery. Alberta, for instance, is in a crisis, with hospitals overrun with COVID-19.The province’s intensive care units are now treating a record number of patients sick with the virus, the vast majority of whom were not vaccinated. Imagine.

Meantime, Mr. Bernier is out there promoting the kind of nonsense that is fuelling anti-vaxxer rage and making the jobs of governments trying to tame the fourth wave that much harder. This will be the PPC leader’s greatest legacy and his greatest shame.

To this day, many of Mr. Bernier’s former colleagues in the Conservative party remain dumbfounded by what they are witnessing. They did not see this coming. Mr. Bernier was always a libertarian, but one who didn’t take himself too seriously. He had a playful sense of humour. He could be relied on to assume serious positions in government, if not always without incident.

But after he came up just short of winning the CPC leadership four years ago something changed, and not for the better. He seemed to become embittered and intent on doing as much damage to the CPC as he could.

There’s no question he’s sucking some support away from his old party in this election. It remains to be seen, however, if it will be enough to cost the CPC a shot at government.

Regardless, when the story of this election is written, Mr. Bernier will remain a historical footnote. And a disgraceful one at that.

Source: Maxime Bernier’s disgraceful election campaign

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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