Londoner and real estate agent Rob Johnkans’ support for Canada’s People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier is firm.
“I met him, shook his hand and had a few minutes of conversation with him,” said the longtime Conservative voter. “The guy is solid … I believed in him at that moment. He’s who he says he is.”
Johnkans was among the normally moderate moderate voters who withdrew against Bernier’s party during the last election. Bernier’s attacks on COVID-19 public health restrictions and vaccine passports seemed to unite some voters, who see pandemic policies as the government’s overthrow.
With this message, the PPC captured about 5 percent of the vote nationally, possibly ruining conservative prospects in some clearings. Going forward, however, it is not clear how the party can maintain this support and build momentum without representation in the House of Commons and with the pandemic likely to end before the next election.
Bernier, however, is defiant, claiming he can do just that, even if it is defeat.
“We have no one in Parliament, but we are the real opposition. If you look at all the ideas we are promoting, we are the only real Conservative party in Canada right now,” he said.
In an interview with CBC News, Bernier denied allegations that his party won support from right-wing extremists by following their views. His platform promised to tighten immigration, expand gun rights, repeal Canadian multiculturalism law, and dilute discrimination laws.
Bernier is copying Trump’s tactics, critics say
Others who watched the PPC election campaign have a very different opinion.
Fareed Khan, founder of the organization Canadians United Against Hate, said he believes Bernier used social media during the campaign to mislead Canadians and use all-right support.
“He demonstrated through his actions under the campaign strategies and tactics right out of Donald Trump’s playbook, and that’s what I think he’s following,” Khan said.
Bernier recently tweeted the email addresses of several journalists covering the PPC campaign.
“They want to play dirty, we want to play dirty too,” he wrote to his nearly 160,000 followers. Twitter limited Bernier’s account for 12 hours in response to this tweet.
SE | Maxime Bernier urges supporters to ‘play dirty’ with journalists:
“I think Mr Bernier is a danger to the democratic process. Should his support go ahead, I think it poses a very serious risk to the way politics is conducted in Canada,” Khan said.
Although Khan expressed concern about Bernier’s rise in popularity in the 2021 election, he said he also “hopes” that much of the PPC’s support was linked to the pandemic – which may not be such an important factor if and when Bernier runs again. .
Bernier claims vaccines are ‘to protect yourself’
In his interview, Bernier confirmed that he still has not received a COVID-19 vaccine and has no plans to do so, despite the increasing incidence of federal and provincial vaccination mandates.
“No, I’m not,” he said when asked if he had been vaccinated. “And I will not be.”
Bernier also inaccurately described vaccines as solely for self-protection — when in fact they are a tool to protect community health from highly contagious viruses.
“In the history of science, when you decide to take the vaccine, it’s protecting yourself,” Bernier said.
Bernier further said he can legally challenge vaccination mandates if they prevent him from traveling and performing his duties as PPC leader. From 30 October, people traveling by plane, train or seaplane must show proof of vaccination.
“I do not know. We will have to look at it when the time comes,” he said of a possible court challenge.
Extremists ‘not welcome’ in PPC, Bernier insists
While politicians’ ability to travel and meet supporters will be limited by the vaccine mandate, Bernier and the PPC said they expect to continue to grow between now and the next federal election.
“We do politics differently. We fight for ideas that we know are best for the country,” said Daniel Tyrie, PPC’s CEO.
“And when people start hearing them, [they] become more familiar with us, more confident with us and understand our ideas and why they are important. This is how we continue to grow. “
Bernier insisted he would not seek the support of extremists or white supremacists, though he declined to say how he plans to deter these people from supporting his party.
“They are not welcome at our party. They just need to read our platform,” Bernier said.
Bernier’s rally against what he called “tyranny” during the recent election was similar to a slogan used by a far-right militia group. A local PPC riding president was also removed after Justin Trudeau was furred with gravel at a campaign event in London, Ont.
Bernier has indicated that there will be a vote on his leadership in the future. Tyrie said he expects Bernier to remain the face of the party he founded for the foreseeable future.
“I think Maxime is still a massive figure in the party. He has been a giant galvanizing figure and has brought so many people into our movement,” Tyrie said.