GOLDSTEIN: Bernier more than a footnote in Canadian politics

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With just days to go before Monday’s election, Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party of Canada can no longer be dismissed as a fringe party that will have zero impact on the vote.


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Recent polls by Nanos, EKOS and Angus Reid, for example, all put Bernier’s support in the range of 6% to 7%.

That puts the PPC in fourth place in popular support nationally, behind the Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP, but ahead of the Greens and Bloc Quebecois, with the caveat the BQ only runs in Quebec.

What it means is that Bernier, who lost his own seat in the 2019 election with a mere 1.62% of support across the country, can no longer be dismissed — as he was then — as an embittered and failed candidate for the Conservative leadership, leading a party headed into oblivion.

Even if the PPC doesn’t elect a single MP— including Bernier— and even if its actual support in the election falls by a couple of points, PPC voters could still tip the balance in a number of closely fought contests across the country, with the conventional wisdom being they’ll do the most damage to Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives.


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Bernier, attracting large (often maskless) crowds to his rallies, has achieved this with little mainstream media coverage (positive or negative), including being denied a podium at the leaders’ debates.

But if this unofficial media blackout was meant to undermine Bernier’s public profile, it’s had the opposite effect.

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It’s fed into his portrayal of himself as a revolutionary outsider and the only real alternative to the mainstream political leaders and their parties.

As Bernier tweeted on Sept. 7 to his 153,200 followers, almost as many as O’Toole’s 155,800: “When tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our duty.”

The sentiment is hyperbolic and absurd, but it appeals to Bernier’s followers, many fuelled by anger, disappointment, and frustration with their place in Canadian society.


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PPC supporters are prominent among those who have been harassing Justin Trudeau at his campaign stops day after day.

A former PPC riding president for Elgin-Middlesex-London was removed by the party after he was charged with assault with a weapon, arising out of an incident in which Trudeau and some political staff and media were pelted by gravel on Labour Day.

(Bernier isn’t pursuing charges after he was hit with an egg while campaigning in Saskatoon on Sept. 2.)

Bernier’s platform contains a wide range of policies attractive to many who feel their voices are not being heard in this election, but described as racist dog-whistles by his political opponents.

On the pandemic, Bernier has declined to be vaccinated and opposes vaccine mandates and passports.


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On climate change, he would eliminate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax, pull Canada out of the Paris climate accord — arguing the science of human-induced climate change isn’t proven — and streamline the process for approving oil and gas pipelines to boost the economy.

On health care, Bernier advocates a mixed public/private system, including public and private hospitals.

On freedom of expression, he would restrict the definition of hate speech in the Criminal Code to offences which explicitly advocate violence against identifiable groups or individuals,and repeal legislation or regulations curtailing free speech on the Internet.

Bernier’s party may not elect a single MP on Monday.

But he has tapped into a vein of anger and frustration among many Canadians that it would be unwise to ignore in the next Parliament.



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