Peoples Party of Canada

'Mad Max' as he's becoming known as, is leading the charge when it comes to speaking out against the tyrannical measures that the lockdowns have brought into Canada
As the federal election campaign heads into its last lap, the People's Party of Canada, led by Maxime Bernier, has been moving up in the polls. According to the latest Nanos numbers, PPC support has more than doubled during the campaign and sits at 5.0 per cent, while Bernier's support for preferred prime minister is at 5.5 per cent.

Yet, Bernier was not invited to any of the three leaders debates. By contrast, Green Party leader Annamie Paul was invited to the two official debates on September 8 and 9. As a technical matter, given the criteria set by the Leaders Debate Commission, the Greens qualified while the PPC did not. It is worth noting that the Greens sit at 4.2 per cent in the Nanos poll, with Paul polling lowest among all of the major party leaders at 1.7 per cent as preferred prime minister.

The PPC is widely portrayed as a far right "fringe party" whose support base is ostensibly white middle class males, many of whom are presumed to be racist and anti-immigrant. Bernier's courting of anti-vaxxers and his overheated rhetoric — calling Trudeau a "fascist psychopath" for instance — isn't exactly the image of reasonableness, and some of the more anti-Trudeau protesters have been avowed PPC supporters, including at least one alleged to have thrown gravel.

However, the reality of the PPC seems more nuanced than this caricature suggests.

Comment: However, the MSM has done all it can in order to garner this image of the PPC in the minds of Canadians. Opposition leaders came out in unison to denounce the 'violent' gravel-throwing incident against Justin Trudeau mentioned above - ostensibly connecting it to the PPC - but no such statements were made when Maxine Bernier was hit with an egg while on his campaign trail.

Arvind Sood, 46, a founding member of the PPC, migrated to Canada from India in 2003 and works for a major insurance company. He told me in an interview that, like many immigrants, he started out as a firm Liberal supporter, even referring to himself as "Trudeau Lite," but became disillusioned with the major parties' support for a high level of government regulation and control of the economy, an experience shaped by growing up in a country where the free market and individual liberties were stifled for decades after independence. Put off by what he saw as the Muslim baiting in former prime minister Stephen Harper's last campaign in 2015, he was attracted to the libertarian bent of the PPC and Bernier.

Sood is bemused by the notion that the PPC is a party of disgruntled white males who oppose immigration, noting that many people of colour, including Indo-Canadians and new immigrants, support the party. While he himself is fully vaccinated, he's wary of vaccine passports as yet another infringement of individual liberty, and he's been disappointed by what he sees as a lack of a firm commitment to classical liberal values from the present day Conservatives.

In 2015 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that Canada is a "post-national" country with no "core identity and no mainstream," Shibli Haddad could not have disagreed more. The software professional who came to Canada as a teenager is the PPC candidate for Milton, Ontario. He said to me that Canada has multiple regional identities and that a Cape Bretoner is distinct from a British Columbian but both are uniquely Canadian, as against Trudeau's claim of a blandly homogenized country.

Drawing from the party's emphasis on limited government and a primacy for individual liberty, a particular thread that unites many PPC supporters and candidates is a distrust and suspicion of government vaccine mandates, including Trudeau's proposal of vaccine passports, even among those who are themselves vaccinated. They see it as wedge issue that is sowing division. They also see a dilution in Canadian values, as witnessed by the major leaders' lukewarm criticism of statues of Canada's founders, including Sir John A Macdonald, being torn down.

Immigration is another lightning rod for PPC candidates and supporters. Vishal Chitte, 41, immigrated to Canada in 2015 from India, where he worked as a brand manager. After being laid off during the pandemic, he presently works as a door to door salesman. As a firm supporter of the PPC, Chitte notes that had he been told he would be giving up a promising career back in India and face the prospect of low paid work or possible unemployment in Canada, he might never have come.

A theme of the PPC is that Canada needs a targeted immigration policy in areas where skilled workers are needed, and are opposed to the large scale increases in immigration as seen under the Trudeau government and this, in their view, does not make them "anti-immigrant," as widely asserted. PPC supporters such as Chitte cite the fact that many skilled immigrants who worked as salaried professionals in their home countries are reduced to low paid work as their skill sets and qualifications don't translate well to the Canadian job market.

When Jagmeet Singh recently said Canada was "not safe" place for minorities, Rahul Samuel was appalled. The PPC candidate for Brampton-West, whose family are Christians from Pakistan, is a businessman and counsellor. He notes that Singh's comments evoked fear in his community. As a minority faith, Christians in Pakistan faced persecution and, he adds, they thought that they would be safe from this brand of identity politics and fear mongering in Canada.

Comment: Indeed, Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP party, is cut from the same cloth as Justin Trudeau and seems to see racism hiding behind every corner, ignorantly branding Maxine Bernier a racist during the election debates of 2019. Although he has a reputation for branding others as racist, in the case below, because he didn't get what he wanted.

The reality of the PPC is much more varied than the stereotype would suggest, even though the actions of some Bernier supporters and some of his own rhetoric is decidedly over heated and provocative. Nonetheless, the issues that they raise, whether it be government overreach, vaccine passports, or immigration policy are continuing to gain traction, whether one agrees with them or not, and they cannot be wished away.

Seeing themselves as a party of underdogs, Sood notes that Bernier's exclusion from leaders debates is ironically working in favour of the PPC, who are getting their message out across social media and grassroots campaigning. He acknowledges that his party is not going to win but his aspiration is for the PPC to be the "NDP of the right" — in other words, a mainstream party that, while it's unlikely to ever form a government, can still influence policy.