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Politics

A look at fringe parties in Atlantic Canada

WATCH: While the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP gear up for the upcoming federal election, so-called “fringe parties” are making their own preparations. Alicia Draus has more.

In a small room in Cole Harbour Place, the People’s Party of Canada introduced six candidates who will be running in Nova Scotia during the fall election.

The party was created last year by Maxime Bernier after he failed to win the leadership race for the federal conservatives. While the party is still in its infancy, they have announced their intention to run a full slate of candidates this fall.

Matthew Southhall is among those candidates and says he has full confidence that the party will see success at the polls.

“We have evidence if we’re looking at other countries around the world, we look at the United States, some spots in Europe where parties like ourselves who are looking to voice that of the peoples unrepresented, a populous voice, certainly seems to be something the people are looking for,” he said.

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The right-leaning party has a platform that calls for reducing the number of immigrants, scraping the federal carbon tax and putting an end to supply management.

Also looking to attract voters from the right is the National Citizen’s Alliance. The alt-right group is led by Steven Garvey who will be running in the Cumberland-Colchester riding.

Among the group’s core tenets is the goal of implementing a “strong no-nonsense immigration policy that puts the well-being and safety of the Canadian people first and implementing a temporary pause and substantial reduction in immigration.”

WATCH: Two arrested after confrontation between far-right group and Halifax Against Hate

Two men arrested after political protest turned heated in Halifax
Two men arrested after political protest turned heated in Halifax

The party’s website displays statements that are anti-Islam, including a belief that the burka or niqab is not part of Canada’s cultural norms. The NCA has attempted to hold rallies in Nova Scotia, but each time rallies have been disrupted by protesters saying the group’s message has no place in the province.

In 2015, all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada went to the Liberals. Dalhousie University political scientist Lori Turnbull says the region will likely see seats going to other parties this year, but she says it will be difficult for fringe parties to break into the system.

“You’re really asking the voter to take a chance on a party that’s probably not going to win,” said Turnbull.

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“That’s tough when we’re in a system like ours where people are very comfortable strategic voting, and we know that’s what people do a lot of the time. People don’t like the sense of a wasted vote, they’re looking for a way to make their vote count.”

Historically, Nova Scotians have only voted Liberal or Conservative with some NDP MPs getting in. Only once has an independent been voted in.

The federal Green Party is looking to break that trend, and for the first time are polling five per cent higher than the NDP.

READ MORE: New research suggests Liberal, Green support trending up, Conservative, NDP down in Atlantic Canada

“The Green Party has had quite a bit of a success electorally in Atlantic Canada,” said Turnbull, referencing recent provincial elections in P.E.I. and New Brunswick where the provincial parties claimed seats.

“I wonder to an extent, is the Green Party starting to shed a bit of it’s identity as a fringe party.”

Jo-Ann Roberts is the party’s deputy leader and will be running as the candidate for Halifax. She says that the Green Party’s success at provincial levels will help bring legitimacy to the federal party.

“I think people are looking at this in this region and thinking hmm, Greens can win, Greens can do a good job,” said Roberts.

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“We are a party to be taken seriously. Elizabeth May will be part of all the debates, the leaders debates. I think that says something about where the Green Party is right now, we have matured.”

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While Roberts acknowledges that it is unlikely her party will form government, she says their main goal is to be a voice in Parliament that can hold the bigger parties to account.

“And we’re a party that will work with other parties,” she said.

Even if the other fringe parties aren’t polling as well as the Green Party, Turnbull says they too will play a role in the election, particularly when it comes to shaping the debate.

As the right-wing parties lay out their platforms, Turnbull says some voters will be wanting to know where the Conservative Party stands on those issues.

“Because that’s the traditional place for people who are right-leaning to park their vote in Canada,” said Turnbull.

“What I think what’s going to happen is that there will be pressure on Andrew Scheer to indicate whether he supports any of the ideas coming from the alt-right.”

While the latest polls have the Liberals in the lead, Turnbull says it’s still early and anything could happen.

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“I think voter turnout is actually the thing to watch in this election,” she said.

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“Whether people feel they can move their vote around or whether they’re going to sit this thing out all together and that will have interesting repercussions for the parties as well.”