Galvanized by vaccinations and pandemic issues, support for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) more than tripled nationally in Monday’s election.
And if you only listened to PPC leader Maxime Bernier’s speech Monday night, you might not have guessed they didn’t pick up any seats.
“Everywhere we looked, you could see purple — a purple wave, a sea of purple,” Bernier told the cheering crowd.
“My friends, this is not just a political party, it is a movement. It is a ideological revolution that we are starting now.”
The PPC received just over five per cent of the popular vote, and nearly eight per cent in Manitoba.
“I do think Maxime Bernier has a reason to be feeling good,” says Christopher Adams, a political scientist at the University of Manitoba.
“He didn’t win a seat, but at the same time he brought up the support for the PPC from miniscule amounts in the last election … and because of that they will have continuing followers into the next election, which might be just around the corner.”
Adams explains this is because even though Bernier solidified his following with strong stances against pandemic health measures, he’s tapping into other attitudes surrounding immigration, libertarianism, and reduced government regulation, which were positions of the centre-right even before the pandemic.
“Canadians said they’ve had enough. Enough of this COVID hysteria, enough of the flattening of our rights and freedoms, enough of the massive spending deficit and government overreaching,” Bernier said Monday night.
In Manitoba, PPC support increased in nearly every riding compared to 2019; most notably in Portage-Lisgar and Provencher, reaching 20 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.
The only exception was Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley, which is where well-known former Conservative Steven Fletcher ran for the party two years ago.
Adams notes PPC votes are largely being drawn from the Conservatives, which will likely be an ongoing headache for the Tories.
“I would say that if the Conservatives try to pander to bring back those supporters who went over to the PPC, that means they’ll alienate voters in Toronto, in Winnipeg, (and) in Vancouver,” Adams says.
“So they’ve got to balance between the centre-right part of their core support, but not allow more of their right-wing supporters to pull them away from the more centrist voters.”
Adams adds Bernier’s rise isn’t altogether unexpected, with populist leaders like Donald Trump gaining tractions across the globe.