Sunday, September 19, 2021

People's Party buoyed by anti-mandate sentiment

Canada election: 'Mad Max' and why his party is on the rise | BBC News - Bernd Debusmann Jr:

September 16, 2021 - "Canada is edging closer to its federal election on Monday, with Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party and Erin O'Toole's Conservative Party in a tight race for first place. But the once fringe People's Party of Canada has emerged as a potential spoiler, riding a wave of anti-lockdown and vaccine mandate sentiment. 

"Maxime Bernier ... a former Canadian foreign minister, is a populist with a libertarian bent who[m] supporters have nicknamed 'Mad Max'. He has previously described his upstart party, the People's Party of Canada (PPC), as a coalition of people 'disenchanted with traditional politicians'. The PPC has a wide-ranging platform that includes limiting immigration, an end to corporate welfare, a pro-firearms stance, and a rejection of what it terms 'climate change alarmism'. However, one issue above all has come to the forefront in the 2021 election: vaccine mandates and lockdowns.

"Mr Bernier, 58, has been a vocal opponent of ... what he calls 'authoritarian' restrictions, claiming in an August rally, for example, that vaccine passports 'will create two kinds of citizens, some with more rights than others'. Such statements are 'a huge part of the story behind the surge [for the PPC]', said Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant, a political studies professor at Queens University. 'A lot of this has been generated by the party seizing on the sense that anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine passport sentiments exist in the population.'

"Polling data suggests that this message is gaining momentum among some Canadian voters even while the country has some of the world's highest vaccination rates - over 80%. Recent tracking poll numbers from CBC, for example, ranked the PPC in fourth place nationally at 6.5% - ahead of the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois, which only runs candidates in Quebec. (The Liberals and the Conservative are in a statistical tie at around 30%). In the 2019 election, by comparison, the PPC earned just 1.6% of the popular vote and Mr Bernier lost his own seat.

"A significant portion of the party's swelling support base comes from first time or irregular voters ... said Prof Goodyear-Grant. 'They are taking some support from all the other parties ... which suggests there are people across all parties that are opposed to some of the [pandemic] measures that have been put in place,' she said. Provinces like Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia have all in recent weeks brought in vaccine passport systems that limit access in certain settings as cases rise in a fourth pandemic wave.

"Steven Weldon, the director of the Centre for the Study of Public Opinion and Representation at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, said that several factors limit how much of a 'spoiler' the party can be in the upcoming election.... Mr Weldon added that the PPC has ' less of a voice' because of ... the fact that support is spread across the country. Polling models suggest it's unlikely its candidates will win any seats.

"Bernadette Bosse, a 43-year-old consulting firm manager in Calgary, Alberta, said she's among those who would vote for Mr Bernier's party if it were [an] option, but there is no PPC candidate in the running where she lives.... Ms Bosse thinks more people would vote PPC if they had candidates in all 338 federal ridings (constituencies). They're running candidates in 312.

"In the long-run, it remains to be seen whether the PPC will continue to gain support even in a post-pandemic Canada. 'We lose sight of that because we're in the middle of both the election and the pandemic,' Prof Goodyear-Grant said. 'When the issue of the pandemic is removed, I think you would expect some of the support to dissipate'."

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