Word has it that Chelsea Hillier’s campaign is gaining traction. If the votes split the right way, the People’s Party of Canada candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London could win the Southwestern Ontario riding on Sept. 20. Here’s hoping she does.
To preserve a healthy democracy, Ms. Hillier – who is the daughter of rogue Ontario MPP Randy Hillier – along with party leader Maxime Bernier and a number of other PPC candidates should be elected to the House of Commons.
The People’s Party is far outside the mainstream of Canadian politics. Some of its more ardent supporters fuelled the protests that dogged Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign. (Ms. Hillier’s former riding president, Shane Marshall, was dismissed and has been charged by police after he allegedly threw gravel at Mr. Trudeau.) Mr. Bernier’s rhetoric – “When tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our duty” – can be incendiary.
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It is reasonable to suspect that many, if not most, of the demonstrators harassing health care workers and patients outside hospitals will be casting a ballot for the PPC.
Nonetheless, the People’s Party of Canada is a legitimate political party that deserves representation. It reflects the views of almost two million voters. Suppressing the voices of those voters will only worsen their estrangement from the mainstream.
The PPC platform is straightforward: It would cut back on immigration by as much as 75 per cent and eliminate multiculturalism as a policy. Newcomers would be interviewed to ensure they embrace “Canadian values and societal norms,” which are “those of a contemporary Western civilization.”
Canada under a PPC government would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change while lowering the bar for oil-and-gas pipeline approvals. It would direct the Bank of Canada to lower its inflation target from 2 per cent to 0 per cent; balance the budget in its first mandate; cut back on equalization payments; let provinces run their health care systems as they see fit; lift many gun restrictions; and oppose “vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and other authoritarian measures.”
Not my cup of tea – and then some. But similar policies have been implemented at one time or another in the United States and some European countries. In other countries, populist right-wing parties are prominently represented in legislatures.
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As Erin O’Toole has moved the Conservative Party toward the centre, some voters on the party’s right appear to have abandoned it for the PPC, which has the support of about 7 per cent of eligible voters, according to Tuesday’s Nanos tracking poll for The Globe and Mail and CTV News. That’s more than four times the 1.6 per cent the party polled in the last election and more support than the Bloc Québécois or Green Party command.
In a House of Commons that fairly represented the will of the electorate, there would be about two dozen PPC MPs if that level of support were translated into votes on election day. But due to the vagaries of the first-past-the-post voting system, the party could be shut out, which would further alienate right-wing voters who have already lost faith in their political institutions.
There could be plenty of reasons why so many people are drawn to the People’s Party. They have become resentful and untrusting over the loss of manufacturing jobs. They are stressed by the pandemic. Some of them resent the increasing number of non-European immigrants. This is racist, but it is how they feel. And they enjoy the self-empowerment that comes from rejecting authority.
While most of us agree that making vaccination mandatory for workplaces, public transportation and other shared spaces is essential to protect the vulnerable and defeat the pandemic, others see such restrictions as attacks on their personal freedom. And many of them distrust the scientific consensus around vaccines, just as they do when it comes to climate change.
Mr. Bernier seeks to be their voice. If their voice is silenced – if PPC members fail to break through in Parliament, just as Mr. Bernier was unfairly denied representation in the leaders’ debates last week – they will find another way to be heard.
Editor’s note: This column has been updated to clarify language about why supporters are drawn to the People’s Party of Canada.
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