Far-right groups are endorsing People’s Party
Bernier seen by many as a vehicle to oppose immigration, vaccination
OTTAWA—Far-right and white nationalist groups are pushing their followers to support Maxime Bernier’s insurgent People’s Party of Canada in next week’s federal election.
On the fringes of the internet and in encrypted chat rooms, groups like Canada First and the Canadian Nationalist Front are encouraging their thousands of adherents to back Bernier’s PPC.
While not all People’s Party supporters are motivated by white nationalism or far-right extremism, it is clear that white nationalist and far-right groups view the party as a viable vehicle for their grievance-fuelled politics.
The party, which polls suggest has seen a surge in public support in recent weeks, has found support among some in farright circles over its opposition to mandatory vaccinations, vaccine passports and Bernier’s pledge to dramatically curb immigration.
But the party’s anti-establishment pose appears to be the common thread uniting farright groups behind Bernier.
“Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh and Erin O’Toole may get the grand share of the votes, but they represent nobody other than the system; and we f--hate them,” reads one recent post on Canada First’s Telegram channel, which boast nearly 5,000 subscribers.
“Vote PPC, take as much power away from these three shills as you possibly can.”
“Beware of people that sow division, ‘tis the tactic of our leftist enemies to spread disinformation,” reads another from the Canadian Nationalist Front. “Stick to the important issues like immigration reform and economics, ignore the dividers, PPC is the only viable option in the future for our future.”
Bernier has capitalized on the anger and anxiety over COVID-19 public health measures like lockdowns, as well as vaccine hesitancy and opposition to mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports. Bernier himself claims to have refused the COVID-19 vaccine.
He has also openly courted groups on the far-right fringe. On Friday, Bernier was interviewed by Rebel Media after he was excluded from the official leaders debates. On Tuesday, his public schedule said he was being interviewed by Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor turned online guru for disaffected young men.
“The big debate in far-right spaces last election was whether to strategically vote (Conservative) or vote PPC,” said Evan Balgord, an anti-racism campaigner with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “This time around, it’s all PPC.”
On Tuesday, the Star notified the People’s Party about the farright and white nationalist groups promoting its cause online.
“We have nothing to do with extremist groups and have nothing to offer them. We’ve been more than clear since the party’s founding that there is no place for racists in our party,” party spokesperson Martin Masse replied in an emailed statement.
“Every time it has come to our attention that someone who supports extremist positions has any position in our party, they were expelled. That’s how we ensure they don’t find a home in the PPC.”
Based on current public polling, it is unlikely that the People’s Party will gain a significant toehold in the next Parliament. The Signal, the Star’s election forecast by Vox Pop Labs, put the party’s support at 6.7 per cent nationwide Tuesday, but only projected it winning a single seat — in Beauce, the Quebec riding that Bernier formerly represented as a Conservative MP.
But even without winning seats, the People’s Party could have a significant impact on the election’s outcome, according to Vox Pop’s Clifton van der Linden.
“If the trend in voting for PPC candidates holds out until election day, and holds out at the numbers we’re currently saying, then I think you’re going to see some seats go to the Liberals in particular where the Conservatives would have otherwise won,” van der Linden said in an interview.
Vox Pop Labs has assembled a database of 8,685 self-identified PPC supporters. According to that data, the majority of PPC support — 59 per cent — comes from voters who previously supported the Conservative party.
PPC support skews male — 58 per cent — and from voters ages 18 to 40. Regionally, PPC supporters are concentrated in Ontario (42 per cent), followed by Alberta, the Prairie provinces and British Columbia. Most would fit in a broad definition of middle class and hold decentpaying blue collar jobs, van der Linden said.
The PPC’s comparatively strong support compared to its 2019 election finish has led some Conservatives to worry the parties will split the rightof-centre vote — as the Reform party and the Progressive Conservatives did in the 1990s. That would be especially concerning for the Conservatives in Ontario, the province that will probably decide the election and where the party has been aggressively targeting workingclass voters.
A senior Conservative source downplayed those concerns Tuesday, suggesting the party’s internal polling is not registering the same PPC spike that public pollsters are reporting.
“They are not costing us any seats,” said the source, who discussed the issue on the condition they not be named.