Today the House of Commons returns for the last gasp of this Parliament before the Fall election. MPs will sit for seven of the next eight weeks with lots of unfinished business on the agenda, much legislation still needed to be passed and tension already rising. Normally in any parliamentary cycle, May and June are tension-filled and rough times; MPs and staff are tired, their fuses are shorter than usual and tempers can flare, and that’s how it is in a non-election year. With the election coming mere months away, that just cranks that all up to 11.
With that in mind, we’ll see seeing a lot coming in these next two months that will have a long way of helping us figure out what the fall will look like. The rubber is hitting the road, and answers are starting to become clearer. There are many questions we’ve had sitting out there for a while, things that could have an impact on the campaign to come. Over the next few weeks, we are going to check in on those here to see where we stand today in relation to the.
So with that in mind, we’ll start with Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada. Many have wondered if what would come of this new political formation; would it flame out or would it be the next Reform party, splitting the right? To date, it’s not been a flame out, as they have organized over 300 riding associations, had a surprisingly high result in the Burnaby-South by-election and seem to be able to even raise some money. They have started pulling the Scheer Conservatives further right, as they have been trying to respond to the threat that the PPC poses to them. But lately, outside of some of Bernier’s rants on Twitter, there has been very little news about this group. Well this weekend we heard a bit from the Huffington Post about them that says a fair bit about where they are right now:
Folks, reading this is not shocking, as with his rhetoric you can easily see that Bernier has been playing to this element for a while now. It’s been one of the loudest dog whistles we’ve heard in Canadian politics for a long time. But what this story lays out goes a couple steps further from blowing on that whistle to allegedly actually courting these groups for their votes. The story lays out examples of this kind of behaviour, which is extremely disturbing to see in 2019.
Despite the language they used from the start, Bernier has tried to put up a façade of legitimacy to his party. They created a pledge, that EDA members needed to sign, stating that they “have done or said nothing in the past, and will do or say nothing in the future, that would publicly embarrass the party.” They also promised to vet candidates like other parties, and even do a criminal background check. But all of this seems to have gone out the window according to now-resigned PPC members quoted in the story. Why has that stopped? According to the story, it all comes down to an attempt to get Bernier in the Leaders Debates in the Fall.
But what does that desire to fill the slate look like? Well meet Mark Friesen, who was recently acclaimed to be Bernier’s candidate in Saskatoon-Grasswood. According to the story Mr. Friesen is a yellow-vest organizer in Saskatoon, helped organize the United We Roll convoy this winter and he even spoke at the Parliament Hill rally alongside Mr. Bernier and Mr. Scheer. If you look at his Facebook page, it is filled with anti-Untied Nations conspiracies, Islamophobic comments and a lot of the garden variety alt-right stuff.
There’s a lot of stuff there to disqualify this person as a candidate in most parties if a proper vet was done. And as the story tells us, it’s not that the Bernier’s party was totally unaware of this. The story quotes Mr. Mark Zielke, who withdrew from that same nomination race and then resigned from the PPC after he raised these concerns with them, only to have them fall on deaf ears. Through out the story you see other examples of similar stories; concerns raised, only to be ignored from further up the line. These are not the examples of a smooth running political machine.
And while the details in this story are disturbing, this also says a lot about where the PPC currently stands. When Bernier formed the party, many of us wondered if they could split the vote on the right again, giving progressive parties a better chance at winning. All the early organizing and fund raising gave reason to believe that they could peel away enough votes to hurt the Scheer Conservatives, as the Burnaby-South by-election showed us. But this story starts to paint another picture, a more disturbing one. This also paints a picture of an organization that’s not as organized as one might have thought and is openly playing with political fire by courting the alt-right.
This story leaves me with the impression that as of this moment, Bernier’s party won’t have the impact that many had thought it might early on. With the Conservatives riding higher in the polls and the PPC barely a speck in those same surveys, it seems more and more like this will be the case. Will Bernier change tack, put away the dog whistle and try to be a more open party? Given his history, I doubt we’ll see that happen. It seems that he and his party feel more and more comfortable flirting with the fringe alt-right, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.