Pity poor Maxime Bernier. The leader of the People’s Party of Canada, who came within a hair’s breadth of becoming head honcho of the Conservative Party, cannot catch a break.
This piece appeared in The Hill Times on October 3, 2019.
(With apologies to Taylor Swift)
Pity poor Maxime Bernier. The leader of the People’s Party of Canada, who came within a hair’s breadth of becoming head honcho of the Conservative Party, cannot catch a break. At first he was not welcome at debates featuring the candidates for Prime Minister from the other parties – even the Greens were invited! – although he was later let in the club. No one seems to give him a snowball’s chance in hell of winning even a single seat. Respect is wanting.
Gee I wonder why? Maybe it has to do with some of the candidates he has accepted in certain ridings. Here is a short list of the more ‘problematic’ instances:
- Essex riding PPC candidate Bill Capes will continue his Parliamentary run, despite racist and transphobic tweets published by the candidate earlier this year, including stereotypes pertaining to individuals of Asian, African and Caribbean descent;
- Evan Balgord of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAN), which tracks far-right hate in Canada, said his group has “lost count” of how many PPC candidates have displayed racist or sexist behaviour on and offline;
- A People’s Party of Canada candidate has been told he can’t run anymore after calling on the party’s leader to denounce white supremacy;
- Brian Everaert, the PPC candidate for Sarnia-Lambton posted tweets that called Islam a ‘wart on the ass of the world;
- Bernier was recently photographed with Hamilton-based white nationalist Paul Fromm during a rally;
- A peaceful protest outside an event for Maxime Bernier on September 29 at Mohawk College in Hamilton turned violent as supporters of his People’s Party of Canada, some wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, began to arrive and enter the venue. In fairness, the violence appears to have been driven in part by those in attendance protesting the PPC.
I am no expert on politics but I do know something about extremist ideology, even if my professional experience at CSIS focused almost exclusively on the Islamist violent brand. It strikes me, and many others I’d wager, that the PPC has a tendency to attract individuals who inhabit the spectrum we associate with the far right, or white supremacist, or neo-Nazi or anti-fill-in-the-blank crowd. In other words, those who espouse extremist ideas, and on occasion violent extremist ideas. So the $64,000 question remains: why do these folks migrate to the PPC (yes I know that other parties have had their issues in this regard but not to the extent of Max’s crew)?
I will leave that debate to those better suited to discuss federal politics. What I want to focus on here is the fact that what is transpiring in Canada is not that different than what some other nations have seen. Whether it is the AfD in Germany, Fidesz in Hungary, the British National Party in the UK or, heck, even part of the Republican Party south of the border, we are witnessing a rise in far right parties that are vying for, or even hold, power at the national level. These parties obviously have their differences based on local circumstances and histories but there are nevertheless some commonalities among their views: anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, and so on.
These parties may be ‘conservative’ at their core but they go well beyond what I see as historical, normative conservative platforms (not that I know these that well as someone who is centrist or slightly left of centre). And yes of course some of these views – i.e. anti-Semitism – were once mainstream in Canadian society. The point is that these are no longer accepted ways of seeing or interacting among Canadians. These individuals are rightly criticised for holding such ideas.
I do not want to overemphasise this development in Canada. Mr. Bernier’s party has zero chance of forming the next government, even if the odd candidate carries the odd riding. Nevertheless, the PPC leader must denounce these individuals, as must all party leaders. We may be a big country but there is no room for these notions.
Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting and a former senior strategic analyst at CSIS.