The People’s Party of Canada was handed what could prove to be a fatal blow on Monday, with the fledgling party and its leader Maxime Bernier failing to win a single seat in the 2019 election.
Early concerns that the PPC would split conservative votes in Canada appear to have been greatly exaggerated. The party failed to make a dent in this election, earning just 1.65 per cent of the popular vote, with results still coming in past midnight.
Bernier lost his riding in Beauce, Que. – a seat he had held for 13 years – to Conservative Party of Canada candidate Richard Lehoux.
In a speech given to supporters on Monday night, Bernier said that the party will “continue to grow in the coming months and years.”
“We will be there to criticize the government and offer better solutions,” Bernier said.
“We will be stronger the next time. We will continue to fight for freedom, responsibility, fairness and respect. It’s only the beginning for the people’s party.”
But without a single seat in the House of Commons, it is difficult to see a path forward for the PPC.
Bernier, who abandoned the Conservative Party of Canada in 2018 after narrowly losing the leadership race to Andrew Scheer, founded the PPC with the goal of offering voters a right-leaning party that adhered to conservative principles. On his way out the Conservative Party door, Bernier had bluntly criticized his former party for abandoning conservatives.
“The Conservative Party tries to avoid important but controversial issues of concern to Conservatives and Canadians in general. It is afraid to articulate any coherent philosophy to support its positions,” Bernier wrote in a statement last year.
“It does not represent them anymore. And it has nothing of substance to offer Canadians looking for a political alternative. If we want conservative principles to win the battle of ideas, we have to defend them openly, with passion and conviction.”
A controversial campaign
The PPC ran on a platform that promised conservative staples such as tax cuts and getting rid of corporate welfare, but received the most attention for its policies on climate change and immigration. The PPC platform questioned that carbon dioxide produced by human activity is causing dangerous global warming today or will in the future, calling the notion “climate change alarmism.” It also promised to withdraw from the Paris Accord, abolish the Liberals carbon tax, and to not enact a climate policy.
The party also promised to reduce what it claimed is “mass immigration” in Canada and limit the number of immigrants and refugees accepted into Canada from around 350,000 to between 100,000 and 150,000. The PPC would accept fewer resettled refugees and ensure immigrants undergo a Canadian values test.
“I’m doing my own things here in Canada, I don’t try to do politics like (U.S. President Donald Trump),” Bernier said in an interview with Yahoo Canada.
“So you can compare me with the politician that you like, but judge me on what I have said. Judge me on our platform.”
Bernier’s party was also dogged by controversy throughout the election campaign.
In July, CBC reported that the PPC’s entire board in a Winnipeg riding had resigned, claiming that the new party was being taken over by racists, anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists.
“We are appealed to see it encouraged with a wink and a nod now,” the board had written in a resignation letter that had been posted to social media.
Bernier was also criticized for a tweet calling teenaged Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg “mentally unstable.” He later walked back that tweet, saying that his goal “was absolutely not to denigrate her or whoever deals with these conditions.”
4/ @GretaThunberg is clearly mentally unstable. Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear.— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) September 2, 2019
She wants us to feel the same: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I fear every day.”
1/5 I received a lot of criticism for a tweet where I was mentioning the mental health problems that Greta Thunberg herself and her mother publicly discussed.— Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) September 4, 2019
My goal was absolutely not to denigrate her or whoever deals with these conditions.
The Globe and Mail reported last weekend that the Daisy Group, a consulting firm run by Warren Kinsella, had worked on a campaign aimed at discrediting the PPC while keeping Bernier out of the national leaders debate. According to the Globe’s sources, the client who hired the Daisy Group is the Conservative Party of Canada. Scheer did not answer repeated questions on the campaign trail about whether the party hired the Daisy Group.