The fledgling People’s Party of Canada took a drubbing at the polls both nationally and locally on election night. Can it recover, or will it become a footnote in the nation’s federal political history?
The party was formed in September 2018 by former Quebec Tory veteran MP Maxime Bernier, who held the riding of Beauce for the Conservatives from 2006 to 2015. Ironically, he was defeated by a Conservative on Monday, receiving 16,772 votes to Richard Lehoux’s 22,817.
Bernier formed the People’s Party of Canada in 2018 after losing the Conservative leadership race to Andrew Scheer in a hard-fought contest. The PPC fielded a full slate – 338 MP candidates – nationally, among them five in Surrey. None were elected, and all together, the five Surrey candidates received a mere 4,213 votes.
Cara Camcastle, an SFU political science professor specializing in Canadian politics, party ideologies and policies, and election analysis, noted that smaller and newer parties face an uphill battle for traction in our federal elections.
“The electoral system is very difficult, very hard on smaller parties,” she said, “and that’s something the NDP and the Greens, they have the opportunity now to try to put pressure on the Liberals to re-introduce the idea of electoral reform which Justin Trudeau was thinking of doing, considering.”
Mike Poulin, who was the PPC candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells, received 1,081 of those local PPC votes. Will the party fold, given the election results?
“I don’t know that answer,” Poulin told the Now-Leader on Tuesday morning while having breakfast with his son Joel, the PPC’s candidate who received 838 votes in South Surrey-White Rock. “We’re going to give it a week here. We’re going to wait until next week and talk with Max, see where we go from here.”
“It is what it is. We knew we were brand-new. What we’ve done already in one year was incredible. Let’s face it, we didn’t get a fair shake from the media.
“I think we had the best platform, no question. We stood on principle,” Poulin said.
“Let everybody take a breath here, figure out what we do. Max is the leader, we just need to figure out what he wants to do. I felt like we did our best. The vote is really not personal, it’s just where people are at,” Poulin said.
“So we kind of look at it and go, okay, this is where the nation is at – what are they buying, what are they not buying, what’s motivating. It’s just a lot of fear out there, and a lot of stuff that just doesn’t make sense that people are promising, but people are buying it, so.”
Holly Verchére ran for the PPC in Surrey-Newton, receiving 669 votes.
“I’m not ready to quit,” she said Tuesday. “We’re going to keep going. You know, this is a grassroots political party.”
Verchére said her party has been unfairly branded as a magnet for racists and many people appear to have “drank the Kool-Aid.”
On the campaign trail in Surrey, Bernier called for Canada to allow 150,000 immigrants in per year, instead of 310,000.
“We’re not anti-immigration,” he said, “but we’re not for mass immigration.”
Verchére is retired after working with an airline for 41 years.
“All this time that I worked for an airline at YVR, I was a gate agent, and I did many, many, many international flights,” she recalled. “Every single day I would watch brand-new babies with Canadian passports get on the flight and go back home. When those babies come back, there’s family reunification, they bring everybody with them and nobody’s vetted.”
“When I say I love our Canadian culture, I’m labelled as a racist and people stick their little Salem witchhunter fingers at me and say, ‘You’re bad,’” she lamented. “It bothered me.”