The People's Party is on the rise, but it's unclear what its impact will be
I've actually been wondering what Maxime Bernier's game is. As an exercise in political strategy, very little about what the PPC is doing makes a lick of sense.
The way you break through in modern Canadian politics is that you find a unique local political ecosystem which isn't being serviced by any of the major parties, and you plant your flag in it. By taking this local approach, you're giving yourself a built-in wedge against the national parties, who generally can't cater in quite the same way. Having established yourself as a regional power, you can then attempt to nationalize if you so desire, but you have to crack the nut first.
Thus, the Reform Party was able to break through in part because, having no real ambition of winning any seats east of Winnipeg, they were able to adopt positions on issues like official bilingualism and the constitution which would have been radioactive to any party that aspired to do well in Quebec or Atlantic Canada. (Then, once Preston Manning was ensconced in Stornoway, he gradually decided that maybe he'd been too doctrinaire on these issues...) Cater to that local ecosystem to break through, then nationalize once you're legitimate.
The PPC is doing the opposite of this, running an expensive national campaign on the apparent assumption that they're going to win 8 seats in diverse parts of the country, all at once. (Beauce, Fort Mac, southwestern Ontario, suburban Toronto...) And they're choosing to do this by focusing on a constituency (the stridently unvaccinated) which will only ever get them to about 10% of the vote at most, spread so thinly across the country that it won't win them any seats. This community will be reliable supporters, but in no part of the country will they come close to forming a plurality of the electorate.
I can only make sense of this approach if THAT's the goal: if this is less a serious effort to win seats, and more about achieving sustained national relevance outside the conventional political system. Is Maxime Bernier running for parliament, or is he running for a recurring gig in the North American conservative media ecosystem?
I would note that one of these jobs probably pays better than the other: there are a lot of conservative commentators who make a lot more money than you do as an Independent MP, and the work's probably a lot less stressful, to boot...
As the centre becomes overcrowded, especially with O'Toole tacking left, the PPC appears to be the party of the disgruntled, gathered around an anti-anything that hurts me right now animus. Given the pandemic and lockdowns, there's plenty of unhappiness to go around.
Bernier's open-ended, less government, conservative individualism becomes a sufficiently ill-defined flag to wave for meme-addicts to burnish and dance around. The fact some of them have settled on blocking hospital entrances seems a pretty clear indication some of them are not very serious thinkers. More like serious drinkers. Folks who stay too long at the party, get too drunk, can't find the keys to the car. Find themselves politically homeless.
It's unclear Bernier can shape them into anything politically significant. He could just as easily have named it The Other Party. The one everyone leaves when the booze runs out. The booze, in this case, being pandemic disruption.
As for Bernier's game. He wanted to be leader of the CPC. He lost. Now he's stomping about in a huff trying to gather a crowd!
I love this video of Bernier rallying a few fellow revolutionaries. It's a lazy day in cottage country, folks are catching a little shade, a few rousing words from the revolutionary leader who couldn't even muster a few pitchers of lemonade for the sun-soaked troops, who are so roused to charge the barricades that they...politely clap. Compare them to the folks throwing rocks at Trudeau and blocking hospitals. https://twitter.com/ClintonDesveaux/status/1428749242311581697
Can Bernier pull all this together into something with coherent and effective political clout? Seems unlikely unless something unexpected happens. And Bernier rips off his shirt revealing he's Superman and Jesus rolled into The One! Oh right, Trump already starred in that movie.🙃