Hamilton·Hamilton Votes 2021

Bernier's Hamilton visit part of long-term strategy to legitimize PPC, even if it doesn't win a riding: expert

A politics expert from McMaster University says Maxime Bernier's appearance in Hamilton is part of a long-term strategy to legitimize the People's Party of Canada, but current poll data shows there isn't enough support to win local ridings.

Local PPC candidate says vaccine mandates have dominated conversations with supporters

Maxime Bernier, leader of the People's Party of Canada, made a campaign stop in Hamilton's Gage Park on Thursday, just days before the federal election on Sept. 20. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

A politics expert from McMaster University says Maxime Bernier's appearance in Hamilton Thursday, days before the election, is part of a long-term strategy to legitimize his party, the People's Party of Canada (PPC).

Other federal party leaders have visited the city over the course of the campaign, some several times, but this is the first stop this election for Bernier in the city. 

Recent poll figures suggest Bernier's party may cost the Conservatives some seats, but Clifton van der Linden, an assistant professor of political science and founder of Vox Pop Labs (the makers of Vote Compass), said current data shows there isn't enough support in Hamilton to win a local riding.

"Hamilton is not at risk of one of its seats going to PPC in this election but that doesn't mean there aren't a large number of PPC supporters in the Greater Hamilton Area," van der Linden told CBC Hamilton.

"[Bernier] wants to make sure that PPC voters come out and vote on election day ... let's say we have another election in two years, it will be much harder, if People's Party polls upward to five per cent of the vote, for the debate commission to exclude Bernier."

The PPC could rank fourth in the vote share on Sept. 20 —more than the Green Party — according to the CBC Poll Tracker and the party may attract more Tory voters than it did last election.

Vote Compass data also shows many PPC voters in its sample identify as blue-collar workers, a voter base Conservatives and other parties have tried to attract in Hamilton.

The last time Bernier came to the city, in 2019, protesters and his supporters clashed, leading to five arrests. In advance of Bernier's visit on Thursday, the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion released a statement asking the city and police to use "by-laws and legal tools designed to secure all public spaces from hate rhetoric and protect the health of Hamilton residents."

PPC candidate to supporters: 'Don't worry about splitting the vote'

Van der Linden said while Bernier might attract some Conservative voters, the two parties are different.

"There is a growing rift between PPC and Conservative voters. PPC voters feel [Conservative leader Erin] O'Toole has moved too far to the centre and Conservative voters see the PPC as having robbed them of an electoral victory," he said, adding they have different platforms.

Bill Panchyshyn, the PPC candidate in Flamborough—Glanbrook, told the crowd of roughly 200 at Gage Park on Thursday they shouldn't worry about splitting the vote and should "vote to your values."

Unlike the Conservatives, the PPC is opposing vaccine mandates and vaccine passports for travellers and opposes similar measures provinces impose. 

Chelsey Taylor, the PPC candidate for Hamilton Mountain, told CBC Hamilton on Wednesday those topics have dominated the conversations she has had. "I haven't had any [supporters] talking about anything other than this," she said, adding that the focus on vaccines is why she hasn't done as much research on issues like climate change or housing.

"If people are concerned about those issues, they can look at the platform … I personally care more about my personal rights than getting a house," she said.

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When Bernier addressed the crowd, he criticized Alberta's new proof of vaccination program, the country's inflation rate and national debt. He also said separating vaccinated people from the unvaccinated is "discrimination" and said there shouldn't be equity-based government support programs, citing the example of a financial aid program exclusively for Black entrepreneurs.

Bernier added he hopes to convince more people in his own riding to support PPC but said he would "prefer to lose with my principles" than win by pandering.

A person who attended the People's Party of Canada campaign stop in Hamilton on Thursday held a sign criticizing vaccine passports. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Stance on vaccine mandates attracting voters

Trevor Wilcox, a 43-year-old Hamilton Mountain resident who is fully vaccinated, said in a phone interview Wednesday the PPC caught his attention because of its stance on vaccination mandates — but the party may not get his vote.

"I don't know that it's a party I would put a vote behind … I think they go to some extremes, way too extreme," he said, mentioning the incident of the former PPC riding president who threw gravel at Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

Sasha Jingle, a 32-year-old east-end resident of Hamilton, attended the rally Thursday and said she's never voted before but has become a PPC supporter this election.

Jingle said she supports parts of the PPC platform that cover things like "Indigenous issues," but especially supports Bernier's stance on vaccine mandates. 

She believes the pandemic is real, she said, however she worries she'll lose her freedoms. "I like what he stands for, he stand for freedom," she said. 
The People's Party of Canada visited Hamilton on Thursday, just days before the federal election. Roughly 200 people attended Gage Park for the campaign stop. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova

Reporter/Editor

Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

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