Rise in People's Party support 'very concerning' even if its future is uncertain, expert says
Hamilton Centre's PPC candidate says the 'movement is not going anywhere'
The People's Party of Canada saw at least twice as much support in Hamilton-area ridings this federal election than it did in the last one in 2019, but political experts say while that backing is likely temporary, it's still concerning.
Candidates of Maxime Bernier's party got anywhere between 4 and 11 per cent of the local vote, tallied results show. The party has, at last count, captured 5.1 per cent of the national vote, for a total of 814,547 votes. In 2019, the PPC got just 1.6 per cent of the national vote, for a total of 292,661.
Clifton van der Linden, an assistant professor of political science at Hamilton's McMaster University and founder of Vox Pop Labs (the makers of Vote Compass), previously said the party was out to prove its legitimacy this election and to prove it deserved a spot at the next electoral debate.
The Leaders' Debates Commission said this year, parties needed to have an MP in the House of Commons, at least four per cent of the vote, or must receive at least four per cent of national support in public opinion polling five days after the election is called.
The PPC's level of national support in two years ago was 3.27 per cent, according to the commission.
As pandemic wanes, PPC support may too: expert
Lydia Miljan, a University of Windsor political science professor, told CBC Hamilton the PPC has found the "protest vote" from people upset with COVID-19 vaccine mandates and lockdowns.
"The People's Party was the only party that allowed them to voice that frustration and anger, so it tells us about five per cent of the populous is really angry about all these restrictions and new measures to encourage people to get vaccinated and follow all health guidelines," she said.
"Two to four years from now, there will be different issues and I think it's going to still be a challenge for the People's Party to galvanize around them ... if they're a protest party, they've got to have something to protest."
LOCAL PPC RESULTS, AT A GLANCE
Hamilton Centre: 7%
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek: 8%
Hamilton Centre: 1.9%
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek: 2.1%
In the lead-up to the 2021 election, PPC candidates told CBC Hamilton their supporters cared about vaccine mandates more than any other issue.
Miljan said while there are more PPC votes this year, she doesn't believe the results legitimize the party, noting when Bernier participated in the 2019 debates, the party had fewer votes. Bernier also didn't win a seat in his own riding this election.
Still, she pointed to ridings in the Niagara area, like St. Catharines and Niagara Centre, that may well have gone to the Conservatives if fewer people had voted for the PPC. Bernier's party also got more votes than the Green Party across Canada — but unlike the PPC, the Greens managed to secure two seats).
Seher Shafiq, a Toronto-based consultant who has experience with campaigning and voter engagement, said it is "very concerning" to see the support for PPC rise since the last election because of its "xenophobic" immigration policy.
PPC candidate Mario Ricci, who got eight per cent of the vote in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, told CBC Hamilton the party's immigration policy, in his view, focuses on improving the quality of life for people already in Canada.
The party's platform states immigration is being "used to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of our country."
Shafiq said considering recent hate crimes toward Muslim people in Canada, she worries about further violence if anti-immigration sentiments grow. In her view, the debates commission shouldn't give the PPC a platform, she said.
"These sentiments are not just sentiments of people sitting at home; there are people who act on them," Shafiq said in an interview Tuesday.
Local organizations have also had concerns over the party's stances.
Last week, ahead of Bernier's visit to Hamilton during the final days of the election campaign, the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre and the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion released a statement asking the city and police to use "bylaws and legal tools designed to secure all public spaces from hate rhetoric and protect the health of Hamilton residents."
The party also came under scrutiny this election after a former PPC riding president threw gravel at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
PPC candidate says movement 'not going anywhere'
Ricci said he was hoping to win his riding — Liberal Chad Collins was declared elected with 37 per cent of the votes — and he was disappointed by the results, but encouraged by the rise in support.
He also said while COVID-19 measures have been a linchpin issue, he believes supporters gravitate toward the promises of freedom of choice, freedom of expression and making "Canada for Canadians."
Kevin Barber, PPC candidate for Hamilton Centre, is projected to have received seven per cent of the vote.
"I was hoping for 15 per cent," he said.
"The movement is not going anywhere. We'll be living the results of our decisions now for the next weeks, months and years to come."