People's Party Leader Maxime Bernier ends multi-day Manitoba tour with Portage la Prairie stop
Bernier, previously arrested for failing to self-isolate after entering Manitoba in June, defied rule again
About 200 people gathered at Island Park in Portage la Prairie on Tuesday night for the last stop in a busy few days of rallies in Manitoba for Maxime Bernier.
Supporters of the People's Party of Canada leader cheered at multiple points when he railed against vaccine mandates and attempted to draw parallels between his opponents.
"Erin O'Toole, right now, is like Justin Trudeau on a lot of important issues. For things like COVID-19 and the vaccine passport, he said that, like Trudeau, he will impose a national vaccine passport," Bernier told the crowd.
"We are not against ... the vaccine or masks," he said. "We are for freedom, freedom of choice, and everybody must be able to decide freely if they want to have the vaccine or not."
His multi-day tour of southern Manitoba appeared to come to a close without him being arrested or fined, despite violating provincial public health orders for the second time in recent months.
In June, he was arrested and charged for failing to isolate after arriving in the province.
Bernier is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and defied Manitoba health orders again this time around that require out-of-province travellers who aren't immunized to isolate upon entering Manitoba.
- People's Party Leader Maxime Bernier attends 3 Manitoba rallies, doesn't quarantine upon entering province
Additional public health orders came into effect Tuesday limiting outdoor gathering sizes to 500, down from 1,500.
A party spokesperson said the rallies in Portage la Prairie — about 85 kilometres west of Winnipeg — and three others on Tuesday in Neepawa, Dauphin and Brandon all drew crowds of a similar size, below that 500 mark.
RCMP drove through the park in Portage la Prairie as Bernier spoke, but otherwise were not visible at the rally.
Caleb Rudkewich attended with some family members. He said he was taken with Bernier's views on freedom.
"I feel strongly that the government that we have right now, it's scary, it scared me, you know, and I imagine that it's scared lots of people that are here today," Rudkewich said.
"This government is forcing things ... and trying to make you do things that you don't want to do. I don't think the government should be doing that unless you're physically harming another person."
Rudkewich did not vote for the People's Party of Canada in the 2019 election, but started to take notice of the PPC during the pandemic, particularly around the holidays.
"The one thing that really, really hit me hard was when the government said that we weren't allowed to visit our families" around Christmas, he said.
"People saying who you're allowed to have in your house and who you aren't allowed … I didn't think that was right for people in power to abuse that."
Rudkewich said he thinks rights are being violated through some of the current government mandates.
Bernier and Solomon Wiebe, PPC candidate for the Portage-Lisgar riding, both suggested vaccine mandates are a form of segregation that discriminates against Canadians who opt not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Manitoba Human Rights Commission said recently that it generally does not view vaccine requirements as human rights concerns, and that rights are not absolute and may be limited in the name of public health and safety.
Describing himself as a Christian and farm boy from Morris, Man., with no prior involvement in politics, Wiebe touted the PPC platform pillars of freedom, fairness, respect and personal responsibility.
He told the crowd that he got involved with the party after his dreams of opening a tourism business in Mexico were dashed by global pandemic shutdowns.
Wiebe said he is optimistic the PPC, which currently has no seats in Parliament, can gain enough seats in this month's election to receive official party status and the federal funding that comes with it.
To do that, Wiebe hopes to appeal to those who have traditionally been apathetic toward the political process, as well as to lifelong conservative voters in hopes of siphoning that support away from the Conservative Party of Canada.
Bernier is making similar appeals to the fiscally conservative voting block by committing to cut taxes some time after balancing the budget in four years.
"They appreciate the fact that I am not here to give subsidies to people," Bernier said. "I'm telling them you won't receive anything from us — we will cut to be sure we balance the budget."
Canadians head to the polls Sept. 20.