Politics

People's Party makes vote gains but doesn't win a seat

The People's Party of Canada, which campaigned primarily on opposition to COVID-related public health restrictions, has increased its percentage of the popular vote substantially.

The self-described populist party has more than tripled its share of the vote

People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, with his wife, Catherine Letarte, speaks from a podium to supporters during the PPC headquarters election night event in Saskatoon on Sept. 20, 2021. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

The results so far may not signal a seat breakthrough for the People's Party of Canada (PPC), but the party has more than tripled its support since the last election.

In an email to supporters Monday morning, PPC Leader Maxime Bernier said he had a good feeling. And now that the results have come in — including his own defeat in the Quebec riding of Beauce — Bernier says he feels vindicated.

"I'm feeling good, because if we look at the results, we are around four per cent — four, five, six per cent. That's big for us in Atlantic Canada," Bernier told the CBC's Travis Dhanraj at the PPC's event in Saskatoon.

He maintained his triumphant tone in a speech to supporters Monday night at the Saskatoon Inn.

"This is not just a political party. This is a movement. It is an ideological revolution that we are starting now," Bernier told supporters.

WATCH | Bernier says he's satisfied with PPC's level of support in the election:

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier says he’s satisfied with gains made in 2021 election

1 month ago
2:35
Bernier says his goal was to grow support for his party in this election and he feels the party achieved it. 2:35

The PPC had just over five per cent of the popular vote at last count. The party has notably done better in Ontario,  where it has so far garnered just under six per cent of the vote.

And its stronger showing might have hurt the Conservatives. According to an analysis by CBC News Labs, vote splitting between the Tories and the PPC may have cost the Conservatives up to 24 ridings. They include a handful in southwestern Ontario, such as Cambridge, St. Catharines and Kitchener South—Hespeler.

The party, which describes itself as populist, classically liberal and libertarian, was founded by Bernier in 2018. It campaigned on lifting many COVID-19 public health restrictions, as well as expanding the oil and gas industry, balancing the budget, ending official multiculturalism, and reducing immigration levels, among other policies.

Bernier, a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister, placed a close second in the 2017 Conservative leadership race to replace Stephen Harper. He was first elected in Beauce back in 2006, but lost the seat in 2019 and failed to regain it this election.

But if Bernier is upset about the fact his party may not get a seat in Parliament, he didn't let it show on Monday night.

"Our goal is to increase our percentage of the vote," he said. "We are doing better than the Green Party ... and we created [the PPC] only two years ago."

Bernier speaks on the phone at the Saskatoon Inn & Conference Centre on election night. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

In his speech, however, Bernier said the party would have had seats under a different electoral system.

"Unfortunately, we won't be able to carry on this fight in Parliament, but we will continue this battle to unite Canadians under the freedom umbrella," he said. "In two years, our support has increased three times over."

The party did not win any seats in the 2019 election, and captured just 1.6 per cent of the national vote. Its support was highest in the Prairies and New Brunswick — a pattern repeated in this election. A CBC News analysis showed the PPC likely cost the Conservatives seven seats in the House of Commons in 2019.

WATCH: People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier speaks to supporters

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier speaks to supporters

1 month ago
2:19
While People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier lost in his riding of Beauce, Que., and the party failed to gain a seat in the 2021 federal election, he told supporters to stay strong and continue the fight. 2:19

The party looked to capitalize on opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns this election cycle, but Bernier says many new PPC voters were also attracted by the party's fiscal policy.

"Real fiscal conservatives are looking at us, because we are the only political party that has a plan to balance the budget," he said.

And while Bernier may be satisfied with increasing the party's vote total in this election, that won't be enough next time around, he told supporters.

"When the next election comes, we will be even better prepared. And this time, we will win seats in Parliament."

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