The People’s Party of Canada appears as a party in theory but not in practice across Greater Victoria, with the next federal election only six months away.
Former federal minister Maxime Bernier, who founded the People’s Party of Canada after failing to secure the federal Conservative leadership in September 2017, promised that the party would run candidates in all 338 federal ridings when Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21, 2019.
Since its formal founding in September 2018, the party has contested three of four federal byelections held between December 2018 and February 2019. Its best showing came on Feb. 25, 2019, when Laura-Lynn Thompson won 10.65 per cent of the vote during the Burnaby South byelection that earned federal New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh a seat in the House of Commons.
Jennifer Clarke, a former school board trustee candidate, is representing the party in a byelection scheduled for May 6 in the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith.
Bernier, the party’s only sitting Member of Parliament, has toured that riding with Clarke, and plans an extensive swing through British Columbia next month to drum up support for the party.
According to Elections Canada, it has formally established 29 electoral district associations in B.C., which has 42 ridings, but none in the four ridings in Greater Victoria: Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, Saanich Gulf Islands, and Victoria.
The bulk of the party’s established electoral district association are on British Columbia’s mainland, with associations in suburban Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan Valley and the Cariboo. Vancouver Island footholds are the ridings of Nanamio-Ladysmith and North Island-Powell River.
While the mere existence of these associations says nothing about the party’s membership strength and infrastructure in those ridings, their general absence in Greater Victoria raises questions about interest in the People’s Party and its populist message.
Officially, the party is still finalizing its platform. The party’s website asks would-be voters to check the policies, which Bernier had proposed during his run for the Conservative leadership. “The PPC’s platform will be mostly based on the same policies,” it reads in largely confirming the perception that PPC is a party for one.
Broadly, Bernier’s message combines elements of social conservatism with libertarian ideas on economic issues. Bernier has also called on the Canadian government to restrict immigration in echoing populist figures in both North America and Europe like U.S. President Donald Trump and several mainly eastern and central European leaders.
The Saanich News contacted national party headquarters, as well as the Twitter accounts of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke and Victoria for comment.
The party’s website lacked contact information for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, while the Twitter account for Saanich Gulf Island appears out of service.