PPC Leader Maxime Bernier fails to win seat, but party increases popular vote
TORONTO -- People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has failed to win back his old seat in Beauce, Que., but his party looks to increase its popular vote.
The PPC has steadily gained supporters during the election campaign, as voters across the political and social spectrum united behind Bernier’s vehement disagreement with vaccine mandates, vaccine passports and lockdowns.
Bernier, who refers to the Conservatives and Liberals as one big “Lib-Con party,” presented himself on the campaign trail as the only “real voice” for Conservative voters, despite a poor showing in the 2019 election, where Bernier lost his seat and the PPC ended up with 1.6 per cent of the popular vote.
In particular, the PPC have proven to be a thorn in the side of the Conservatives, who have been warning their voters that splitting the vote on the right is helpful only to the Liberals and their Leader Justin Trudeau.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole pleaded with voters to avoid splitting the vote on the right by choosing the PPC on Sunday, in a last-ditch effort to sway conservative-leaning Canadians.
“Justin Trudeau wants you to split the vote by voting PPC,” O’Toole said at a Toronto rally. “There’s only one way to get change. There’s only one way to show Justin Trudeau the door tomorrow, and that’s to vote Conservative.”
It was the first time that O’Toole gave voice to what some have been implying for weeks in this election, that the PPC may prove to be a spoiler for the Conservatives.
And in some ridings, they may have been.
On the East Coast, the riding of Long Range Mountains in Newfoundland and Labrador showed gains for the PPC, with 4.5 per cent of the votes as of 11:30 p.m. EDT cast for candidate Darrell Shelley – which would have been the deciding factor between the incumbent and re-elected Liberal candidate Gudie Hutchings and the Conservatives’ Carol Anstey.
Rupen Seoni of Environics Analytics said during CTV National News’ election special that voters in Long Range Mountains riding have values that align with an “Older Rustic" conservative voter, noting that the PPC had their best results in the last election amongst those voters in particular.
Seoni said “Older Rustic” voters tend to have weaker scores on social values about how the government should be involved in the economy and projected higher refusal rates when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.
Sydney-Victoria, N.S., saw the incumbent Liberal Jaime Battiste re-elected, but 3.3 per cent of the vote as of 11:30 p.m. EDT that went to PPC candidate Ronald Barron would have pushed Conservative Eddie Orrell over the finish line.
However, in PPC Leader Bernier’s own riding of Beauce, Que., the incumbent Conservative Richard Lehoux was re-elected with a strong lead over the PPC.
The prospect did not flatten Bernier’s enthusiasm, who told CTV National News’ Genevieve Beauchemin at his party’s rally in Saskatoon that he was feeling optimistic about the PPC’s overall numbers.
“First of all we had a very good campaign I am very happy to be here with our volunteers, I think it will be a nice night,” he said. “Like I said, we need to grow our support, the percentage of our votes and I believe it will come – from 1.6 per cent to I don’t know, four, five, six, seven, eight…So tonight I believe it will be a huge victory for the freedom fighters in this country.”
As for his own riding, Bernier had previously admitted it would be “a tough race.”
Seoni said Environics Analytics projected that voters in the Beauce area had higher rates of COVID-19 vaccine refusal but that there was a “pull of different forces in the riding,” with large swaths of younger voters known as “Francophone aux Village” whose main concerns are childcare and housing.
In Thunder Bay-Rainy River, Ont., the race between incumbent Liberal Marcus Powlowski and Conservative Adelina Pecchia could have been an easy Conservative lead if not for the 7 per cent of the vote as of 11:30 p.m. EDT going to PPC candidate Alan Aubut.
Kitchener South-Hespeler, Ont., also saw a bump for the PPC, with 7 per cent of the vote as of 11:30 p.m. EDT for Melissa Baumgaertner which could have pushed Conservative Tyler Calver past incumbent Liberal Valerie Bradford.
Early polls on the West Coast, the riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country also showed an emerging PPC presence, with 4 per cent of the vote as of 11:30 p.m. EDT for Doug Bebb could be the deciding factor in Conservative John Weston’s race against incumbent Liberal Patrick Weiler.
Full results of the election will not be available until all the ballots, including millions of mail-in votes, are counted.