Just a few months ago, I set off on a trip with some members of The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) to attend a rally for Maxime Bernier and the founding of the party. The individuals I shared the ride with were full of excitement and renewed vigor for democratic participation in the political process. The motto to distill the mood can be summarized as, “Finally we can vote on our values and not on cynical strategy!”
The curious aspect was that between all of us who shared the ride, and even those at that rally, there were many different ideologies, solutions, and even diagnoses of just what the problems facing Canada are. While most of these disparate approaches were varieties of what we call “Right-wing,” there were even some former Green Party, Liberal, and New Democratic Party (NDP) members who had jumped ship over to the exciting new PPC. There were also many formerly apolitical and non-aligned individuals there, who came with a variety of issues they could now see were finally being brought to the table – or, at least, that there was a possibility of it. Thus, it was a perfect microcosm of Canadian politics today. To understand why this is the case and what this means for the future, we need to first look at Maxime Bernier’s appeal.
On August 23, 2018, Maxime Bernier announced that he was abandoning the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). Bernier, a long-standing Conservative Member of Parliament, ran in the CPC’s 2017 leadership election against Andrew Scheer, losing in a close race that would leave him with forty-nine percent of the vote. Bernier ran on a pan-Canadian platform centered on four principles: freedom, responsibility, fairness, and respect. The earliest ancestor of this platform is that of Canada’s seventh Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Like that great Francophone, Bernier’s vision for Canada is one of individual liberty and freedom in both the political and the commercial senses. It should be noted here that Sir Wilfrid Laurier was a member of the Liberal Party, which, in the Canadian context historically, has been the party of free trade. Now, Bernier is the leading advocate of this vision as a conservative (for an explication of this shift, see me previous article, “Lament for a Nation: A Retrospective”).
When Bernier announced his abandonment of the CPC, he published an article listing his grievances which is still available on his Website. Bernier declared that the CPC had abandoned its core conservative principles. The first issue he brought up was the CPC’s support for supply management. For perplexed non-Canadian readers, supply management is a national agricultural policy aimed at securing stable prices for dairy, poultry, and eggs. Through tariffs placed on foreign goods which restrict access to American producers, the policy also ensures that consumers rely on domestic producers. By coordinating supply and demand, overproduction and scarcity is avoided. The higher-quality products and quotas provide higher profits for the farmer, and thus farmers are supported directly by the consumer, as opposed to subsidies obtained through taxation. For Bernier, this burdens the consumer too greatly with the cost of goods, limits new producers from entering the market, and eliminates competition. As a champion of the free market, Bernier agrees with President Trump that Canada should open up its agricultural market to American producers. Bernier calls the supply management system “the dairy cartel.” The CPC sides with the current Liberal Party in retaining the system of supply management. He goes on to cite the European Union as a positive example in this regard.
Bernier’s second issue relates to the current platitudes regarding diversity and multiculturalism. One of Bernier’s constant concerns is pandering to ethnic and religious minorities for votes. On August 12, 2018, Bernier sent out a series of tweets that went viral, attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cult of diversity. The issue, as Bernier puts it, is that the excessive focus on diversity over unity leads to a nation of competing tribes with little in common other than their “dependence on the government in Ottawa.” These competing tribes are pandered to with money and special interests to win votes. Canada is thus rendered a nation with nothing to stand on and nothing to unite it. Bernier had attacked Scheer for bowing to political correctness and displaying weak-willed leadership whenever the Left makes accusations of racism over the issue of multiculturalism. This has led Bernier to try and emphasize what unites Canadians in general, and to limit immigration from those groups who have no desire to assimilate. While Bernier is obviously not proposing immigration limits that would satisfy an ethnonationalist, many among the New and Dissident Right have flocked to the PPC to get the conversation going about what unites Canadians and just what being Canadian means. Moreover, it is hoped that Bernier’s rhetoric and his party might be a stepping stone toward restoring a unified, sovereign, and distinct Canada.
The last issue that Bernier brings up is corporate welfare. Bernier attacked the practice of using tax dollars to bail out businesses like Bombardier and Ford – and rightfully so. Andrew Scheer has no plan to end this practice, but instead only wants to go from having one minister for all regional development agencies to having one minister for each region. Bernier’s answer is to simply end corporate welfare altogether, a policy which has vast bipartisan support in grassroots politics. This would also limit the practice of businesses buying votes.
Bernier ends his letter with an indictment of the CPC for becoming indistinguishable from Trudeau’s Liberals. On all the important issues, this is certainly the case. The usual criticism of the PPC is that it will only split the vote between them and the CPC, ensuring that Trudeau wins the next election. In response, Bernier has cited James Buchanan and public choice theory. Bernier has summarized it by writing that “it explains how interest groups hijack political debates and capture politicians, winning huge benefits in the form of subsidies, trade protection, fiscal or legal privileges and other favourable regulations.” The upshot is that the complexity of the political issues, combined with what appears to be only a small amount taken from the taxpayer, leads to a state of rational ignorance. Bad policies formulated at the expense of the citizen come from a plethora of dispersed costs, which are achieved by buying votes through pandering to an endless supply of minority and interest groups. What Bernier wants to do is to develop positions and principles which benefit all Canadians, cutting the pressure and webs of complexity stemming from interest groups in order to allow the Canadian people to act in their own interests. Thus, the People’s Party of Canada.
It is on this last point that we come to an understanding of why disparate political actors are attracted to the PPC. Putting the party’s libertarian leanings aside, the appeal for many is its focus on politics which directly appeals to values and principles that are free of politically correct platitudes and corporate interference. It may also be Bernier’s own emphasis on what unites Canadians over what divides them; but like all divided houses, this uneasy alliance has – predictably – run into its problems.
The major event bringing these issues to light was the United Nations’ Compact on Migration. On December 10, 2018, Trudeau was set to sign the Compact, which effectively charts the course for Canadian’s total dispossession and the loss of Canadian sovereignty, while censoring any media that is critical of mass immigration and in fact provides funds to media outlets that uphold the state’s propaganda. At first, Bernier was the only leader speaking out against the signing of the Compact and the Trudeau government’s disregard for the will of Canadians.
It was only after Bernier had spoken on the issue and called out the CPC for not addressing it – given that they have no firm stance on it of their own – that Scheer critically took up the issue in the House of Commons, very late to the party on December 4. Prior to this, and taking inspiration from the French Yellow Vests, various rallies popped up around Canada in opposition to the Compact. One of these rallies was in Ottawa. Bernier was set to speak there, but did not show up. While everyone at the rallies was set against globalism, a split began to form afterwards once it was revealed that several of the attendees were ethnonationalists. In response to the usual accusations levelled against the rallies and the PPC because of this, Bernier and many of the PPC members denounced the Dissident Right among their ranks. Predictably, it was said they were not to be allowed in this “anti-globalist party” that claims to be concerned with Canadian sovereignty, unity, and identity.
More internal fracture was on the way. While some had come to the PPC from the Green Party, they would soon leave once Bernier made his stance on climate change known in a series of tweets which detailed why he thinks the theory of man-made climate change is a hoax. At the rally I attended, Bernier spoke about putting traditionally socially conservative positions back on the discussion table. Many of the more socially conservative attendees cheered, although Bernier himself is socially liberal and even marched in a Pride parade once the CPC took traditional marriage off its platform. It is easy to see why this alliance which is founded on voting for your values is easily beginning to fall apart.
So what remains? Unfortunately, all that is left is another step towards the disappearance of a unique Canada into the murk of globalism. One of the most interesting things I have noticed among PPC supporters on social media is their placement of the Canadian flag alongside the American – and sometimes the Israeli – in their bios, which are littered with MAGA references transposed to Canada. The focus on free trade and ending supply management cohere perfectly with what George Grant saw as the disappearance of Canada in the Liberal move towards greater alignment with Americanism. Nowadays, the “true conservative” preservation of Canadian values as understood by Bernier and the PPC has more in common with globalism and americanism than anything distinctly Canadian. Rarely do we see this as clearly as we did at the same rally I attended, when Bernier proclaimed that Canada was founded by and has always been a nation of immigrants. “You are not a French-Canadian, an Indian-Canadian, or a Chinese-Canadian; we are all Canadian!” is a platitude Bernier is fond of repeating. Many of his party’s members are fond of this erasure of Canada’s founding stock. Is there a clearer pronouncement of globalism than this? In this regard, Bernier mirrors Diefenbaker’s pan-Canadianism, an approach that disregarded respecting and preserving the ethnic differences between the Anglos and the French that once held Canada together as a nation with a European heritage.
We can now see just what this means for Canadian politics today, and perhaps in relation to populist politics in general. Given that the uniqueness and heritage of Canada are being eroded, the strength of corporate and interest group influence on elections, the UN’s dictation of immigration policy, and globalist elites preventing any real choice in elections, the demand for a voice and an active shaping of the nation’s political destiny is returning to the general populace, which feels it has been silenced. Maxime Bernier and the PPC are an attempt to provide that voice as they are being steamrollered by demands from on high that have been put on them without their consent. Nevertheless, the PPC is fighting for a conservatism that is foreign to Canada’s history and identity. Bernier the populist appears to be bringing something that is lacking in electoral politics: a real choice, and a chance to vote for your values. But in doing so, he has in fact reaffirmed the status quo and the globalist project. The energy of those Euro-Canadians who have been left behind in this new world is being seized and diverted into a program that leads to the same death – albeit slowly and more deceptively. Thus, we arrive back at the illusion that we have a democratic choice regarding our own future, and the PPC is revealed as nothing more than a safeguard preventing this discontent from manifesting in a more subversive, dissident outlook that truly challenges the globalist order.
To this end, we among the New Right must retain our position as a unique voice unable to be bought, and refusing to allow our hopes to be placed in a party that will do the work for us. We need to use the politicians, but never let them use us. The PPC, for all its faults, does provide us the means to have these conversations with those who are flocking to them without knowing the true source of their dispossession. For that, Maxime Bernier and the PPC can be a gift, should we choose to use them wisely. The harder question is how we move forward now that our loyalist traditions, our European heritage, and what made Canada the nation that it was has been forgotten. That will require further treatment beyond the scope of this essay. But it is my hope that the few that remember who we were and what we stood for might find a way to once again carve out our own destiny in the face of great deception.