Canadian Anti-Hate Network
The People’s Party of Canada, including its founder and leader Maxime Bernier, failed to win any of the four seats up for grabs during Monday’s by-election.
Running in the Portage-Lisgar riding in rural Manitoba, Bernier did the best out of his compatriots, receiving a total of 5,349, or 17.2 per cent, of the vote for a distant second. He lost to the Conservative Party of Canada’s Branden Leslie, who won with 20,215 votes (64.9 per cent).
Portage-Lisgar is the former home of the CPC’s former interim leader Candice Bergen, who resigned earlier in the year. This was the only riding where the PPC came in second during the 2021 federal election.
In the rest of the contests, the PPC did notably worse. In Quebec’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount riding PPC candidate Tiny Olinga lost to the Liberals’ Anna Gainey. Olinga finished seventh with 0.7 per cent of the vote, behind both the Green and Centrist Party.
Conservative Arpan Khanna won in Oxford, Ontario, with PPC candidate Wendy Martin receiving 3.3 per cent, 1.1 per cent lower than even the far-right Christian Nationalist Party.
Finally, Liberal Ben Carr won in Manitoba’s Winnipeg South Centre. PPC candidate Tylor Baer took home 1.3 per cent, a little more than 320 votes.
The PPC made substantial gains during the 2021 federal election compared to the party’s first run in 2019 – 4.94% of the popular vote compared to 1.62% respectively.
However, many looked to the recent byelection as a gauge of the current political leanings of Canadians. In the case of the PPC, the results reflect a failure to hold onto many of the gains made over the course of the pandemic.
In 2021, PPC candidate for Portage-Lisgar Solomon Wiebe came second to Bergen with 9,790 votes (21.6 per cent) – though Bergen would win with over 50 per cent. Two years later, Bernier’s run in 2023 slipped to 17.2 per cent, a drop of 4,441 votes in total.
Similar losses for the PPC can be seen in the by-elections in other ridings. In Winnipeg South Centre, PPC candidate Chase Wells earned over 1,300 votes in 2021, however, this time around, party hopeful Tylor Baer only eked out 323.
Wendy Martin ran in the Oxford, Ontario riding in 2021 and 2023, earning 6,595 and 1,248 respectively. Likewise, in Quebec’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount candidate David Freiheit managed to take 1,498 votes in 2021, while Tiny Olinga fared far worse for the party on Monday with 142 votes.
Bernier worked hard to paint his party as an alternative for Canadians who felt disenfranchised and left behind by mainstream conservatism during the pandemic. He has done this by embracing fringe communities and stances on a variety of divisive issues, from immigration to COVID health restrictions.
The party released its platform on “gender ideology” on May 24, hours before attending a school board meeting in Brandon, Manitoba that was considering the merits of removing books discussing sexual health and 2SLGBTQ+ identities from its libraries (the board ultimately voted against the motion).
“In recent years, cultural Marxists and radical activists in the media, government, and schools have made every effort to normalize toxic transgender ideology,” the policy reads. “They teach children that stereotypes determine their gender, and if they do not fit into the traditional male or female gender roles, they encourage them to think they were born in the wrong body.”
The policy states it would repeal C-16, the bill that included gender self-identification as grounds for protection against discrimination; C-4, a bill banning the practice of “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ+ people; and to “strictly enforce” the Criminal Code to remove inappropriate pornographic content from schools and libraries.
“Last week, I met parents who are trying to get books removed from school libraries that promote gender ideology and contain inappropriate pornographic images,” Bernier said in a statement before the school board meeting in Brandon. “There is actually an article in the Criminal Code that says it’s illegal to make such images available to minors. Why is it not enforced?”
Bernier and the PPC have long included gender identity as issues mainstream politics is failing to address, often accusing Conservative candidates as failing in their duty to stand against “gender ideology.”
Even in defeat, Bernier continues to focus on gender.
Late into election night, perennial candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson tweeted out that she would continue to stand with Bernier and the PPC against the “trans agenda,” decrying that “there will be no protection for the unborn.” Bernier in turn reposted the comment to his own account, adding “It’s only the beginning of our common sense revolution.”
Far from his only controversy, Bernier drew fire even when still a member of the Conservative party for statements made about a “Cult of victimhood and obsession with past wrongs,” during discussions for a potential day of remembrance for Indigenous children who suffered under the residential school program.
When he left the CPC, he called the party morally bankrupt and added that a focus on racial issues will "divide us into little tribes" and bring "distrust, social conflict, and potentially violence."
Bernier refused to condemn the Christchurch, New Zealand terrorist attack that left 51 Muslims tragically slain. While telling the press at the time he, as a rule, does not condemn any terror attacks in foreign countries, others quickly pointed out he has done so repeatedly in the past when the perpetrators were Muslim.
Bernier founded the PPC in 2018, after narrowly losing leadership of the conservatives to Andrew Scheer.