“They want to control the climate, only God can do it”: Mississauga PPC rally pushes crazy theories

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By Isaac Callan – Reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative
Sep 18, 2021 – Brampton, Mississauga

A bustle of purple-clad supporters surrounded the marquee at Port Credit Memorial Park in Mississauga, discussing and swapping stories. After the Canadian national anthem, anticipation started to mount. As of Thursday morning, the stage was set for the arrival of the leader of the Popular Party Maxime Bernier.

A slowly declining fan base waited 193 minutes.

The PPC loyalist group tried to buy time, with their leader apparently only a 20-minute drive away in Oakville. As time dragged on and the excitement waned, the Mississauga PPC Rally turned into a bizarre affair. One candidate gave the same speech twice because “my cameraman missed it” – his claim that he is “not a politician” rang hollow the second time around.

Slowly, as all semblance of organization floated in the morning air, the stage transformed into an open mic platform for wild theories. As people laughed at the measures taken to prevent climate change, the contracting crowd cheered. One of the many speakers who requisitioned the sound system said Canada does not need more wind or solar power and another proclaimed: “They want to control the climate, only God can do it” .

Everyone gathered was expecting a man. He quickly became a cult figure to millions of people across Canada, including devotees who waited hours to see their man in Port Credit.

“Max inspires me, really,” Dave Shaw, a Mississauga resident who voted PPC in 2019, told The Pointer. “He is so positive in his leadership and his freedoms that he wants to give to the people who are kidnapped by the other parties because they are all on the same line. Max is different.

Dave Shaw voted for PPC in 2019 and plans to do so again in 2021. (Isaac Callan-The Pointer)

Eventually, as the lunch hour passed and after spending over three hours in the sun, the main attraction ran from the parking lot of the Port Credit library to the group that had gathered since the morning. Cries of “Max is here” echoed through the unmasked crowd.

He picked up the microphone and launched into a speech recalling what happened south of the border on January 6 when the United States Capitol was stormed.

“When tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our duty,” Bernier told the crowd as songs of “freedom” filled the air.

He brought up the standard PPC talking points, focusing on COVID-19 and the need for “common sense” to come back. His party has been pushing anti-vaccination views throughout the election campaign, drawing a sizeable fringe of loyalists who have increased their support according to poll figures which suggest the PPC will be the biggest winner after ballots are counted. vote Monday, as some polls show he could garner up to eight percent of the electorate’s vote. Even if he does not win a seat in Parliament, far-right politics has now found its place in Canada.

“What they want to be released from is accountability to their fellow citizens, they want to be released from COVID and public health measures,” Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, an organization that followed the rise of the far right, including the PPC, said The Pointer. He listed many examples of PPC members linked to the Canadian far right. “It’s not freedom they want, it’s to act like children. Citizenship comes with freedoms and responsibilities, they don’t want any of the responsibilities. “

Bernier speaks to supporters at Port Credit on Thursday, after arriving more than three hours late. (Isaac Callan-The Pointer)

Whenever the speeches stopped, dog walkers walked past as soft music drifted over two elderly women meditating nearby. Above the surrounding serenity, an angry mood rivaled the otherwise calm Port Credit afternoon. Cries of “medical segregation”, “tyranny” and “freedom” erupted from the small group of Bernier sympathizers.

“We don’t need more laws,” said one speaker, without explaining why hundreds of candidates are running for office to represent the PPC and to promote its own agenda to all Canadians in the national legislature. Another said municipalities were colluding with developers to raise house prices.

In 2019, the PPC received a wave of public and media attention. On polling day, he turned out to be too generous. Despite filling many columns, Bernier’s upstart party – centered on anti-immigration sentiment in 2019 – received less than 2% of the vote and did not win a single seat.

The COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in anti-containment, anti-vaccine and anti-mask opinions have given the party a boost this time around.

The marked shift of the Conservative Party, led by Erin O’Toole, to the middle of the political spectrum, along with the continued disaffection caused by the pandemic, paved the way for Bernier to seize far-right views.

Disillusioned Conservative voters and those who have never voted before, in particular, have turned to the PPC and its leader. Anti-vaccine sentiment in Port Credit Thursday (where supporters have repeatedly referred to COVID-19 vaccines as “injections”) was particularly pronounced.

Bernier made no effort to introduce facts into the procedure, as he failed to point out the volumes of scientific research and new data released that show how effective vaccines have been in fighting COVID-19, nor has it been mentioned that perhaps billions of human lives have been saved by vaccine science over the past 200 years.

PPC supporters gathered in Mississauga on Thursday. (Isaac Callan-The Pointer)

Polls have shown the PPC trending high in the 2021 federal election, overtaking the Green Party almost in numbers across the country and even cutting the heels of NDP candidates in some races. The follow-up to the September 16 EKOS Research poll put support for the PPC at eight percent in Ontario, compared to four percent for the Green Party and 20 percent for the NDP.

A supporter who spoke to The Pointer, Pete Emslie, has been a full member of the Conservative Party for years and voted for Erin O’Toole in his leadership race. He said he was a Rebel News reader and transferred his support to the PPC after being frustrated with O’Toole’s move to the center.

“I was happy when he won the leadership race, but everything I’ve read since then on his Facebook, I feel like he’s totally disappointed us,” Emslie said. “He doesn’t listen to the base at all and he sort of churns out these meaningless platitudes and it sounds so much like what [Justin] Trudeau says.

Emslie, like many at the Mississauga event, attributed her slide to “the COVID situation”.

Pete Emslie votes PPC. (Isaac Callan-The Pointer)

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie declined to comment directly on Bernier’s visit when asked about it at her weekly press conference later today. “You know I’m not a fan of the divisive rhetoric or some of the anti-vaccine messages that are [spread] so hopefully they will keep their message on the facts and the science, ”she said.

The appeal of PPC in a region like Mississauga or Brampton is surprising. The party is staunchly anti-immigration – it plans to reduce immigration levels in Canada from over 400,000 this year to a high of 150,000 – but some of its candidates in Peel are themselves from an immigrant background. The party’s stance on COVID-19, masks and lockdown policies also runs counter to Peel’s brutal experience with the pandemic, as essential workers and many other residents have suffered from some of the transmission rates the highest in the country during much of the pandemic.


Peel suffered from the pandemic (Image from Provincial Dashboard)

At Thursday’s event, in another bizarre episode, to prove that the PPC is an inclusive party that could rightfully reflect the values ​​of one of the world’s most diverse regions, a speaker asked the crowd to acclaim according to its place of origin.

Supporters erupted at the call of people of European descent, with cries scattering for China and India, followed by silence when the speaker called out to supporters of indigenous descent. The event was not exclusively white, but the vast majority of attendees did not reflect the majority visible minority population of Mississauga and Peel, where nearly two-thirds of residents are not white, according to the 2016 census.

Balgord says COVID-19 conspiracy theories and the far right go hand in hand, with a range of anti-establishment conspiracy theories co-opted to recruit and expand movements like the PPC.

Activists frequent conspiratorial corners of the internet, attracting anti-vaccine supporters and others who push anti-establishment rhetoric, while a mix of racist messages blend into their ideology, he said. he declares.

“They are tackling new issues and adding new grievances, which means they suck in people who don’t fully realize this is a racist movement and have a chance to radicalize them,” he said. he declared. “They bring in a bunch of right-minded people, but they’re not delusional racists or anything, and then they feed them a bunch of racism and conspiracy theories and these people become part of the ‘far right.”


E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @isaaccallan

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