Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Canada's 'Mad Max' stokes anti-vax rage - and could help Trudeau

CoronavirusSep 14, 2021 10:26AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People's Party of Canada (PPC) leader Maxime Bernier speaks after the announcement of federal election results in Beauceville, Quebec, Canada October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/File Photo 2/2

By Rod Nickel and Steve Scherer

WINNIPEG, Manitoba/CANDIAC, Quebec (Reuters) - Maxime Bernier, a former cabinet minister nicknamed "Mad Max", is channelling anger against mandatory vaccines into surprising support for his populist People's Party of Canada (PPC) in the country's tight election race.

His efforts may end up helping the man he calls a "fascist psychopath": Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Bernier, 58, who quit the main opposition Conservatives in 2018 after losing a leadership race, was previously most famous for leaving classified documents in a former girlfriend's apartment, leading to his resignation as foreign minister in 2008.

Now, amid fatigue over successive coronavirus lockdowns and simmering anger over mandatory masking and vaccine rules, his right-wing party is rising in polls.

The PPC, which Bernier founded, has 9% support nationally, according to an EKOS poll, up from 1.6% in the 2019 election. That is higher than the Green Party though well below Trudeau's Liberals and the Conservatives, who are hovering around 30%.

But PPC support may draw votes away from the Conservatives in close district races, helping the Liberals eke out a win.Poll tracker Graphics

Bernier's rallies have swelled as provinces began requiring proof of COVID-19 inoculation for activities like dining in restaurants or sporting events. Trudeau plans to make vaccinations mandatory for domestic air and train travel, and for government workers.

The PPC supports repealing vaccine mandates and passports, saying the issue is about freedom of choice.

Bernier's support has also grown as his speeches echoed former U.S. President Donald Trump's charged rhetoric.

On Sept. 5, he told a British Columbia rally that "when tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our duty."

PPC supporters have heckled and shouted profanities at Trudeau's campaign stops, forcing the Liberals to cancel one event last month due to safety concerns. The PPC expelled a local official on Thursday over allegations he threw gravel at Trudeau.

"They're responsible for their own actions," Bernier told Reuters, referring to the protestors that turn up to Trudeau campaign events.

"We need to have an ideological revolution ... I'm not asking anyone to be violent. I'm asking people to stand up and speak out."

Bernier, who is from the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, was himself hit with an egg in Saskatchewan on Sept. 2.

At a Trudeau stop in Candiac, Quebec on Sunday, a lone protester with a purple PPC sign tucked under his arm thrust his middle finger in the air as the prime minister spoke.

"Bernier is the only politician advocating for the end of lockdowns, the end of masking, the end of mandatory vaccination," said the man, who said his name was Marcus but declined to give his last name. "That's all I care about."

The PPC holds no parliamentary seats and Bernier himself lost his seat in 2019.

Even a few hundred PPC votes could influence the outcomes of at least half a dozen parliamentary constituency races to the detriment of the Conservatives, said Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at University of Manitoba, adding that he does not expect the PPC to win any constituencies

Bernier denies that he is snatching support mainly from the Conservatives. The platforms of Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole are so similar, it makes little difference which one wins, he said.

"They're the same. I call them the Lib-Con party, with one leader, Justin O'Toole."

Bernier said his goal is to win 4% of the popular vote, pointing out that organizers did not allow him to participate in nationally televised leaders debates.

Canada has rarely seen Bernier's combination of inflamed rhetoric and substantial support in a politician. Trump's term in the White House created a "cultural spillover" to Canada that emboldened those who have flocked to the PPC, Thomas said.

Bernier’s famous "Mad Max" nickname - after the Mel Gibson movie character - dates back to his losing effort for the Conservative leadership. In a Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) post with his head photoshopped onto Gibson’s body, Bernier listed things he was "mad about" including government waste and "politics as usual."

In June, Manitoba police arrested Bernier for violating public health orders, including refusing to self-isolate upon entering the province.

"He's now taken on a kind of martyr complex and he's almost daring people to arrest him," Thomas said. "That's what he desperately wants."

Canada's 'Mad Max' stokes anti-vax rage - and could help Trudeau

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email