'The other options suck,' Maxime Bernier confident he can win over angry Canadians
MONTREAL -- The Mad Max Freedom Tour has begun and the People's Party of Canada leader said Canadians will vote for his party because "the other options suck."
Maxime Bernier is in Etobicoke Tuesday for the "Unmask the Children Rally" as the populist leader hopes to tap into anger over health measures, vaccine passports, immigration, lockdowns and other issues.
"It's the Mad Max Freedom Tour because I'm mad. I'm mad at the situation right now. I don't recognize our country. We need to change that... I'm mad because of all the loss of freedom," he said in an interview with CTV News.
Not unlike the titular character Max Rockatansky in the Mad Max film series, Bernier finds himself something of a loner among political leaders, a role he embraces.
"We are the only party that is doing things differently," Bernier said. "It's based on facts. All the other political parties are the same on climate change, lockdowns, vaccine passports, equalization formula - they won't touch it, on building pipelines in the country. We are the only party based on principles."
On the vaccination issue, for example, he said he is not for or against Canadians getting a vaccine, but, like many libertarians in Canada and the U.S., Bernier believes that the choice should be up to the individual and they shouldn't be barred from travel or visiting restaurants if they choose not to.
"It's not a question of being vaccinated or being unvaccinated. It's a question of, 'do you want a police state?'" said Bernier. "It's discrimination, we're dividing the population and it's immoral and unconstitutional."
He said the party has seen support from immigrants from authoritarian-run countries.
"We have a lot of support from people coming from former communist countries or dictatorships," he said. "People from Russia and China are at our rallies because they saw that in their former countries and they don't want that in Canada."
Dr. Donald Vinh of the McGill University Hospital Centre objected to Bernier's views on masking, vaccines and health measures, going so far as to call them dangerous.
"The rhetoric that Mr. Maxime Bernier is spewing is destructive and it's toxic to the public health efforts that we've been trying to accomplish for the last year-and-a-half; not locally, but globally," he said. "He's preying on this self-absorbed mentality of your rights supersede that of the community and therefore these other leaders who are trying to think about the community are horrible, and I'm the one who's thinking about you."
With vaccination rates for a first dose in Quebec around 85 per cent and for two doses at around 74 per cent of the eligible population, Vinh added that Bernier's message is for a very vocal, but very small percentage of the population.
"You're talking about 15 per cent of the population that are clearly a minority and that have such a loud voice," he said. "There's a lack of honesty and sincerity in Mr. Bernier's speeches or words because this is not an infringement of liberty. You cannot choose to go drunk driving because drunk driving doesn't affect you; it affects everyone around you... That's the concept of the public law and public health. This is not fundamentally different even though it's visibly different."
The former Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership front runner is confident he can siphon votes from blue ridings, and said leader Erin O'Toole only pretends to be a true blue conservative.
"He's just another lying, pandering, fake conservative, who agrees with Trudeau on almost everything," said Bernier.
The latest projections from the poll watching site 338Canada.ca has the PPC with a 2.6 per cent vote share.
Though Bernier feels his party can pick up seats in Alberta, poll analyst Philippe J. Fournier sees him in play for one seat.
"Bernier himself could be competitive in his riding of Beauce, but no other candidate has a realistic shot of winning so far," said Fournier.
Bernier is trailing Conservative incumbent Richard Lehoux in his riding by just under eight per cent of the vote (39.1 per cent to 31.4 per cent), according to 338 Canada.
Bernier lost his seat in 2019 by just over 6,000 votes, but the PPC leader said being on the stage at the leaders' debate is vital to getting his party's name out, which he admits is not well-known.
Bernier will be in Ontario on Tuesday and in his home riding of Beauce this weekend.