Bernier said he has no intention of changing his platform or his tone, despite winning no seats and garnering less than two per cent of the vote in the last election.
“I won’t pander to your vote, and we are the only political party that is not doing political correctness,” he said in a phone interview from Alberta. “I said, ‘It’s the end of that. There’s no taboo subject for us and we’re going to say what we have to say.”
Bernier has challenged traditional Canadian orthodoxy with proposals that include drastically cutting immigration, forging ahead with pipeline projects, pulling out of the Paris climate accord and abandoning what his party calls “unrealistic greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.” This time around, Bernier is campaigning on ending all COVID-19 spending programs and balancing the budget within four years by ending corporate welfare, cutting spending on foreign aid and the United Nations and defunding the CBC.
Furthermore, he's shifted to fighting COVID-19 measures such as mask mandates, lockdowns, and vaccine passports, the latter of which he describes as unconstitutional and divisive.
“We believe in freedom and we believe in freedom of choice,” he said.
“Everyone has the right to decide whether they wear the mask, whether they’ll get the vaccine.”
However, he said he is neither anti-mask, nor anti-vaccine. While he’s chosen not be vaccinated against COVID-19, believing his risk of dying from the disease to be low, he said he encouraged his father, who is 87 years old, to get both shots.
His rhetoric has resonated with some, with the former CPC MP polling higher nationally than the Bloc. He attributes his success to his ideas.
“You know what I’m saying is powerful, and you don’t want us to be powerful,” he said. “But we will be.”
In some ways, anger is helping fuel his movement. Bernier has refused to condemn the angry crowds who have heckled and cursed Trudeau at his campaign stops, prompting the Liberal leader to cancel at least one event over security concerns.
“We are in a free country and people have the right to express their point of view peacefully,” he said of the protests. “People are mad and they have a reason to be mad. Our freedoms are under attack.”
Whether this will translate into seats for Bernier’s party on Sept. 20 remains to be seen.