It was cloudy day, rain was a constant threat and the humidity made things muggy. Grey clouds and the consistent annoyance of bugs though were no match for the enthusiasm of the dozens of people who gathered to hear from the two area People’s Party of Canada candidates, Josh Leier for Guelph and Syl Carle for Wellington-Halton Hills. For these people, as the sign literally said, “the other options suck.”
The location was the rather large yard of a private home in Guelph’s western most end on Wellington Street. In fact, the house itself was a few yards beyond the sign that says “Welcome to Guelph/Eramosa Township.” The home owners, Michael and Linda Boyer, explained (bragged?) that there house was on Guelph’s edge, walking to their next door neighbour was technically a walk into Guelph/Eramosa.
“I wasn’t into politics too much, but then I started seeing things just before all of this nonsense happened with Trudeau, and it opened my eyes,” Mike Boyer said before introducing Leier. “I got involved because I realized that something needed to change for the future, not for me, but for my kids and for their kids.”
Mike Boyer, who said he’s been retired three years from the Guelph Police Service, deejayed from the front porch as people mingled in the front yard. By two o’clock there were well over 40 people. Fifteen minutes later there were over 50. One man was alone directing traffic and showing people where to park, and he confessed that he never expected to see so many people come for this political event. If anyone on the lawn were inclined to physically distant, there wasn’t any room to, and no one was wearing a mask.
Indeed, it was difficult to tell from the scene that COVID-19 is still virulent and still spreading. Children gathered around an activity table, purple-frosted cupcakes were handed out, and candidate Leier worked the crowd, shaking hands and, in some case,s doing fist bumps, after his arrival was heralded with the theme from Rocky. Eventually, it was time to get down to politics.
In his speech Leier directly addressed the pandemic by noting the work of frontline health workers, the effects on the mental health of children, and the struggles of small businesses, but he explained that the fault does not lie with the virus. “The government, along with their propaganda wing the mainstream media, has done a great job of instilling fear in us all. People are so afraid that they can’t even live normal lives anymore,” Leier said.
Leier condemned masking and said that we cannot raise our kids in a “faceless society,” adding that there have been studies that show in some cases that the straps on masks are deforming ears. He also said that his 90-year-old grandparents have told him that, “They would rather live out their remaining years going out and visiting with friends and family that being stuck inside.”
“The sad reality is a lot of our friends and family are under a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. They identify with their captors, the government. They cannot believe that the government would lie to you, and they hold on to every false belief because it comforts them,” Leier said. “Although this is sad, it’s okay because that’s their choice. But for those of us who choose not to live in fear, please stop trying to force us and our kids to live by your rules just to alleviate your own anxieties.”
On vaccine mandates and vaccine certification, Leier said that these policies take away “bodily autonomy” and build a “two-tiered system based on medical segregation.” A vote for the People’s Party, he said, means a vote to end lockdowns, mandates, and masking, which is all really an effort to divide and conquer. “A vote for any other party means you’re voting for more lockdowns, more medical coercion* and tyranny,” he added.
Leier’s speech directly attacked the question of choice, which is where the line seems to be for many of the PPC supporters. One woman told me that she was on the fence about getting her vaccine shots until the Provincial government announced that people will need to be vaccinated with proof in order to access some public functions. She didn’t like the idea of being told to do it.
A man approached me after Leier’s speech and said that he had wished that the candidate had gone further to make the point that the PPC is not an anti-vaccination or vaccine hesitant party. Many of the people gathered here, he said, had been fully vaccinated.
Another man told me that he has an appointment this week with his college trying to find a way to take his hair styling courses via remote since he’s decided to not get vaccinated. He’s confused because taking classes remotely was an option readily available last year.
These insights show that the growing attraction to the People’s Party doesn’t cut any one way politically. Before giving his remarks, Carle asked for a show a hands from the crowd about previous political allegiances; most were former Conservative supporters, but others were Green Party voters. A few had previously voted Liberal or NDP.
“The People’s Party platform has at its core the foundational theme of freedom, and that it’s this precious commodity that fills me with passion, yet it also causes me distress,” Carle said.
“The vaccine passport is a portal to the horrifying spectre of a social credit system that is now in place in China,” Carle added to big cheers from the crown. “I fear for freedom in Canada. I fear the Liberal government’s forced march into socialist dystopia, which is getting worse by the day as we are witnessing the loss of freedoms and freedom of movement within Canada.”
It will undoubtedly be a cause of concern for some readers about the size and enthusiasm of this gathering, which is so hostile to accepted public health policy directing the fight against COVID-19, and they would certainly be disappointed to hear many of the honks of support from the steady traffic along Wellington Street. But is this a politically viable movement?
In 2019, Guelph’s PPC candidate Mark Paralovos secured just 1.44 per cent of the vote, over double the votes of Christian Heritage candidate Gordon Truscott, but 8,200 votes short of fourth place finisher Aisha Jahangir. Carle ran for the PPC in Wellington-Halton Hills in 2019, and did slightly better with 2.2 per cent of the vote and less than 5,00o votes separating him from fourth place Andrew Bascombe.
The PPC had seen an increase in national support from 3.4 per cent in mid-August to 6.3 per cent on Sunday, and the local support on Sunday definitely got some unexpected attention.
Near the end of the event, two City of Guelph bylaw vehicles pulled up and talked to Linda Boyer at the roadside. It was unclear if bylaw were called in response to the size of the crowd, or if they had been merely passing by, but the officers departed after a brief conversation with Boyer and didn’t seem to issue a ticket or summons. The Guelph Bylaw officers on scene also refused to offer comment about the circumstances of their visit to media.
*CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly read this word as “abortion”.