Rise of the PPC could prove fatal for Conservatives

The next federal election is going to take place on October 21, 2019 and it is shaping up to be a very competitive one.

With the Liberals and Conservatives jockeying for first place in national polls, the NDP struggling for traction, the Green Party emerging as a left of centre alternative, and the rise of the right-leaning People’s Party of Canada (PPC), this promises to be a unique election in Canadian history.

The situation in the Strait area mirrors that of the rest of the country with Liberal incumbency facing Conservative challenges.

Long-time Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner and incumbent Sean Fraser in Central Nova are running for the Liberals against an unknown roster of candidates, but as is the case nationally, the establishment of the PPC could prove significant.

The Conservatives do have a solid presence in this region. Buoyed by a strong showing by the Progressive Conservatives in the 2017 provincial election, rumours have swirled around high profile candidates running for the Conservatives in Cape Breton-Canso. Meanwhile Central Nova is the riding once held by Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay and is represented by three PC MLAs in Halifax.

It will not be easy to erode the right-of-centre vote in the Strait area, but if anyone can, it would be the PPC.

The PPC platform questions the concept of multiculturalism in Canada and calls for immigration limits, among other policies favoured by Canadians who consider themselves right-wing, right-of-centre or just plan conservative.

These policies will not appeal to those on the left of the political spectrum, like NDP and Green Party voters, and it might attract a smattering of disgruntled Liberals, but the odds are very strong, they will siphon off Conservative votes, and could do so in a significant way.

In the infancy of the PPC’s formation, Nanos Research has them at 11 per cent in some polls. By this time next year, it is conceivable that support will increase and if it does, it could have a similar impact as the Canadian Alliance did in the 1993 federal election.

At that time, the Progressive Conservatives and Alliance split the right wing vote so badly, the PCs ended up with a phone booth caucus and the Alliance was relegated to an impotent opposition status.

That’s not to argue the same thing will happen next year, in fact it would be impossible for the CPC to lose that many seats since they are well ahead and competitive in as many as 130 seats.

But the Conservative’s path back to power is very narrow. New PPC leader Maxime Bernier was a former Conservative cabinet minister and leadership contender who has a high national profile and knows how to appeal to Conservative voters.

Armed with right-leaning policies, the People’s Party could get as high as 15-20 per cent of the vote nationally, and if they do, they will split the right-of-centre vote and give many close races to their opponents, most likely the Liberals.

Much has been made of the resurgence in support for the Green Party at the expense of the NDP, but considering both are polling at or below 20 per cent nationally, it’s unlikely this shift in support will have much impact on the overall political map.

The only way the Greens or NDP can make any stamp on the election is if either is able to take support away from the Liberals in large enough numbers.

The fact the Conservatives were riding high in polls just months ago, and are now seeing a decrease in support, just after the PPC was formed, might be coincidence, could be a manifestation of the cyclical nature of political support, or it might be a precursor to the events that will unfold next year at this time.

This promises to be an exciting year in Canadian politics.