Fort Whyte candidate happy to be on the fringe

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One of the candidates in the Fort Whyte byelection doesn’t belong to a party or have a policy platform, but he does have a track record of defying public health orders and inciting others to do likewise.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/02/2022 (223 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One of the candidates in the Fort Whyte byelection doesn’t belong to a party or have a policy platform, but he does have a track record of defying public health orders and inciting others to do likewise.

“I honestly think what I have done in the last two or so years will help me get some votes. It could be a very exciting turnout and maybe a surprise,” said Patrick Allard, who is running as an independent in the March 22 byelection.

Populist and fringe party candidates are not new to Manitoba, said University of Manitoba adjunct political studies Prof. Christopher Adams.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Patrick Allard shouts at media at a protest in front of the Law Courts in Winnipeg last May. Allard is running as an independent in the March 22 Fort Whyte byelection.

“The key point is that with a byelection, you get people who are able to use it as a platform, even if they don’t have a realistic chance of winning,” said Adams.

The well-to-do constituency, which was represented by former premier Brian Pallister until he gave up the seat Oct. 4, has only been won by Progressive Conservatives. This time, the PCs have a star candidate — former Winnipeg Blue Bomber and restaurateur Obby Khan. The New Democrats have put up Trudy Schroeder, a former Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra boss and Folk Festival organizer, and the Liberals have nominated Willard Reaves, a former Manitoba Justice official who’s also an ex-Blue Bomber with two Grey Cup wins.

Allard says he hopes his bid for the Fort Whyte seat will encourage others to run.

“No matter what the outcome is, I think it’s going to be beneficial for all Manitobans to see if I can do this and put my name on a ballot,” Allard said. “It might encourage other people to do so.”

The private contractor who publicly opposed COVID-19 restrictions, has been cited multiple times for violating public health orders. He was arrested by Winnipeg police and charged with failing to comply with conditions of his release for inciting protesters to block roads to the Bombers’ Aug. 5 home opener. His Fort Whyte candidacy has received endorsements from members of the federal People’s Party of Canada. Allard spoke at party rally in Winnipeg in September with its leader, Maxime Bernier.

On Wednesday, Allard said he has no party affiliation and was encouraged by friends to run in Fort Whyte. He said he wants to connect with constituents in the PC stronghold who’ve been ignored and taken for granted by the PCs.

“People ask me what are your political views and I say ‘I don’t know — I need to hear from the people that I’m going to be representing and see what they want and what they need,’” Allard said Wednesday.

It’s unusual for anyone seeking elected office to say they’re running on a blank slate, said Adams.

“I’ve never seen a candidate without some sort of platform, even if it’s not written down. Every candidate has a basic set of principles or ideas. What would happen if that person were elected? His platform is that he will just listen to what people want? It doesn’t make sense.”

Even “fragment parties” such as the short-lived right-wing Confederation of Regions party, and the Maverick Party (formerly Wexit Canada), have taken positions on issues, Adams said.

“This is quite striking to me that a candidate would have no positions on different issues,” he said.

The other striking feature about the current political landscape is the anger on display in protests across the country, Adams said.

University of Manitoba professor emeritus Paul Thomas said “Trumpism” in the U.S. has spread to Canada.

Traditional mechanisms of representative and responsible government are rejected as rigged, said Thomas, who pointed to so-called “freedom convoy” leaders’ demands for the governor general, the Senate and a group of citizens to take over the government.

“There is an anti-politics and anti-democracy aspect to populism. It is not the same as demands for more vibrant democracy, like citizen assemblies and more democracy within parties,” he said.

Populist leaders — at both ends of the spectrum — seek a mass movement of “true believers” who are not open to compromise. Populism relies on “group think” and adherents sticking to narrow social media channels that reinforce belief systems and prevent opposing arguments and evidence from being considered.

The political environment has become more polarized and people don’t seek common ground, said Thomas.

Traditionally, Manitoba politics has been moderate and pragmatic; the most successful premiers and parties have governed on that basis, said Thomas.

There has been emotional political upheaval and division, such as the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike and the French language controversy of the 1980s, he said.

“Calm prevailed because certain groups were excluded and their voices were not being heard. Once crises were resolved, a new political equilibrium was established that recognized, to some extent, previously marginalized groups.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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