The People’s Party of Canada has a founder, a program and a logo. All it needs now are some people who regard Maxime Bernier as their leader. Then it could be seen as an authentic splinter party in Canadian politics.
That puts the People’s Party on a slightly more solid footing than the Manitoba Party, which presented losing candidates in this province’s 2016 election and has been in hibernation since then. The people who used to be the Manitoba Party were astonished to learn last week that they had acquired a new leader in the person of Steven Fletcher, who has been seeking a political home since the Manitoba Tories kicked him out of their caucus last year.
Mr. Bernier and Mr. Fletcher are linked by their shared roots in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. They also share a history of back-biting their leader, quarrelling with their colleagues and wandering away from the herd.
When Mr. Bernier announced the name of his new party in Ottawa last Friday, he promised to make another announcement about his party in the coming weeks. He would then produce supporters of his cause who are "very great Canadians," he said. But the only supporters he wants are those who agree with the program he presented when he was running to lead the Conservative Party.
Mr. Bernier has already done most of the thinking the People’s Party requires. People with ideas of their own need not apply. Mr. Bernier was tolerated for many years within the Conservative Party despite his lone-wolf tendencies. He will not make that same mistake: he has no intention of tolerating independent thinkers in the People’s Party.
To be a factor in Canadian politics, Mr. Bernier does not necessarily need very great Canadians to follow him. He needs anyone at all who will stand with him and say, "Maxime Bernier is my leader." Mr. Bernier’s Tory leadership bid failed on May 27, when Andrew Scheer was chosen ahead of him. The 17 weeks that have passed since then should have been time enough to recruit a follower or two, starting with those who supported his leadership campaign. Yet, last week he still stood in his characteristic position — alone. This party, we may say, is getting off to a slow start.
The Manitoba Party, by contrast, was little more than a corporate shell when Mr. Fletcher stumbled upon it and declared himself to be its leader. He has yet to persuade those who used to be the Manitoba Party that they are his followers. Mr. Fletcher might be willing to associate his party with Mr. Bernier’s movement, provided the policy of the People’s Party meets with his approval.
A political party is an organization of people who have agreed to work together in order to win and exercise governmental power. Working together entails setting aside individual tastes and preferences and accepting the discipline of the group — the kind of discipline that can make a small army more powerful than a large mob.
The People’s Party and the Manitoba Party may be vanity exercises or they may be intellectual games, but they are not political parties. Both are one-man shows, and both solo performers are disinclined to accept the discipline that holds a political party together. As gadflies, they are interesting. As party leaders, they are overreaching.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.