People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier is on an East Coast tour, but because he chooses not to be vaccinated, is unable to campaign in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, or Prince Edward Island without following COVID-19 isolation rules.

All three provinces require visitors to register ahead of time if travelling from outside the Atlantic Bubble (New Brunswick was effectively kicked out when it opened its borders to the rest of Canada earlier this year). Those travel rules require someone to self-isolate for eight to 14 days, depending on the province, if unvaccinated.

“It’s very difficult to gather indoors in Quebec or in Ontario, but at least he can do rallies outdoors,” PPC spokesperson Martin Masse told Canada’s National Observer. “But he can’t even go to P.E.I., Nova Scotia and Newfoundland because of their restrictions (and) the risk of being arrested again, as he was in Manitoba.

“This is very unfortunate, and is another curtailment of our democratic rights, for no rational health reasons at all.”

Instead, Bernier is spending the weekend touring New Brunswick, a jurisdiction University of Prince Edward Island political science professor Don Desserud suggests is more fertile territory for the PPC.

“With the People's Alliance, and before them the CoR, there is more of that kind of right-wing group in the Fredericton-Saint John River Valley area,” Desserud said.

“(Bernier) may decide to use this as an example of how these PEI Passes, and the extension of those — the vaccine passports — are an infringement on liberty … but I doubt he'd get much sympathy on the island.”

PEI Passes are what the province calls its proof of vaccination that allows people to enter without isolating.

Vaccine passports have become a wedge issue in the federal election campaign. On Friday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pledged a re-elected Liberal government would create a $1-billion proof of vaccination fund to help provinces and territories set up their own credential system.

"He can’t even go to P.E.I., Nova Scotia and Newfoundland because of their restrictions (and) the risk of being arrested again, as he was in Manitoba," says #PPC spokesperson Martin Masse. #elxn44 #cdnpoli #COVID19

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also called for vaccine passports to be implemented nationally.

“Real leadership — and not just talk — would mean getting more provinces to sign on to a vaccine passport, and ensure the passport is in place by Labour Day,” he said in a statement last week.

Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has come out against mandatory vaccine mandates for federal workers and travellers, opting instead for rapid testing, and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet has signalled support for vaccine passports for international travel.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul has voiced support for Canadians getting vaccinated, but questioned a strategy of mandatory vaccinations.

“Every person in Canada who is eligible to be vaccinated should do so as soon as possible,” Paul said in a statement last week. “However, we know that there are people who are unable to get vaccinated for legitimate reasons, whether those be medical conditions, religious or cultural convictions, or that live in rural communities with limited access to either vaccination clinics or information that addresses their concerns. What accommodations will be made for them?”

On the campaign trail, Desserud said it’s been made clear in provincial pandemic elections that things will look different from pre-COVID votes. Door-knocking, crowded rallies, or even meet and greets are less common. And it’s not just for public health reasons, it’s optics too.

“I think anyone who was overly aggressive in ignoring those restrictions, that would backfire on them,” he said.

“There's a check in the system already where (politicians) are going to have to be careful, otherwise they're going to be perceived as being careless and not really taking this seriously.”

But Bernier is no typical politician. The PPC leader was arrested in June for violating Manitoba’s requirement to self-isolate after entering the province. The PPC put out a statement at the time that said the arrest violated Bernier’s constitutional rights.

“This isn’t about COVID anymore. It’s political repression,” Masse said in a statement at the time.

Desserud said when Bernier was arrested, he “must’ve known” it was going to happen, but that he is likely to use these moments to his advantage.

“(Bernier’s) not trying to be a broad base appeal politician, he's given up on that … but he wants to shore up that base of people who … see this as an incredible imposition on his liberty, on all of our liberties I suppose,” he said.

“I can imagine him being well aware of what the value would be if he was turned away and couldn't enter a public arena, or something like that. So interesting to see how he plays it.”

John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer

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How boring, thinking that Covid restrictions are impositions on one's liberty. If Bernier and his "fans" want to protest "an incredible imposition on his liberty, on all of our liberties," why aren't they demonstrating in favour of the most rapid and urgent action on the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis possible? The biggest imposition on liberty is the sixth mass extinction. It's hard to be free when you're dead -- and worse: extinct.

PPC spokesman Martin Masse choses to ignore that a goodly part of the Covid pandemic is political, as well as epidemiological. Why wouldn’t it be? —humans being the biggest vector of transmission of the virus, they need to be sold on cooperating with pandemic protocols: short of strict epidemiological measures which would require complete quarantine of every single soul within a jurisdiction (and subsequent isolation of that population from others until the virus is gone for lack of opportunities to reproduce), keeping even basic subsistence economies functioning requires political persuasion and compromise. Keeping the Canadian jurisdiction, partner to the largest bilateral trade in history with the world’s stratego-economic hegemon , and with which Canada shares the longest undefended border in the world, obviously requires a lot of politics in order to keep its economic dependency on this relationship functioning while restricting cross-border human-to-human intercourse (also requiring not an inconsiderable amount of diplomacy). At least it should be obvious for anyone with political pretensions like PPC leader Maxime Bernier.

Ignoring this basic fact of pandemic life in Canada (other countries in different geo-economic circumstances don’t necessarily need to do politics to enforce strict quarantines—Taiwan, for example) disqualifies anyone’s political aspiration—but isn’t that exactly what tRump promised in 2016?—“I’m no politician,” he boasted to cheers from his tRumpublican base. He won the presiduncy against all odds, the worst office-holder in US history and, not by mere coincidence, an almost incredibly huge encourager of anti-government, anti-vaxxerism who still foments waves of deadly Covid among millions of Americans (the kill total is expected to crest a million sometime soon as tRumpublicans continue to flout recommended Covid protocols even though their hero and his wounded party have lost the presidency and both houses of the federal congress). Bernier is cultivating a similarly contrarian polity in Canada and, in effect, denies that politics has been an essential factor in dealing with Covid.

Like tRump, Bernier rather disguises his politics as policy, but since he won’t likely win enough seats to influence real policy, what he offers as policy isn’t really an agenda thoughtfully debated by like-minded citizens in order to make it palatable to all citizens: it is, instead, a way to get inconsiderate chauvinists to vote for the PPC —that is, politics by another, disingenuous slogan like the CPC’s “take back Canada.”

The PPC’s other, willfully myopic aspect of partisan contention depends on a rarified interpretation of rights and freedoms that never existed in any jurisdiction. Aspiring to political office, he should know that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an integral part of the Constitution, our nation’s highest and enshrined law, is preambled with a plain statement that rights are limited (and even, with good reasoning, temporarily suspended in extremis). Nothing he or any other politician or party can do will change that.

It’s remarkable how thin-skinned the PPC base needs to be to buy this hyper-maudlin shit. Most Canadians agree that such Covid restrictions we’ve had imposed are a small price to pay to keep our economy and society safe —indeed, a considerable proportion would gladly endure stricter protocols to suppress Covid quicker. And yet the partisan right squeals like a stuck pig at even the mention of very light inconveniences and, typically quasi-religious, interprets such as the end of the world by which anti-vaxxers will enjoy rapturous salvation. An oxymoron? Yes, cognitive dissonance is prerequisite to this kind of partisanship.

It should be understood, but isn’t to the partisan right, that such pseudo-politics are not good for the country. Like tRump, Bernier’s “politics” are really about a playboy project of personal gratification seeking adulation and celebrity from a bunch of dupes. It is axiomatic for anyone who cares about our nation and its people that setting neighbour against neighbour—on any issue (the right is simply taking advantage of Covid)—is the lowest a politician can go.