Meet the people drawn to Maxime Bernier’s movement

Andy Brooke appeared frantic as he searched for his speech.

“I thought I’d lost it,” he said as he waved his rediscovered piece of paper. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead.

Around him, people trickled into the conference room on the sixth floor of the Delta Hotel downtown Kingston, Ont., to attend a rally on May 1 for Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada.

“Welcome! Hello!” shouted a man in a dark suit with a PPC name tag on his jacket at the doorway.

This was the latest stop on Bernier’s cross-country tour that has attracted “Mad Max” devotees and undecided voters who are curious about the “principled alternative” to the Conservatives. These public fora provide insight into his ground game and what’s drawing people toward a party that has been accused of pandering to the far right.

READ MORE: Bernier’s People’s Party nabs 11% of votes in B.C. byelection — what that could mean for the federal election

An elderly couple cooed at the panoramic view of Lake Ontario, while a man and two young children took their seats facing the podium and a large banner of Brooke. A group of young guys who looked barely old enough to vote stood near the bartender.

Nathaniel Smith, an American who said he’s in the process of getting Canadian citizenship, can’t even vote here yet but drove from upstate New York to see Bernier and support the PPC.

“Mr. Bernier is somebody who represents people like me,” he said.

Bernier would be there soon, Brooke said. He took a quick glance towards his prospective constituents. The retired RCMP officer had just been tapped as the PPC candidate for the riding of Kingston and the Islands, which represents around 90,000 people.

“We’re the underdog, and it’s exciting,” he said.

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