Mere months after the Ontario Progressive Conservatives kicked Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios out of caucus for voting against Bill 195, she and husband Jim Karahalios have started their own party and are now awaiting final approval from Elections Ontario.
This week, MPP Karalahios told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo’s The Morning Edition that they decided to go this route because the established political parties are more interested in helping institutions than they are in helping people.
“After I was ousted from the PC caucus in July for voting against Bill 195, there were a lot of people reaching out saying, ‘Please don’t give up, this can’t be the end, you have to keep going,'” Karahalios said.
Bill 195, introduced in early July, sought to give the Ontario government the ability to extend or amend some of the powers granted to it from the emergency measures act a month at a time for up to two years without consulting the legislature.
“The PC party, you know, they are beyond redemption. Really there is no party in the Ontario legislature defending the taxpayer, defending small business, defending places of worship, promoting freedom, promoting democracy or fighting political corruption,” Karahalios said.
Karahalios said she feels someone needs to look out for the citizens of Ontario.
“We need a bottom up, we need a from the root to the top-type party,” she said, adding that she and her husband have both been involved in politics for a number of years and felt now was the time to strike out on their own.
Appetite for a ‘strong party,’ Karahalios says
Karahalios said while she could continue as an independent, it’s easier to run for politics under a party banner.
“Something as simple as fundraising: Running a campaign is quite expensive when you’re an independent and you have no party banner,” she said.
“You can’t start fundraising until the writ drops, which is typically 30 days before an election. Once you form a party you can do any of that fundraising prior.”
She said she’s heard support from people all over Ontario — not just Cambridge. She says from where she stands it’s clear: “there is definitely a need and an appetite for a strong party.”
Jim Karahalios disqualified from federal leadership race
Karahalios’ husband, Jim Karahalios, has had his own tangles with the provincial Progressive Conservatives and the federal Conservative Party.
In May, Jim Karahalios was a Conservative leadership hopeful until he was twice disqualified from participating in the federal party’s leadership race.
He was first removed from the contest after a complaint about an inflammatory email against a campaign staffer working for Erin O’Toole. Jim Karahalios subsequently won a decision in Ontario Superior Court that said the four-person committee of Conservative MPs that ousted him from the race in March didn’t have the authority to do so.
A day after his victory in the court, he was ejected from the Conservative leadership race a second time.
‘Is it going to bring down the big blue machine?’
The couple have already submitted the signatures required to form their New Blue Party to Elections Ontario and are confident once the vetting process is completed, it will be an official party.
Tamara Small, associate professor in the department of political science at the University of Guelph says while she is supportive of new parties and voices in democracy, in practical politics, it’s difficult for a lot of them to be really successful.
“There are a lot of parties that exist at all levels of Canadian politics that are extremely small and only draw on a handful of voters but they’re meaningful for those people,” Small told CBC News.
“Is it going to bring down the big blue machine? Probably not. Will it provide a venue for people who feel like the Progressive Conservative Party [isn’t] representing their views? Probably. Is there appetite electorally? Probably not.”
Small said she’s not surprised to learn of the new party on the horizon, noting this is what conservative parties have done in Canada for a very long time.
She said whenever the main Conservative party is not seen to be “conservative enough” someone further right pops up.
“In some ways it’s not necessarily a bad strategy because it has been, actually in some cases, successful. The Reform Party would be an example of that which had a big impact on Canadian politics,” she said.
“If the party’s goal is to form a government, this is probably going to be a difficult road. If the party is there to provide a different perspective and perhaps be a foil to the party they’ve left, then that might be very plausible,” Small added.
Ontarians not clamouring for a new party
Anna Esselment, associate dean in University of Waterloo’s political science department, says registering a new party is the easy part.
The difficulty comes when the new party tries to set up riding associations and get people to buy in, become members and form an executive both provincially and in all of the individual ridings, Esselment said.
Getting name recognition is also difficult, Esselment said, adding there is nothing to suggest there’s any real appetite for a new political party at this time.
“I have not seen anything recently where Ontarians have been clamouring for a brand new party and if we look at the popular vote — even from the last election in 2018 for the four main parties that were offered … they’ve got some good splits,” Esselment told CBC News.
“So, it will take a while for this party to establish itself and I don’t know that Ontarians are really wishing that they had a fifth option in 2022 when the next provincial election will be,” Esselment added.