New Blues unlikely to succeed in 2022 provincial election
When Ontario voters head to the polls on Thursday, there will be a fifth party contesting each riding.
The New Blue Party, headed by Kitchener-Conestoga candidate Jim Karahalios, was established last year, and framed itself as an alternative to the Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservative party.
Karahalios has a turbulent relationship with the provincial PCs, having lost a bid for party presidency in 2018 after which he made allegations of ballot-stuffing and other violations during the election to prevent him from being chosen. In 2020, his wife and Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios was removed from the Conservative caucus after voting against legislation which would expand the provincial government’s authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Belinda Karahalios would later be barred from attending the Legislative Assembly for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
After Belinda’s removal from the PCs, as well the pair’s expulsion – alongside 17 others – from the Cambridge PC Riding Association, they began the New Blue Party.
Karahalios said these incidents weren’t the impetus for launching a campaign, insisting the creation of the New Blues wasn’t an example of revenge or payback towards the Conservative Party.
“Typically those are pathetic responses from lobbyists or oganziers in the PC party because they can’t justify how the PC party operates,” Karahalios said.
He added that during his time with the Conservatives, the pair were fighting for values and principles that all conservative voters agree with, alleging they were prevented from doing so by party leadership.
“They know intellectually and in terms of values and principles, we’ve consistently advocated for certain democratic frameworks and certain policies internally in the party for a long time,” Karahalios said. "They’ve made a conscious decision that they don’t want any part of that, that they are going to crush anyone in the party who is successful in advocating for them
Both Jim and Belinda Karahalios have expressed strong social conservative views in the past. Prior to being removed from the 2020 federal PC leadership race, Jim Karahalios was supported by the Campaign Life Coalition, a lobbyist organization opposed to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.
In addition, the New Blue Party’s founding principles also state “the health and wellbeing of society is improved by strong families in which parents are the primary educators and caregivers of their children and by recognizing the inherent value and dignity of human life from conception to natural death.”
In an interview with Rebel News during the 2022 March for Life, Karahalios said he and Belinda had been “punished with retribution for holding those views.” In the same interview, Belinda compared the issue of body autonomy in terms of abortion to vaccine mandates in Canada.
The New Blues also opposed Bill 67, a motion brought forward by Kitchener Centre NDP MPP Laura-Mae Lindo which would promote racial equity training within schools and impose fines on those who disrupt classes with racist language or actions.
In addition to their social views, the New Blue Party seeks to remove the Ontario carbon tax and said by removing wind turbines, they could cut spending on hydro in the province, allowing them to decrease HST from 13 to 10 per cent.
“If we are able to reduce hydro rates by at least 25 per cent, we’ll see a tremendous economic growth in Ontario that will allow us to afford tax relief but also allow us to continue spending on social services,” Karahalios said.
Despite being a splinter party from the PC and having social conservative views enshrined in the party platform, Karahalios said he doesn’t believe he will be pulling voters away from Doug Ford come the election.
“The vote split is actually occurring between the PCs, Liberals and the NDP. They’ve all aggressively gone after the same kind of voter pool,” he said.
In most polls since the beginning of the election campaign, the New Blues have been polling at less than six per cent.
New Blue: The Party for "none-of-the-above" voters?
Andrea Perrella, associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, believes there will be some conservative voters who move towards the New Blue Party, though it is unlikely to have a major impact on the overall outcome of the election.
“In races where the Progressive Conservatives are running close with another party you can see some bleeding that may occur and there is some leakage from the potential PC vote to the New Blue Party,” Perella said. “That may spell some trouble for the PCs but we’re mainly looking at that situation in a small, small number of ridings.”
He added that while the New Blue Party will entice socially conservative voters, they also have garnered support from those who distrust the state and the established parties, giving them an appeal outside of their policies and platform.
“A lot of people vote for these parties because they want to cast a none-of-the-above kind of vote. They want to basically cast a vote for a party that has not been in government. A party that is potentially a disturbing force, an agitator,” Perella said. “And a lot of these people also voted Green, and they didn’t vote Green because they were environmentalists.”
Perella added that while the New Blues may speak to those sentiments, it won’t be in large numbers, in part because the party is being mainly driven by the Karahalios in contrast to other split-off parties like the Bloc Quebecois, Parti Quebecois or UCP.
“Right now, they don’t seem to have the same momentum and it’s mainly driven by a person and it’s mainly driven by a leader,” Perella said. “And when a split-off party depends mainly on a leader, then its future fates tend to be a little bit more in doubt as opposed to a party that’s split off because there’s a movement or there’s other insiders who coalesced together to form a new party.”
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