According to a Friday announcement, People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier, 60, will run in an upcoming Manitoba byelection in the Tory stronghold of Portage—Lisgar. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet have not yet set a date.
“I want to be in a riding where we share the same values and fight for it,” said Bernier, who expressed profound opposition to Canada’s “cultural war,” radical gender-identity education, record-breaking immigration quotas and climate change alarmism, to name a few.
His Conservative challenger is political novice Branden Leslie, who stepped in after interim leader Candice Bergen resigned in March. He served as her campaign manager for the 2019 federal election.
While Leslie lived on a farm near Portage, Bernier, the outspoken libertarian and political outsider from Montreal, believes he can pull off an upset victory.
“This riding is where the PPC earned the most support in the 2021 general election, with our candidate receiving almost 22% of the vote,” he told Rebel News. “This is also where the largest rally of the campaign was held, with thousands of people attending near Winkler.
“It’s a riding with many voters who share the PPC’s conservative, libertarian and populist approach to politics, and one where we have the best potential to elect a member of Parliament.”
Bernier compared the PPC to the former Reform Party, which secured an electoral breakthrough in the 1993 federal election following a 1989 byelection victory. “I believe it can be the same for the People’s Party,” he said.
Earlier this week, Leslie told the Winnipeg Free Press that his PPC counterpart is an “opportunist” trying to raise his profile and fundraise money for party coffers. The former Conservative MP dismissed the jab.
“People will know that Maxime Bernier is real. I will always fight for what I believe,” he said. “I know I need to prove myself, and I will do that.”
Bernier contends this will be a real campaign, not a ‘cash grab’ for his party. “People will have two choices,” he said, asserting the Liberals and NDP will not pose much of a threat in the riding.
The PPC leader pledged to move to the riding if he wins the byelection.
On Friday, Rebel asked Bernier how he contends to compete in the riding, given the party’s modest uptick in support last election came from pockets of resistance to COVID mandates.
He believes the support for his party remains because he preaches a “common sense revolution.” Should the PPC leader secure the byelection, he intends to “open the floodgates.”
Rebel also asked Bernier if he would condemn political violence committed against public officials and members of the public. He lauded the importance of individuals “taking personal responsibility” for their actions, condemning all who seek to intimidate their opponents with idle threats and violence.
The comment followed former PPC riding president Shane Marshall's sentencing on Monday. He pled guilty to common assault for throwing gravel at Trudeau in September 2021. He will serve 90 days under house arrest and a five-year prohibition on firearms.