Maxime Bernier said a stronger economy and reducing immigration are some of the key platforms of his new party.
Bernier was in Saskatoon on Thursday evening for a rally, attracting roughly 250 people. He’s been crossing the country, trying to build support for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), which he founded in September after leaving the Conservative Party of Canada.
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He said support is growing.
“It’s going very well, more than I expected,” Bernier told Global News.
“We have 33,000 founding members after two months, and it’s growing…we’ll be very competitive and I think we’ll make a big surprise a year from now.”
The next federal election is expected in fall 2019, and Bernier said his party already has 249 riding associations formed, and plans to have candidates in all 338 federal ridings.
He claimed his party is an alternative to the status quo.
“So we are very different than the other old parties, and people I think appreciate that,” he said.
“I think our platform is the real true conservative platform – people who believe in smaller government, more freedom for more prosperity.
“The difference with us – we don’t try to please everybody, if you try to please everybody you will end up pleasing no one,” he said, pointing to his opposition to supply management for dairy and poultry farmers.
The biggest issue facing Canada, Bernier said, is the economy.
“The deficit in Ottawa, the taxes, it is hurting Canadians,” he said. He also slammed the federal equalization formula, and what he called “corporate welfare” – giving federal money to companies like Bombardier.
Another big issue for Bernier are levels of immigration that he said are too high.
“We are the only party that want a little bit less, fewer immigrants, and we had that debate in Quebec in the last provincial election, and the party that wanted fewer immigrants won the election,” he said.
“I don’t want our country to be like some of the countries in Europe that have big challenges with the integration of their immigrants.”
He also questions if the Conservative Party can beat the Liberals a year from now.
“He (Andrew Scheer) is still behind Justin Trudeau, he cannot win, so I’m saying to people we have the momentum, we are there, if you believe in the freedom ideas, come with us and vote for what you value,” Bernier said.
Bernier was in cabinet under Stephen Harper. His portfolios includes minister of industry, and minister of foreign affairs. However, he came in second behind Andrew Scheer in the Conservative leadership race in 2017, and left the party earlier this year.