Maxime Bernier thinks he is at the forefront of a political revolution sweeping across Canada.
But as national leader of the new People’s Party of Canada, Bernier faces the challenge of getting voters familiar with his party platform and personal commitment to stand behind his party’s policies with the next federal election just five months away.
Bernier said unlike many other right-wing conservative populist reformers in the world today, he wants to appeal to the intelligence of Canadians rather than their emotions.
“We want to bring bold reform to Canada based on strong Canadian values and principles, what I call the western civilization concepts of freedom and personal responsibility,” said Bernier.
“A poll done two months ago showed that 52 per cent of Canadians want real change…want to vote for a new party. We are that party.”
Bernier also wants to clearly define himself as different than U.S. President Donald Trump and other European populist leaders, that his party is one of ideas and not fear mongering.
“I have the same positions now that I have had for the last 12 years. Google any of my speeches over the last 12 years and you will hear me saying then what I am saying now.
“Like Trump, I am relying on social media to get my message out there but we are building a party based on ideas. Trump says something one day and says the exact opposite the next.”
Bernier was building on his party’s name recognition as the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner held in Kelowna on Friday at the Delta Grand Hotel, attended by about 150 people and several of the candidates running for the party in Southern Interior ridings.
For Bernier, a Quebec MP for the Conservative Party since 2006 until he split with current party leader Andrew Scheer in 2018, nominated candidates in all 336 ridings is an important objective.
“We are now at 250 candidates and we expect to be at 336 by the end of June. It is important that we get at least 304 candidates. That is the only (stipulation) which allows myself as party leader to participate in any national debates during the election campaign,” he said.
“And I want to be there. So we need 304 but we will have 338 for sure.”
While claiming it is harder to tell the Conservatives and Liberals apart on policy, Bernie says the PPS advocates what he calls true conservative values.
As policies, that translates into abolishing the “corporate welfare tax,” privatizing Canada Post, reducing equalization payments shared by the provinces, reviewing Canada’s immigration policies, reducing foreign aid and stop fiscally supporting climate change policies in other countries.
“My commitment is to balance the budget in two years. That is not difficult to do when you have a plan and the courage to see it through. Our goal is to have a smaller government in Ottawa and bring more prosperity back to Canadians by paying less taxes.”
He said those were familiar goals for the last Conservative majority government under prime minister Stephen Harper, but the party lost its way.
“We did ultimately balance the budget but it took us four years to get there, and the party has since shifted to the centre.”
Among the PPC candidates across the Southern Interior:
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo candidate: Ken Finlayson
North Okanagan-Shuswap nominees: Kyle Delfing, Ian Tribes
Kelowna-Lake Country nominees: Brian Rogers, Sal Rayek
Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola candidate: Allan Duncan
South Okanagan-West Kootenay candidate: Sergio Zanatta
Kootenay-Columbia candidate: Rick Stewart