Maxime Bernier says he will run in what he predicts will be a “two-horse race” for a federal seat in a coming byelection in rural Manitoba.
The People’s Party of Canada leader says the vote in Portage-Lisgar will be a choice between him or what he called a fake conservative.
The seat was previously held by Candice Bergen, who was the Conservative party’s interim leader last year and who stepped down as a member of Parliament in February.
The byelection has not yet been called. The Conservatives have also chosen their candidate for the race, Branden Leslie.
Bernier held several roles in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, including leading the industry and foreign affairs ministries.
He quit the Conservative party in 2018 after losing its 2017 leadership contest to Andrew Scheer.
After forming his own party, Bernier ran in his former seat of Beauce, Que., in the 2019 and 2021 elections, losing both times to a Conservative candidate.
He told supporters in Portage la Prairie, Man., Friday that the area reminds him of his home riding, and urged them to make history by electing the first member of Parliament representing his party — to “open the floodgates.”
“This byelection is the starting of a major turning point in Canadian politics,” he said.
In the last federal election, the People’s Party of Canada candidate in Portage-Lisgar got 22 per cent of the vote.
Bernier compared his party to the former Reform Party, saying he has learned from that party’s mistakes and has no plans to merge with the Conservatives.
During his speech, he urged supporters to join a political revolution and took shots at the Liberals, the NDP and especially the Conservatives, whom he accused of only caring about voters during elections.
He also said Canada has changed dramatically for the worse in recent years, railing against what he called “moral and cultural degeneracy” and “the woke cult.”
He claimed that society has been overtaken by evil and “those who reject it are silenced and smeared as intolerant, racist and transphobic.”
Bernier railed against lockdowns and other restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic and in 2021 he was arrested in Manitoba for breaking public-health orders.
He told the crowd Friday he will be fighting his arrest in court next Tuesday.