As he walked off a plane at Kamloops Airport on Thursday morning, Maxime Bernier was greeted by three directors of his party’s local riding association bearing a bouquet of flowers.
Touching down in the Tournament Capital was a first for the outspoken former Conservative MP — who quit the party after losing the leadership race to form his own.
The leader of the newly formed People’s Party of Canada was in Kamloops, doing media interviews ahead of a fundraiser dinner in Kelowna on Friday. The visit to the Interior will also include meetings with electoral riding associations (EDA), local business people and a talk with Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore.
Candidate announcements for some ridings are expected to follow in advance of the federal election campaign. Voters go to the polls on Oct. 21.
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo People’s Party EDA president Francis Payette said a nomination meeting has yet to be set, noting there are two people in the mix and they plan to discuss next steps with Bernier.
Bernier said the goal is to appoint candidates before the end of June.
“Before the end of this month, we’ll have more than 225 candidate all across the country,” Bernier said, adding he plans to run candidates in all 338 ridings nationwide.
Bernier believes his party’s platform can attract not only former Conservatives, but those who have voted for other parties and who share PPC policies, including smaller government, balancing the budget, ending corporate welfare and lowering corporate taxes.
Bernier also gave a nod to those who didn’t vote in the last election.
“We’re doing politics differently and these people that didn’t vote, they like what I’m saying and there’s no political correctness with us, also. If you like what I’m saying, OK, I hope you’ll vote for us. If not, you can vote for another party. We won’t pander to special interest groups and that’s a big difference between us and the other traditional parties,” he said.
Acknowledging polls that suggest he is more recognizable than his party at the moment, Bernier conceded name recognition is a challenge, but he is confident the PPC will do well in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.
Conservative MP Cathy McLeod is seeking her fourth consecutive term.
“I think we can surprise. Yes, it is a conservative region of the country and we, I can say, are the only real conservative party,” Bernier said, noting he believes the Conservative party has moved left of centre and abandoned its principles.