Canada’s newest political party has established a riding association in Kamloops.
The People’s Party of Canada, created in September by former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, claims to have signed up about 35,000 members nationwide and plans to run candidates in all 338 ridings across Canada in next year’s federal election.
It also plans to field candidates in three federal byelections that will be held in the next few months.
Glen Walushka, president of the party’s North Okanagan-Shuswap riding, was in Kamloops on Sunday to organize the party’s Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo electoral district association.
In the 2015 federal election, Conservative MP Cathy McLeod was elected due to vote-splitting on the centre-left. McLeod won with 24,444 votes, with New Democrat Bill Sundhu receiving 21,400 votes and Liberal Steve Powrie garnering 21,197 votes.
Walushka conceded vote-splitting on the right is a concern in the 2019 federal election, which is set for Oct. 21.
“Vote-splitting is always a problem,” he told KTW, quoting leader Bernier by arguing the NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh has moved so far left as to fall off the political spectrum, leading Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to slide to the left and prompting Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to edge his party to a more centrist position.
“We are the only conservative party,” Walushka said, comparing the grassroots movement of the party to that of Reform in the 1990s.
He said data in his party has shown 52 per cent of members were formerly Conservative, 26 per cent were previously Liberals and the balance being disaffected New Democrats and others, with the majority being under 40 years of age.
“The ability of people at the grassroots level to participate in the process is a huge difference,” Walushka said, arguing the Conservative party’s national apparatus too often dictates what the constituency level can do.
But McLeod said the People’s Party of Canada is anything but grassroots, noting all policies have been crafted by the leader.
“It’s a party of Maxime, who is self-appointed leader and who is developing all the policies,” McLeod said.
“I’ve always been impressed with a grassroots policy development.
“They’ve already been told what their policies are going to be. There is no grassroots voice, as far as I can see.”
McLeod said it is apparent Bernier created the party as a result of him losing the Conservative leadership race to Scheer, noting she finds it interesting the People’s Party has yet to attract support from sitting MPs or so-called “big tent” Conservatives, such as Rona Ambrose, John Baird or Jason Moore.
As for possible right-of-centre vote-splitting in next year’s federal election, McLeod said: “If you vote for the People’s Party, it’s really a vote for Justin Trudeau, in my opinion.”
The People’s Party of Canada has policies that include ending supply management, axing the carbon tax, privatizing Canada Post, reducing funding to the CBC, reforming immigration policies (by reducing the total number of immigrants to Canada to 250,000 per year and by focusing on their specialized skills), simplifying the tax code, expanding private-sector involvement in health care and shrinking the size of government.
“It’s a small ‘c’, laissez-faire, free market, people make the decisions rather than government makes the decisions kind of thing,” is how Walushka replied when asked how he would sell the party to those with questions.
“We’re very much against a nanny state.”
Walushka, a former Conservative who worked for the Alberta Treasury Branch, said the People’s Party of Canada’s platforms encompass freedom, personal responsibility, fairness and respect.
In addition to being president of the party’s North Okanagan-Shuswap riding association, Walushka is a regional organizer, having helped create electoral district associations in the Okanagan and Cariboo.
He will be in the Kootenays this week.