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Maxime Bernier retains leadership of People’s Party of Canada after review vote

Maxime Bernier retains leadership of People's Party of Canada after review vote-Milenio Stadium-Canada
People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier and his wife, Catherine Letarte, at an election night event in Saskatoon on Sept. 20. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

Maxime Bernier will remain as leader of the People’s Party of Canada, after 95.6 per cent of voters in a leadership review opted to keep him on.

There were 15,454 votes cast and a voter participation rate of 57.5 per cent, the party said in a news release on Sunday.

“I believe this vote represents strong unity within our party around the principles and policies that I have been defending,” Bernier said in a video statement.

During the leadership review, which Bernier initiated himself, members were asked to vote on the question: “Do you support Maxime Bernier remaining as leader of the People’s Party of Canada?”

The vote results imply that just under 27,000 PPC members were eligible to vote in the leadership review. Only those people who were party members prior to the federal election in September were allowed to vote.

Bernier, a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister, founded the People’s Party of Canada in 2018. It received almost five per cent of the national vote in the federal election, but it didn’t win any seats.

Party support grew, but no seats won

“I have big plans for the PPC to prepare us for the next general election,” Bernier said on Sunday.

The party’s result in this year’s election represented a doubling of support nationally when compared with the 2019 election. And the level of PPC support may have cost the Conservatives some seats by splitting votes on the right.

An analysis by University of Calgary economics professor Trevor Tombe suggested that the combined Conservative and PPC vote was greater than the winning candidate’s share in 25 ridings.

The party, which describes itself as populist, campaigned against COVID-19 public health restrictions and official multiculturalism. It’s in favour of reducing immigration, balancing the budget and promoting oil and gas production in Canada.

“We don’t have anybody in Parliament, but we are the real opposition. If you look at all the ideas we promote, we are the only real conservative party in Canada right now,” Bernier told CBC News in October.

The PPC experienced growth in support during the federal election, drawing in part on backing from groups opposed to COVID-19 public health measures. Bernier was arrested in Manitoba in June for violating local public health orders, and he again flouted the rules in the province in September.

He has been accused of tapping into support from far-right groups, although he says extremists and white supremacist are not welcome in the party. He was also criticized for calling on his supporters to “play dirty” with journalists during the election campaign.

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