People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier vows to run again despite byelection defeat in Portage-Lisgar

Dave Baxter/Winnipeg Sun. PPC leader Maxine Bernier.

by Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Winnipeg Sun

The leader of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) says despite receiving a decisive rebuke and defeat in rural Manitoba on Monday, he still believes there is a future for the PPC as a legitimate federal party, and said when the next federal election is called he plans to once again run in Portage-Lisgar.

Voters in Portage-Lisgar went to the polls in a byelection to fill a seat left vacant after former Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) MP Candice Bergen stepped down back in February, and one of the candidates running was Quebec-based PPC leader Maxime Bernier, who announced back in May that he would be seeking the seat in the riding.

During his campaign, Bernier made a number of promises seemingly to appeal to far right voters in the riding, including promises to “reopen the abortion debate,” and to allow for greater freedoms for residents to use violent and in some cases deadly force without fear of prosecution when they feel threatened on the streets, or in their own homes.

During his campaign, he also spoke out about what he said was the current “climate hysteria” in Canada.

But the message Bernier was selling did not resonate widely with Portage-Lisgar voters, as according to Elections Canada he received 5,349 votes totaling 17% of the total vote, while CPC candidate Branden Leslie received 20,215 votes and approximately 65% of the vote, and will now serve as a federal MP for the first time.

Bernier spoke to the Winnipeg Sun on Tuesday, and seemed surprisingly upbeat about his campaign, and claimed he hopes to run again in Portage-Lisgar in the next federal election.

“I believe we had a very good campaign speaking about the issues that matter to the people here and across the country,” Bernier said in defence of his losing campaign. “And next time we will run the same campaign and seek the same important changes that we must see in this country.”

Bernier claimed he is already planning for his future run.

“At the next federal election, I will run in Portage-Lisgar for sure, and I will be back to build a team,” he said.

Leslie, a Portage la Prairie-based farmer and former Parliament Hill staffer, said as he now prepares to represent his constituents in Ottawa, he believes part of the reason he secured far more votes than Bernier is because he has roots in the area and Bernier does not.

“It certainly is disappointing to see an opportunist from Quebec parachute in here and think he can represent this riding,” Leslie said.

“But throughout this campaign I focused my efforts on where I believe they should have been focused, and that is on the Prime Minister, and I can tell you from knocking on thousands and thousands of doors that there is a strong desire here to fire Justin Trudeau.”

Leslie said that in Ottawa, he will now be focused on representing the wants and needs and the “values” of Portage-Lisgar residents, because he said he understands and holds those same values.

“The issues here are similar issues to communities in Western Canada and across the county that are rural based, and often those sets of values in those communities are different, and there is a different reality in which we live in,” he said.

“There is lack of understanding from the government in Ottawa of how we live our lives, and it is a way of life that I will loudly and proudly stand up for when I get to Ottawa.”

Also running in Monday’s byelection were Liberal candidate Kerry Smith who received 2,660 votes and 8.5% of the total vote, NDP candidate Lisa Tessier-Burch who received 2,204 votes and 7% of the vote, and Green Party candidate Nicolas Geddert who received 699 votes and just more than 2% of the total vote.

Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.