Over 200 people showed their support for the People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier’s campaign stop with the party's Banff-Airdrie candidate Nadine Wellwood at the Lions Event Centre in Cochrane on Aug. 30.
The event was followed by another town hall in Airdrie that same evening, at the Bert Church LIVE Theatre.
The town hall in Cochrane marked Bernier’s first stop in Alberta on his self-dubbed “Mad Max Tour” across Canada, with the upcoming federal election on Sept. 20. The party leader made speeches to the crowd along with Wellwood, both of whom left time for questions from attendees.
Bernier said his party's platform has not changed since the 2019 election, except that he plans to balance the budget within four years instead of two, blaming COVID-19 expenditures brought on by the current government.
"We are running on the same platform that we ran in 2019, and that will be the next one in 2025, because we are doing politics differently based on principles and strong conservative values," he said.
Vocal in his distaste for the government’s handling of COVID-19, Bernier said one of their first moves if the PPC gains power would be to cut spending related to the virus, including the $1 billion that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to help impose vaccine passports. The party would also seek to fire Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam, and would no longer follow advice from the World Health Organization.
“A real expert will come to power in commission, and take the truth based on facts and like that would be able to inform the population about the reality of COVID-19. Do you want more and more of the same Draconian restrictions on your freedoms? Or do you want to go back to your life?" he asked the crowd.
“I can tell you that I feel that we have a momentum,” Bernier said. “When tyranny becomes the law, revolution becomes our duty.”
The PPC was unable to gain a seat in the 2019 election, bringing in only 1.6 per cent of the vote, but the party seems to be picking up steam in parts of Alberta this election.
The party platform also proposes more provincial independence, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and promising major changes to federal equalization payments.
Claiming Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are one in the same and will not help Alberta build pipelines across the country, Bernier vowed he would find a private buyer for the Trans Mountain Project and create a more streamlined approval process for future pipelines, if he were elected Prime Minister.
Born in Quebec, Bernier said he feels at home in Alberta, believing he shares many of the same values as Albertans. Wellwood, who resides in Cochrane, said having Bernier visit the Banff-Airdrie riding re-enforces the PPC's commitment to Alberta.
"The issues today are really about whether the government chooses to make decisions on our behalf, or whether we're free to make those decisions ourselves," she said. "I think Max taking the time to come here – especially now more than ever in this riding – just represents his confidence and his faith in Albertans, and he's demonstrating that a little bit maybe in this riding through myself as the candidate."
With 331 candidates, the People’s Party of Canada has more people running in this year's snap federal election than the NDP and the Green Party. Wellwood, who said she was asked to step down from her candidacy, had a clear message about the election for any doubters.
“We have three Albertans to choose from, our incumbent received 71 per cent of the vote — we are a conservative riding,” she said. “There is no way that we are not sending a conservative, a real one, to Ottawa. Split that three ways, the NDP and the Liberals, 10 and 11 per cent respectively. We’re not sending a liberal, we’re not sending NDP, we’re not sending a Green Party.
“So, your choice is myself, an Ontarian, or a fake conservative who wears blue, but should be wearing red.”
Other than Wellwood, Conservative Party incumbent Blake Richards will face off against at least seven other opponents in the Banff-Airdrie constituency, including David Gamble of the Liberal Party, Sarah Zagoda for the NDP, Tariq Elnaga of the Maverick Party, Aidan Blum for the Green Party and Caroline O’Driscoll, Derek Sloan and Ron Voss, who are all running as independents.
Following his events in Cochrane and Airdrie, Bernier also made stops in Red Deer, Didsbury, Sylvan Lake and Lacombe on Aug. 31.