Bernier to address pipeline politics in Saskatoon, Regina next week

Maxime Bernier is expected to return to Saskatchewan next week with the aim of drumming up support for his new political party, which according to a local organizer has around 1,300 members in the province.

The People’s Party of Canada founder is expected to meet with volunteers in Saskatoon on Sunday before addressing pipeline politics in a speech to the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

Bernier, who split with the Conservative Party of Canada this summer, will deliver the same speech — “Reconciling East and West with the Right Economic Policies” — to the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Ethan Erkiletian, the not-yet-registered party’s regional organizer for central and northern Saskatchewan, said Bernier is expected to concentrate on his “unique and freedom-oriented” vision of energy policy and national unity.

Bernier’s latest trip to the province — he was last here in November — comes amid mounting criticism of the governing Liberals over failed and stagnant pipeline projects, as well as the upcoming imposition of a carbon tax.

Erkiletian suggested Bernier’s visit is an opportunity for people in Saskatoon and Regina to hear a different perspective, one “other political parties are not speaking about in terms nearly as courageous as the terms that we speak on these issues about.”

It is also an opportunity for the party to continue to build its membership and fundraising base ahead of the next general election, which is set for October. Erkiletian admitted that has been a challenge over the last several months.

“We don’t have a massive, multi-million-dollar war chest that allows us to reach communities at will. For us, it’s been difficult to put ourselves in front of as many people as possible, to get them to meet the PPC,” he said.

Earlier this week, Bernier’s party unveiled its first two candidates, who are set to run in upcoming by-elections in British Columbia. Candidates for two more by-elections in Ontario and Quebec are expected to be named next week.

The party has established riding associations in all 338 federal electoral districts, and Bernier said his next goal is to field candidates in 90 per cent of those ridings — enough to make him eligible to participate in leaders’ debates.

Erkiletian declined to provide names but said the party has — with mixed results — approached politicians, including mayors and city councillors, and business leaders about the possibility of running for the People’s Party in October.

Outgoing Conservative MP Brad Trost is among those who have been approached by the party. In an interview with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix last year, the social conservative said he was “not in any way seriously” considering it.

The party’s first Saskatchewan candidates are expected to be announced over the next couple of months, Erkiletian said.

— With Canadian Press files

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