'A breath of fresh air': Maxime Bernier holds 1st Manitoba rally since forming Canada's newest federal party
Leader of the People's Party of Canada addresses a crowd of more than 200 in Winnipeg
The leader of Canada's newest political party was in Winnipeg Wednesday evening to speak with his supporters here for the first time since striking out on his own.
Maxime Bernier addressed a crowd of over 200 people at the Holiday Inn on Ellice Avenue before taking questions from the audience.
"I think that's a big success and I'm very happy. I'm showing to Canadians that we are not alone, there's people out there who believe in our ideas," said Bernier after the event.
"They are coming here because we are doing politics differently, we're not afraid to speak about what we believe, and I think they appreciate that."
In August, Bernier made waves within the Conservative Party and across the country for a series of tweets about Canada's diversity.
At the time, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer accused Bernier of playing identity politics and being more occupied with advancing his own profile than the needs of the party.
Bernier had lost the bid to lead the Conservatives to Scheer at last year's leadership convention.
He quit the Conservative party in August and started the People's Party of Canada in October.
'A breath of fresh air'
Winnipeg is just one of many stops on his tour to build support for the party, which now has 1,100 members in Manitoba.
The crowd of mostly men listened as the Quebec MP spoke about his platforms on equalization payments, immigration and eliminating corporate welfare.
He also spoke of deregulation, abolishing the CRTC and defunding the CBC.
Many stayed to the end to ask questions and take photos with the PPC leader.
Jared Van Beveren said Wednesday's event was the first political rally he's ever attended. He follows Bernier on social media and wanted to hear him speak in person.
"I was very disappointed that he lost the Conservative leadership, I'm not a huge fan of Andrew Scheer," said Van Beveren.
"When [Bernier] announced he was starting his own party, I was sort of excited. I wanted to see where it would go."
Van Beveren said he was pleased with what he heard at the rally and feels that Bernier is different from other politicians.
"I don't always agree with him 100 per cent, but at least he explains himself in a way that I think is clear and concise and speaks to voters," said Van Beveren.
Duetime Akhidime also liked what he heard.
"I consider him a breath of fresh air because he says what he has in mind, which happens to resonate with a lot of Canadians," said Akhidime.
He said many Canadians are tired of political correctness and want to be able to speak their minds without fear of being criticized.
"We have been looking for an opportunity to have a leader who actually speaks the minds of the people," he said.
'No opposition right now'
Bernier also addressed fears about splitting the opposition vote and weakening the Conservatives against Justin Trudeau's Liberals.
"We won't split the opposition because there is no opposition right now. Scheer and Trudeau, on a lot of subjects, they're the same," he said.
Bernier wouldn't say whether he had any Manitoba candidates in mind yet, but said the party already has people working in 13 of the 14 ridings and is confident they will be well represented in the 2019 election.
"We have the momentum and we are a principled party," he said.
'I'm working for all Canadians'
Bernier spoke openly about taking a pause on immigration in Canada, and has been critical of what he calls Canada's "extreme multiculturalism."
Akhidime, a permanent resident from Nigeria, said he agrees with those views.
"People can bring a positive change or a negative change to a society. If you have a majority of people with a negative mindset who do not value the culture of the land, they may sway it in a completely different direction," he said.
When asked what he would do to earn the votes of diverse Canadians, Bernier said he'd do nothing.
"I won't do anything for the Muslim community, I won't do anything for the Christian community, I won't do anything for the Jewish community," Bernier said.
"For me, you are a Canadian and I'm working for all Canadians.
"I don't try to pander to every special ethnicity or special interest group."