By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier appears set to announce his candidacy in a coming byelection for a federal seat in Manitoba.
A news release issued Wednesday afternoon said Bernier, a former cabinet minister who quit the Conservative caucus in 2018 to found the party, will make an important announcement about the byelection in the Portage-Lisgar riding on Friday.
The byelection was prompted by longtime member of Parliament Candice Bergen, who served as interim Conservative leader last year, stepping down in February.
Bernier has previously said he was considering running for the seat, in part because it is in a rural area with a large francophone community.
The People’s Party of Canada candidate in the 2021 election lost to Bergen but nonetheless gained 22 per cent of the vote.
Bernier would not confirm his prospective run in an interview, but said he wants to become an MP again — and people in Portage will be in a position to make history.
“I can tell you that I believe that people in Portage, or in these other ridings where there is a byelection, they will have an opportunity to make history,” he said.
“We are the only real conservative political party with common-sense policies.”
Bernier said he wants give his right-wing party more visibility and participate in a federal leaders’ debate during the next federal election campaign.
The former MP served for nine years in Parliament and held several roles in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, including helming the industry and foreign affairs ministries.
He quit the Conservative party in 2018, the year after he lost the party’s leadership as a close runner-up to Andrew Scheer.
Bernier ran in his former seat of Beauce, Que., in the 2019 and 2021 elections under the purple People’s Party of Canada banner. But both times, he lost out to a Conservative party candidate.
He railed against lockdowns and other restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic and was arrested in Manitoba for breaking public-health orders in 2021.
Branden Leslie, who ran Bergen’s campaign in 2019, is the Conservative candidate in the riding.
“I’m going to focus on being the best representative for the community I grew up in and the people I’ve known my whole life,” he wrote in a statement Wednesday evening sent in response to the news that Bernier could run.
A date for the byelection has not yet been set.