It's not every day that the leader of a federal party comes to a town of 30,000.
But that day was Cochrane's on Saturday, July 13 when Maxime Bernier, leader of the newly-formed conservative People's Party of Canada (PPC), arrived at the Lions Event Centre to talk to around 80 people, followed by a barbecue – local PPC candidate Nadine Wellwood said there was an impressive turnout, given the mixture of hot weather, Stampede and summer holidays.
"I think we stand for real Canadian values and real issues and we're not willing to compromise ... how do you compromise on your principles? That's who you are," said Wellwood, adding that she has received postive feedback and quite a number of new members at the event – which she co-hosted with Calgary-Nosehill PPC candidate Kelly Lorencz.
Wellwood brought up tough issues during the question and answer period with Bernier – clarifying hot button issues including immigration, balancing the budget, perceived conservative vote splitting and unfair media coverage.
Pointing to a recent CBC news article that posted a picture of Bernier with alleged members of a Calgary hate group, Bernier highlighted this as an unfair smear – stressing that his events are open to the public, that he takes photos with anyone who requests and he had no prior knowledge of the individuals in that photo or the group they were associated with.
With plans to balance the budget within two years of being elected, Bernier said that the PPC is the only party with bold enough reforms to actual achieve such campaign promises – with planned cuts including defunding the CBC, privatizing Canada Post, ending corporate welfare ($5B), cutting $4B in foreign aid.
On cutting foreign aid, Bernier clarified that cutting foreign aid does not translate to not lending assistance in times of humanitarian crises or environmental catastrophes.
"Do you really believe these dictators will use the money to fight climate change in Africa?" remarked Bernier.
The party is also in favour of a flat business tax of 10 per cent, as well as ending capital gains taxes and lowered personal taxes.
On immigration, Bernier stated "we are not for mass immigration, we are not for no immigration." He explained the emphasis should be on economic immigration (skilled workers) and a more thorough vetting system for entry.
"We want people who will help us to build our society," he said, adding that the PPC is in favour of ending government-sponsored immigration and returning to immigration that is sponsored by the private sector, as "when the government is responsible, nobody is responsible."
Vote splitting has been an issue of concern by conservative voters, but Bernier insists that the Conservative Party hardly resembles a true right-leaning party and that the PPC is the only choice for "true Conservatives" – reiterated by Wellwood.
"Max will wins seats in Quebec. I think he will win more seats than (Conservative leader) Andrew Scheer will ... Maxime has that support in Quebec already. Politicians themselves may not support pipelines, but Quebec people understand," said Wellwood, adding conservatives need not vote in "fear of Justin Trudeau," rather should vote for the leader and the party that best represents their values – values that she said don't align with conservatism under the "centrist, pragmatic" Conservative Party.
Learn more at peoplespartyofcanada.ca.