Maxime Bernier eyes Nickel Belt as potential riding for next election

Maxime Bernier speaking to local residents during an event on October 29th, alongside Dave Lewington, recent West Nipissing mayoral candidate and PPC Sudbury/Nickel Belt Regional Association Vice President.

PPC leader holds event in Sturgeon Falls

Christian Gammon-Roy


It seems West Nipissing is an attractive place for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) founder and leader Maxime Bernier, who was in town on October 29th meeting with local supporters about the party and the future. At the Comfort Inn boardroom, he spoke of the PPC’s rise in support over the last few elections, particularly in the Nickel Belt riding where support was nearly double the national average. He then surprised people by suggesting this could become his new riding for the next election.

The visit to West Nipissing was part of a series of stops around Northern Ontario that weekend. Bernier had been to North Bay the day before, and Sudbury the following day. In West Nipissing, the small conference room was nearly full, with 30 people attending. Recognizable faces from the recent municipal elections were there. Dave Lewington, who ran for mayor, and Réjean Venne, defeated in Ward 1, were both present. Both are active in the PPC’s Sudbury/Nickel Belt Regional Association, with Lewington serving as Vice President and Venne, as CEO.

In a brief conversation with Lewington, he pointed out that his involvement with the PPC stems from his belief in the core values of the party, and that he ran his own campaign for mayor with those values in mind. The Nickel Belt riding doesn’t currently have a candidate for the PPC, and when asked if he was considering being that candidate, Lewington did say it was something he’s pondering. However, he acknowledges there is plenty of preparation and work to do before that could become a reality.

Bernier spoke for about an hour, which included a short question period at the end of his speech. Most of the subject matter was on freedom, being anti-establishment, anti-globalism, wanting to reduce immigration, being against “wokeness”, being against abortion, and denying the existence of a climate emergency. Bernier even said he’d withdraw from the Paris Accord and remove the carbon tax, to which the room erupted in applause. In his initial remarks, Bernier called the PPC a “smart populist common-sense political party.”

While many consider being a populist a bad thing, Bernier seems to embrace the term but clarifies that there is emphasis on being “smart” populists. “We appeal to your intelligence, not to your emotions.” Bernier also had criticism for both Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Who’s Pierre Poilievre?” joked Réjean Venne when the name was first brought up, eliciting a laugh from Bernier and the crowd. Though Bernier began by calling Poilievre “a good guy”, he also labeled him an “establishment politician” and an “opportunist politician.” “He is not doing politics based on convictions. It is only what you want to hear that day, and if the public opinion is changing, he will change,” charged Bernier. When invoking Trudeau, the crowd jeered, then applauded at Bernier stating he wants to get rid of the Prime Minister.

The most notable part of Bernier’s speech for Northern Ontarians may be this: “I’ll tell you also, maybe a secret: I did run in my former riding in Beauce in 2019 as the leader of the PPC, I didn’t win. I was in Beauce again in the last election in 2021, I didn’t win. So, right now, what I can tell you: I’m looking for a riding. It can be in Beauce again, or it can be in another riding outside Quebec.” He then mentioned this region’s good support for the PPC during the last election. “Maybe my next riding can be Northern Ontario.” The announcement led to applause from everyone in the conference room. He then vowed to announce that decision as soon as possible in order to have time to build a strong team for the next election.

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