An newly-formed political party is hoping to make an impact during the upcoming federal election in October.
And Kootenay-Columbia is a prime target.
The People’s Party of Canada (PPC), a conservative-leaning party that was created by former Conservative Party cabinet minister Maxime Bernier, is fielding candidates across the country, and Rick Stewart was recently nominated by the party’s riding association membership to run in the Kootenay region.
Stewart, a Nelson-area resident, is a retired professional forester and a former member of the Canadian Forces, who stopped by the Cranbrook Townsman office this week.
Stewart had previously run for the Conservative Party nomination, but after becoming disaffected with party leader Andrew Scheer, he migrated over to upstart PPC movement.
“I think Scheer’s a pretty good politician, but I don’t think he’s a good leader, and there’s a difference there,” Stewart said. “He’s moved the party in such a way that he’s left a huge gap for rural conservative values and I think those values are more in need than they ever have been in this country.”
Stewart watched Bernier’s exit from the Conservative Party, immediately donated to his new political party, and got involved in setting up a regional riding association.
Stewart says he is an advocate for fiscal responsibility and expressed concern about the federal debt and spending commitments made through international entities such as the United Nations.
Additional concerns revolve around preserving individual freedoms, ensuring respect and fairness for all Canadians and applying the law equally to everyone.
“I also see a lot of censorship going on with social media, which is critical. I see a lot of what we would call ‘lefties’ in government positions over-regulating, not doing things that are in the best interests of regular Canadians,” said Stewart.
“And there seems to be this push throughout our society to identify as different groups and give them special protection and privileges, whether they be Islam, First Nations, women, whatever.
I think first and foremost that we’re all Canadians first and we should be trying to unite our country and not divide it. I think ‘diversity is our strength’ is a ridiculous statement; I think it should be unity is our strength, as a country.”
Stewart says the regional economy is dominated by the resource industry and argued that not enough revenues generated from the forestry and mining is staying in the Kootenays due to government taxation.
If the PPC is successful, Stewart says the immediate priorities will include eliminating the federal carbon tax and scaling back funding to the United Nations.
From there, further initiatives will include fixing the equalization payment system, a federal policy that makes transfer payments to provincial governments in order to address financial disparities between ‘have’ and ‘have not’ jurisdictions.
Stewart also wants to see the federal government enforce a constitutional provision to get pipeline construction underway from the Alberta oilsands.
He says he doesn’t fear the split of the right-wing vote between the PPC and the Conservatives, both in Kootenay-Columbia and nationally.
“I’m actually hoping for a split,” Stewart said. “I want the PPC to split the Conservative and NDP vote and come right up the middle in this riding. If it doesn’t happen, fair enough. But I don’t see either one of the three outcomes, apart from a PPC win, which is what I think our country and the people in this riding need right now, is a win by PPC.”
Stewart said he had the chance to meet party leader Maxime Bernier at a fundraiser in Kelowna at the end of May. Across the country, the party has 321 electoral district associations out of 338 either set up on in the works ahead of the federal election.
Stewart will be running against incumbent MP Wayne Stetski (NDP) and Rob Morrison (Conservative Party). A federal Liberal Party candidate has yet to be declared, while no independent candidates have stepped forward.