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Politics Maxime Bernier taps into immigration controversy as he launches People’s Party of Canada

Former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier has officially launched the People’s Party of Canada, saying the nascent political formation will fight for new rules to determine which immigrants are allowed into Canada and a smaller annual intake of refugees.

A former Conservative leadership candidate, Mr. Bernier said he wants his new party to be known for its “intelligent populism.”

His goal, he said, will be to continue to promote free-market values, such as increased competition in the country’s agriculture sector and reduced equalization transfers to have-not provinces. In addition, Mr. Bernier said he wants to spark a debate on proper immigration levels to Canada. Unveiling the name and logo of his new party on Friday, he attacked “extreme multiculturalism" and the “cult of diversity at all cost.”

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“Forty-nine per cent of Canadians are saying that there is too much immigration in Canada … Some economists are saying something, the population is saying something. So let’s open the debate. What will be our country 20 years from now?” he said.

Mr. Bernier said he wants to make sure that future immigrants adhere to Canadian values, such as support for LGBTQ rights and the equality of men and women. However, he said he did not have specific proposals to filter immigrants who do not share the country’s values.

“What I want is more economic immigration, less reunification of families and a bit less of refugees,” he said.

Saying the party’s constitution will be unveiled in the coming weeks, Mr. Bernier said people who espouse racist, antisemitic or xenophobic positions “are not welcome” in his party.

Called the “Parti populaire du Canada” in French, the PPC will be headquartered in Gatineau, Que. The official registration with Elections Canada is still a number of weeks away, which means the party cannot yet issue tax receipts.

Still, Mr. Bernier said he has raised $140,000 since he quit the Conservative Party, while respecting existing limits on individual donations of $1,575 a year. He added that he plans to run candidates in all 338 federal ridings in next year’s general election, and hopes to be invited to participate in televised leaders’ debates.

He said he has had no contacts with former colleagues in the Conservative caucus, and made no effort to woo any of them to the new party.

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“I want to attract the base, the people,” he said. “I don’t need Conservatives who are hypocrites. A lot of them say privately that they are against the [milk] cartel, but they can’t or don’t want to speak out.”

Mr. Bernier said he does not agree that the new party will split right-wing votes and ultimately help the Liberal re-election efforts, stating he wants to attract supporters from various parties but also those who don’t tend to vote.

Earlier this week, former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney said any party that splits the vote is “dooming that party to defeat.”

“At least in my time, I needed every vote that I could get, and I scurried for every vote that I could convince. And unless it’s changed, it’s probably still the same way. And so I’m not big on these splits,” Mr. Mulroney told an audience in Ottawa. “What I see happening with Maxime Bernier is not a good idea, I don’t think, in terms of the Conservatives getting elected again.”

He added that Stephen Harper and Preston Manning’s involvement in the Reform Party in the 1990s was “all it took to elect the Liberals for 13 years.”

With a report from Laura Stone

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