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Maxime Bernier speaks at a People's Party of Canada rally in Gatineau, Que., on Nov. 20, 2018.

PATRICK DOYLE/The Canadian Press

The People’s Party of Canada says it has reached its goal of setting up 338 riding associations as it sets its sights on being a competitive force in the upcoming federal election.

In an e-mail to supporters, leader Maxime Bernier says the move amounts to a “gift of hope” for Canadians seeking to bring back freedom, responsibility, fairness and respect to the country.

Bernier was a Conservative MP for more than a decade before he announced in August he was leaving the fold to launch his own party.

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The party’s platform is still being finalized, but its website says positions taken by Bernier in the Conservative leadership race – such as a pitch to phase out supply management for the dairy sector – will form the basis for its policies.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer defeated Bernier for the federal Tory leadership by a slim margin in May 2017.

Bernier has accused the Tories of abandoning conservatives, adding the party has “nothing of substance” to offer Canadians seeking a political alternative.

“I have one wish for Christmas: That you and each one of our party’s 33,800 members bring even more hope by contributing $3.38 or $33.80 today to help us spread this good news,” Bernier said to supporters on Sunday.

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