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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.

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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