Maxime Bernier names People’s Party candidate for Montreal-area byelection

MONTREAL — People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has chosen a candidate to represent his party in its first-ever Quebec election.

Bernier was in the Montreal area on Sunday to launch the campaign of Canadian Army veteran James Seale, who will be on the ballot for Bernier’s fledgling party in the federal byelection in Outremont on Feb. 25.

Seale was a member of the armed forces for more than 30 years, and served overseas stints in Israel, Germany, Haiti and Bosnia before later becoming a military instructor and civil servant.

He said he was attracted to the party because of Bernier’s promise to increase investment in Canada’s defence.

“The PPC’s commitment to gradually increase military spending … will ensure my Canadian Armed Forces’ brothers and sisters will be properly equipped and trained to defend Canada in an increasingly complex and uncertain world,” Seale said in a statement.

In an interview prior to the launch, Bernier acknowledged he had a “steep hill to climb” in Outremont, which was a longtime Liberal riding before it was captured by the NDP’s Tom Mulcair in 2007.

When asked if his statements lambasting what he called “extreme multiculturalism” could hurt the party in the diverse riding, Bernier said he believed his message would appeal to diverse communities as well.

In contrast to other parties — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals — who ”celebrate difference,” Bernier said, his campaign will focus on “what unites us.

“Mr. Trudeau, with his cult of diversity, that doesn’t create a stronger country if we have people who come to Canada and who don’t share the fundamental values at the base of Western society,” he said.

“It’s a position we have to explain, but once we talk to people they understand.”

Bernier also didn’t rule out the possibility of proposing a values test for new immigrants, although he said it wasn’t a priority.

The longtime Conservative MP founded the People’s Party of Canada in September after leaving the Tories following a series of disagreements with leader Andrew Scheer.

A spokesman says the new party has taken in close to $1 million in donations since last August.

The other candidates in Outremont include lawyer Rachel Bendayan for the Liberals, international development specialist Julia Sanchez for the NDP, Jasmine Louras for the Conservative Party, and artist Michel Duchesne for the Bloc Quebecois.

Mulcair won the riding handily in 2015, taking 44 per cent of the votes compared to Bendayan’s 33 per cent. Mulcair left politics and resigned as NDP leader last year.

Despite the steep challenge he party faces in the riding, Seale said he expects to be competitive.

“Yes, we have work to do, but at the same time we have very good chances, I think,” he said.

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