As his Tory breakaway party gears up for the fall federal election, Maxime Bernier announced a near-full slate of candidates in Southwestern Ontario ridings on Friday.
The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) leader greeted dozens of supporters and introduced more than 35 candidates, for ridings ranging from Windsor to Mississauga, at a London event.
Three of the four London ridings have PPC candidates.
Mike McMullen will run as a first-time candidate in London West.
Ken Gilpin, who made two failed federal runs with the Reform Party in the 1990s, will run in Elgin-Middlesex-London, and Salim Mansur, a Western University professor and avowed critic of Islamic extremism, will run in London North Centre.
London-Fanshawe, which will become an open seat with veteran NDP MP Irene Mathyssen retiring, is the city’s only riding without a PPC candidate.
Ten other candidates, seven in the London region and three in Windsor, round out the PPC’s roster in the wider area, a Conservative rural stronghold but NDP- and Liberal-dominated in its big cities.
A former Conservative cabinet minister, Bernier broke from the Tories to form his new party that represents the first serious splinter challenge to the Conservatives since the Brian Mulroney era, when breakaway movements led to the creation of both the Bloc Quebecois and Reform.
The party has been dogged by early growing pains, including the resignation earlier this week of an entire riding association board in Winnipeg over concerns about racism among supporters.
Bernier’s party, which bills itself as an advocate of key conservative principles, might siphon votes from the Tories because both share similar values, said Peter Woolstencroft, a retired University of Waterloo political scientist.
“The Conservatives are basically running about 35 per cent in the polls, and if Max Bernier and his party take one or two or three per cent of that, those voters are likely coming from the Conservative side rather than the Liberals and NDP,” said Woolstencroft.
Upstart parties can affect elections even without winning seats, by taking away votes from a rival that allows another party to come up the middle and win. Vote-splitting on the right between the Tories and Reform helped the Liberals in many ridings during the Jean Chretien era.