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SAINT-GEORGES-DE-BEAUCE, Que. — Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, acknowledged Thursday it was a great joke by a fringe federal party to run a candidate with the same name as him in his riding.

The satirical Rhinoceros Party found a candidate named Maxime Bernier to run in the PPC founder’s longtime Quebec stronghold of Beauce on Oct. 21.

Bernier said he is confident the residents of his riding will vote “for the Maxime Bernier who they know.”

He told a news conference in the Beauce town of St-Georges, south of Quebec City, that voters won’t be fooled by the man he described as “imported from Lac-St-Jean.”

Moreover, candidates on the ballot will be listed in alphabetical order so his party name will put him higher up than the Rhinoceros Party’s Bernier.

The leader commented on the many candidates from his party who have recently dropped out of the race, such as Anouk Benzacan in La Prairie, Francois Lefebvre in Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Maximo Gyterez Diaz in Richmond and Nancy Brunelle in Saint-Maurice-Champlain.

He said many of his candidates are political neophytes and they withdrew after realizing how much effort and energy are needed to be a federal election candidate.

“We respect their personal choices,” he said. “Most of them were new. It’s perfect, because they don’t have that much to unlearn.”

When asked if the recent mini-exodus hurts the credibility of his party, Bernier turned the question to the New Democrats, who have yet to nominate many candidates in Quebec and across the country.

“Look at the NDP,” he said. “They aren’t even capable of having candidates in all the ridings. And that party is being represented in the debates.”

Bernier, whose party is polling far behind the established parties, was not invited to the national televised leaders’ debates in October. But he’s hoping the decision be reversed.

Patrice Bergeron, The Canadian Press

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