About 30 people have already expressed interest in running as Wexit candidates in the next federal election, says the party’s leader.
The party was approved by Elections Canada last week and Peter Downing said Thursday candidate applications have already been flowing in.
The party hopes to field a full slate of 104 federal candidates across B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“It’s a very exciting time for us,” Downing, who predicts the Justin Trudeau minority government will fall in 18 months.
But if a byelection was called before then, Downing said he expects Wexit to field a “competitive” candidate.
And he said background checks on candidates won’t be as strict as mainstream parties.
‘We’ve all said stupid things in the past (on social media.) We are not the thought police,” Downing said.
Candidates will have to go through criminal record and credit checks and a general review to make sure they are in line with party values,” said Downing.
“We have a higher risk tolerance that the mainstream parties,” he said.
Downing said he hoped to have all 104 riding filled with candidates within three months, but added external factors could hamper that ambition.
Downing, who plans to run in his home Edmonton-Westaskiwin riding, downplayed any controversy over his leadership of the party.
He said he was decided as the leader by the party before October election and it wasn’t necessary to hold a leadership contest.
“At the time, we didn’t want to look like we were to small to generate interest in a leadership campaign,” Downing said.
He said the only people complaining about his leadership are outside the party.
He said a leadership review would happen after the election and the party will fold once it gains its goal of western independence.
“I don’t call myself an ‘interim’ leader. It’s too easy for an ‘interim’ leader to pass the buck. The buck stops with me,” Downing said.
In the 2015 federal election, Downing ran with the Christian Heritage Party and has been involved with federal Conservative Party boards and as a campaign manager with the former provincial Wildrose Party.
He is also a former RCMP officer who was charged with uttering threats against his ex-wife.
Because Elections Canada gave the party status, it will now be able to issue tax receipts for political contributions.
Downing said Wexit is still working on getting registered as a provincial party in Alberta.