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With a federal election less than six months away, riding associations across the country are getting together to find and choose candidates.

Chilliwack-Hope Member of Parliament Mark Strahl has confirmed he will stand for re-election for the Conservatives in the Oct. 21 vote.

Up until this week, Strahl had no confirmed opponents lined up. But on April 27, local members of the upstart People’s Party of Canada (PPC) gathered at a Sardis restaurant to choose Robert Bogunovic as the first PPC candidate for Chilliwack-Hope.

• READ MORE: Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada arrives in the Fraser Valley

This is the first time the region has seen a party farther to the right on the political spectrum than the Conservatives, who have held the seat handily for decades.

Bogunovic stood for nomination as did Locke Duncan. Bogunovic won with 16 of the 26 ballots cast over Duncan, who was described as “a hard working blue collar individual that hasn’t voted in over 20 years,” by local riding association CEO Yale Gibson.

Bogunovic is a high school social studies teacher in the Chilliwack school district, a deacon in his church, and is a founding member of the PPC and the executive board in Chilliwack-Hope.

“His experience has provided him with a great understanding of both sides of every major issue facing Canada today,” Gibson wrote via email.

Bogunovic was in the news last summer when the Labour Relations Board ruled that he could not get out of paying union dues as a teacher because of his belief that a Marxist conspiracy is taking over Western civilization. He asked for a religious exemption to paying dues claiming that trade unionism “is a major part of the grand Marxist agenda.”

The LRB rejected his application, finding that his opposition to unions was political rather than religious. He subsequently appealed, but that appeal was also rejected.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack teacher’s request to opt out of union on religious grounds rejected

• READ MORE: Appeal rejected for Chilliwack teacher who objects to union dues on religious grounds

The upstart PPC led by Maxime Bernier was formed just last fall after Bernier resigned from the Conservative Party, following his loss to Andrew Scheer in the leadership race.

There are just two candidates firmly in place in Chilliwack-Hope with Strahl running for re-election, and now Bogunovic for the PPC.

In the last election in 2015, the federal Liberals under candidate Louis De Jaeger received 33.8 per cent of the vote behind Strahl’s 42.3 per cent. Since then, however, De Jaeger stepped away from the Liberals last month in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin affair and the expulsion of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack-Hope Liberal candidate leaves party over SNC Lavalin affair

“Although we are disappointed with his decision, we do need to move on and find a credible candidate for Chilliwack-Hope,” riding president Greg Nelmes said via email. “The Liberal Party of Canada remains a big tent party appealing to a broad spectrum of Canadians. The values of the Liberals are strong and progressive and represent real, positive change that supports the middle class and all those struggling to join it.”

As for the Green Party, local riding association president Ron Evans said they are seeking a candidate.

“We currently have one contender and expect our nominations to close in mid-May,” Evans said.

Tracey O’Hara with the local NDP electoral district association said the party is holding a nomination meeting in early June to choose a candidate.

Nationally, the latest polling numbers from Nanos show the Conservatives at 34.9 per cent, followed by the Liberals at 32 per cent, the NDP at 16.5 percent, the Greens at 9 per cent, the Bloc Quebecois at 4.1 per cent, and the PPC at 0.5 per cent.

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