This past weekend, St. John’s was graced by the first federal political rally of our long pre-election season. People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier was in town to help his fledgling riding associations dig up candidates, and he headlined a rally at the Capital Hotel on Saturday. The Independent was there to cover it.
Dozens of men and some women turned out to hear the renegade ex-Conservative go off about the perils of Canada’s dairy regulations, the “crony capitalism” at the heart of Trudeau’s “socialist” government, and the sinister ambitions of the United Nations. (Spoiler: world domination in approximately 30 years.) Bernier promised to balance the budget in two years by eliminating all corporate welfare and foreign aid, as well as downloading taxes onto provincial governments. He also swore to use section 92(10) of the Constitution Act, 1867 to “impose” the Trans-Mountain and Energy East pipelines on Canada.
He also wanted to assure everyone that the People’s Party is not an anti-immigrant party, despite consistently getting the loudest applause every time he called for lower immigration. He emphasized his disdain for political correctness and vowed never to pander to cultural minorities: “I will do nothing for the Muslim community. I will do nothing for the Christian community. I will do nothing for the Jewish community. You are all Canadians. I am tired of identity politics.”
The party’s four principles are individual freedom, personal responsibility, respect, and fairness. These, according to Bernier, are the fundamental values of free markets and Western civilization. There are no taboos on ideas or discussions in the PPC.
Following his speech and Q&A session with the audience, Bernier addressed the media. What follows is a transcript of the exchange:
Gerri Lynn Mackey (NTV): Can we start with your name and title?
Maxime Bernier: Maxime Bernier, People’s Party of Canada, and very pleased to be here.
Mackey (NTV): What do you think about the turnout here today?
Bernier: I’m very happy, you know, we had about one hundred people coming here to listen to a politician when we’re not in an official campaign. That’s great, and I’m very happy. We had good questions, so we are building the party, and that’s going well.
Brian Madore (VOCM): You’re obviously here looking for candidates. Do you have any?
Bernier: I had some meetings this morning with some people, I cannot tell you right now, but we’ll have candidates in every riding in this province, for sure, before the end of May.
Madore (VOCM): What kind of people are you looking for: young, old, mixture, male, female, doesn’t matter?
Bernier: Heh. You just answered the question. Yes. People who believe in our ideas are most important, believers in individual freedom and personal responsibility, with different backgrounds in their communities. Like the [25 February] by-elections, you know, James [Seale] that worked for the Canadian Forces for 30 years and after that he did a MBA. We had Robert Geurts that was a prosecutor, lawyer, and then after that worked for the defense, so a prominent lawyer. And we had Laura-Lynn [Thompson], a communicator. And so different people, different backgrounds. Yes, we’re looking for people with different experience.
Mackey (NTV): Part of your platform says that you think that the provincial government should deal with taxes, maybe raise the taxes if they need to. How do you think people here are going to tolerate that? We’re taxed to death here.
Bernier: Well, I think you’re right there. The goal is to lower taxes. And I don’t want your provincial government to raise taxes. What I’m saying, and what I said in the interview over there with The Telegram is that instead of the federal government transfering money for health care, for example, we will transfer [the] tax point. So for you as a citizen, it won’t change. Instead of paying your tax at the federal level, you will be paying your taxes at the provincial level of taxation for an individual in Newfoundland and Labrador.
So instead of the federal government taxing you and transferring that money, that would be the provincial government that will tax you. That will be neutral for you, but they will be responsible. So the incentive, for the provincial government, is to finally be more efficient, to deliver—
Mackey (NTV): Aren’t you just downloading the problems onto the provincial governments? You’re not actually solving anything.
Bernier: No, I cannot solve the problem! I cannot solve the problem of healthcare because it is not our jurisdiction.
You know, right now, when the federal government is transferring money, you don’t know who to blame. Is it the federal government because they don’t give enough money? Or the province because they don’t know how to deal with their healthcare delivery of services?
So right now, the citizen, will know it is the provincial government in charge of healthcare and the delivery of services, and they will also be in charge of having the money. So for a citizen, we won’t raise taxes, it will be the same amount of tax, but the provincial government will collect the tax. So that’s the only difference.
Mackey (NTV): Why won’t you take a firm stance on the Yellow Vest group? A lot of people are offended by their perceived lack of tolerance and you were asked about them in there, and you just did not take a firm opinion.
Bernier: But I don’t know them. I didn’t do any event with them. I don’t want to judge them. I don’t know them. I know that they have some people that are radical, but are they representative, can we say that everybody in the Yellow Vests are like that? I don’t know that. I’m not sure. So I don’t want to judge them.
Drew Brown (The Indy): But you did speak at the [Ottawa] rally. So you did have some involvement, and you would’ve known that the other speakers present would be Faith Goldy. Even Andrew Scheer, surely. So it seems improbable that you would not be able to take a stance and claim to not know anything about the people in the movement.
Bernier: I’m not saying I don’t know anything, I’m just saying that there’s different people that were present at that rally, and I was there for the people who believe that we need to have a pipeline in this country. And that’s my position. So. for me, I know that there are some people in the country that are radical and racist, it’s a minority, a very little minority, but our party, it is not like that. We believe in immigration and we want to have only fewer immigrants.
Brown (The Indy): But does it not concern you that the people that do have these problematic ‘radical’ views seem overwhelmingly drawn to your party in particular?
Bernier: How come you’re saying that? Do you have any proof of that?
Brown (The Indy): Yes? I talk to people in your party all the time online. I’m one of the ‘online opponents’ that you gave a shout-out to your people for fighting. Yeah, I’ve seen many people, party members who hold extremist views—
Bernier: What we’re saying to these people, these racist people, is—
Brown (The Indy): Sir, some of them sit on the provincial executives for the St. John’s—
Bernier: Look. That’s why we’re doing a background check, and that’s why we’re doing that right now before approving our executive. We’re the only party to do a background check and a social media check on our members on the executive.
So that’s why, you know, we built 338 riding associations, but if you go on the website on Elections Canada, you’ll find only maybe 100 riding associations there because we’re in the process of doing our background check.
But people who represent our party as a member of the riding association, must share our values.
Brown (The Indy): But then isn’t it false to say that you do have all those riding associations established if you’re not finished the background vetting process?
Bernier: Sorry, what?
Brown (The Indy): Isn’t it then false to say that you do have 338 riding associations set up if you’re not actually completed the background process for the executives?
Bernier: No, we have them on paper, we have all these people, it takes time, we are investing a lot of money to do that. It— we, we have the organization on the ground. And if we find somebody that does not share our values, we’ll call that person and say thank you very much but you cannot be part of that riding association.
Mackey (NTV): There’s a lot of 30-somethings here and the crowd seems to be heavy on the male representation for a rally. Is this the demographic that you would typically see when you look out into a crowd that turns up for you?
Bernier: I was in Toronto, we did a rally, we had people from different backgrounds and ethnic communities. So, you know, I don’t judge anybody, but we have a lot of support from different people. So if you look at our rallies, go on the website, we have all the videos of our rallies, and you will see that there is a different crowd.
And maybe we have more men than ladies coming to our rally, but, you know, I’m okay with that.
Madore (VOCM): You say you got 5.6% of the vote in 3 by-elections. Realistically, what would you hope for in Newfoundland and Labrador?
[NB: During his address, Bernier claimed the People’s Party of Canada took an average of 5.6% of the vote across all three federal by-elections on 25 February 2019. The average is actually 4.6%. The PPC took 10.6% of the vote in Burnaby-South, 1.9% in York-Simcoe, and 1.5% in Outremont.]
Bernier: First of all, we want to have seven candidates, great candidates. We’re working on that, and I’m pretty sure that we’re able to have that. But you know, the best for us would be to have seven ridings here. I don’t know what will happen. But I can tell you we will have strong people representing our party, people who are well-known in their riding and community. So I cannot predict the result but we’ll work hard to make sure lots of people are elected here in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Meg Roberts (CBC): Bottom line, why should people in Newfoundland and Labrador vote for you?
Bernier: Because we believe in them. We believe in people. We don’t believe in big fat government. We believe that people can do what they want to do in life. We believe in freedom, but we believe also in a federal government that will respect the constitution. And because I’m asking them to vote for their values, the four principles of this party: individual freedom, personal responsibility, respect, and fairness. If they want to have a real change, and voting for something that they believe in, we are giving that option. And I hope they will. We’ll see what happens.
Brown (The Indy): Sorry, just one final quick question.
In there you mentioned that you are very opposed to pandering to special interests, obviously, and you don’t think that it’s necessarily appropriate for the government to take part in celebrating, like, the interests—
Bernier: Yeah, like the Chinese New Year or things like that.
Brown (The Indy): Right, yes! Of course. So, do you think your federal government under the People’s Party of Canada administration would take a look at ending Christian statutory holidays?
Bernier: Uh… no, no, no, we won’t. But what we’ll do, we don’t believe in the extreme multiculturalism, we’ll look at the funding that department is giving, we’ll review that funding for sure.
Brown (The Indy): So just to be clear, you are saying that the government should have no part in celebrating Muslim or ‘Chinese’ holidays, but Christian holidays are okay.
Bernier: Well, what I’m saying, is the government has no role to fund different holidays, and that’s not their role.
Brown (The Indy): But it is currently their role. The federal government sets statutory holidays, and currently Christian holidays are among the statutory holidays. So you’re not going to re-examine that.
Bernier: I won’t. I won’t.
Brown (The Indy): OK.
Bernier: But I won’t put any funding on that also.
Brown (The Indy): OK. So things that are already in place you’ll leave in place.
Bernier: For sure. I have too many reforms to do.
Brown (The Indy): OK.
The scrum ended immediately after this exchange and I turned off my recorder. At this point I heard one local party member say: “Canada is a Christian country and we celebrate Christian holidays,” to which I responded, yes, excellent, but then why didn’t Bernier just say that instead of giving me a cowardly answer that dances around the question. They told me that’s not what he did, at which point I got my things and left because otherwise I was going to lose my cool.
Anyways, such is the People’s Party of Canada. There are no taboos on the free exchange of ideas.
Unless, of course, you ask the leader to explain any of them.