Maxime Bernier, leader of the fledgling People’s Party of Canada, arrived in Kamloops on Thursday to meet with the region’s riding associations as the candidate-selection process continues.
KTW met the former Conservative MP at Kamloops Airport to discuss various issues:
Q: You once said you were polling a little bit better than your party. Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod has won the last three elections. Are you looking to place or do you think you can win?
A: Absolutely, I think we can win and we’ll do our best. You’re right about the polling. People, they don’t remember the name of our party and when they’re doing polling like that, they’re not asking, “Do you think you’ll vote for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals or for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party.” They’re asking the question for which party will you vote in the election.
People in my own riding are asking, “Max, I’ll support you, but what’s the name of your party again?” So that’s a challenge, the name. But when parties engage in debates, that will be a huge opportunity and that’s also why I’m travelling across the country and I’m campaigning. I started that last October and we have a platform. Our platform is ready.
Q: Where does the People’s Party stand on the issue of climate change? Is human-caused climate change real. If so, what does the party plan to do about it?
A: First of all, climate change is real. That’s a fact. The climate is always changing. If you look at our constitution, the environment, it’s a shared jurisdiction with provinces and some provinces have policies to fight climate change. Like my own province in Quebec, they have a cap- and-trade system and that’s why the carbon tax does not apply in Quebec because they have their own system to fight climate change. Our position on climate change is we won’t impose a carbon tax like the Liberals are doing right now. We won’t impose more regulations and giving subsidies to businesses like Andrew Scheer wants to do. We will let that file be managed by provinces at the provincial level. At the federal level, we won’t have any policies or any taxation on any regulation. But on the environment, we will have a platform. That platform will come within two or three weeks from now and it will deal with clear lakes, clear rivers. We want people to be able to fish in the river, to swim in the lake and it is too bad in 2019 that we still have lakes and rivers that are polluted. So we need to have a policy on that and we’re working on that.
Q: Abortion laws in the U.S. Deep South have reignited the debate in Canada. What’s your personal opinion on abortion and, if elected, is the People’s Party going to re-open the debate?
A: We won’t re-open the debate as a party because it is not a party policy to re-open the debate. That’s very clear. But if a member of Parliament [from the] People’s Party wants to table a bill on that subject, that’s his right as a member of Parliament. Every member of Parliament can table a private bill on any subject, so for us, the debate may be re-opened by a member of Parliament from the People’s Party. I know that [Conservative Leader] Andrew Scheer said he’s a pro-life guy, but he’ll do everything to stop his MP to table a bill on abortion. For me, I respect the right of an MP to table a bill on anything … If there’s a bill on abortion in the house, for sure it will be a free debate, it will be a free vote and everybody will be able to vote in line with their conscious or their morality.
Q: Some of your policies, such as opposing extreme multiculturalism, have come under criticism as attracting people from the radical right ...
A: No, no, I don’t agree with that. If you speak about immigration, 49 per cent of Canadians want fewer immigrants. Only six per cent of them wants more immigrants. Only six per cent. And all the other parties want more immigrants. What we want, we want fewer and we are respecting what Canadians want. Forty-nine per cent of them in the last poll, you can check that on the web. And we want to have a discussion about immigration and it’s important to have that discussion. I want this country to be like that in 25 years. I’m a proud Canadian. Look at what is happening in Europe — in France, in Belgium, they have huge challenges to integrate their immigrants. People are coming to Canada to celebrate the Canadian values and that’s OK, but yes, we have a position on immigration that is very different than the other political parties and I think we need to have this debate. And having this debate, I think, it’s in line with what Canadians also wish to have in this country.
Q: Local Conservative MP Cathy McLeod has said a vote for your party is a vote for the Liberals because you would be splitting the Conservative vote. What’s your response?
A: Oh, I like that one (laughs). First of all, we’re not splitting the vote — the real conservative vote. Andrew Scheer is splitting the vote with the Liberals. The Conservative Party of Canada is a centrist and pragmatic party and Andrew Scheer right now is splitting the vote with the Liberals. He is bringing the Conservative Party of Canada in central left. We’re not splitting the vote from the right, he’s splitting the vote from the left, so the real conservative can vote with us. … I’m a real free market conservative.
Q: The opioid crisis — 11 people per day die in Canada. What does the People’s Party plan to do to address the issue?
A: I think it’s a provincial matter — provincial jurisdiction [is] health care — and we won’t change legislation on drugs concerning that. But it’s mostly a provincial matter and I’ll let provincial politicians deal with health care and the challenge that they have. It’s very important for us to respect the constitution and the division of power in our constitution.
Q: Your party says it wants more pipelines. How can you get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built?
A: Yes, you’re right. Andrew Scheer is saying, yes he wants pipelines, but he won’t use the constitution to be sure to build a pipeline ... We need to have pipelines, we need to use the constitution, using section 92(10) in the constitution, and using the constitution to impose, if necessary, a pipeline on my home province in Quebec. And I know Quebecers, not the Quebec government, but Quebecers, understand that it’s safer for the environment and safer for the population to transport oil and gas by pipeline than by trains or by trucks. I’m ready to do that. I’m ready to do that also in B.C. If in B.C. they don’t want any pipeline, we’ll use the constitution to be sure to build the pipeline.
Q: You said you want to open up trade deals everywhere. Does that mean re-opening the USMCA/NAFTA deal or the Trans Pacific Partnership?
A: No, these deals are done. …Our position on free trade is to sign free-trade agreements with other countries that we don’t have. Maybe having closer ties with India and things like that, but I can tell you that a free trade agreement with China, it is not a thing we want to do. I don’t think it’s time to sign a free trade agreement with China, but we must look at other markets, maybe the U.K. after Brexit. We must be able to have free trade with U.K.
Q: Why did you leave the Conservative party after losing the leadership race to Andrew Scheer?
A: They are intellectually and morally corrupt. I said that when I quit and why I’m saying that is they are not doing politics for all Canadians. They are doing politics to try and please every special interest group. They are not conservative anymore. If you’re conservative, you believe in free markets and free market is good for every industry. But for them, no, it is not good.