With Canada facing huge debts as the economy recovers from the pandemic. People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier visited Prince George Friday night to offer details of his plan to get the country back in the black again.
To start with, he would end all COVID-19 wage subsidy programs to businesses and individuals and allow businesses to operate without pandemic restrictions.
“All the promises that the other establishment parties will do, I will cut all that because we are broke, and we need to balance the budget immediately, in four years,” Bernier said. “And contrary to (Conservative leader Erin) O’Toole, it’s easy to balance the budget if you have the courage of your conviction. I know there are entrepreneurs in this country who just want to work, so if we open the economy we won’t need all these programs.”
Speaking from the bandstand at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park, Bernier took aim at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which draws its budget from federal subsidies.
“We can save a billion dollars there by cutting the CBC,” said Bernier, prompting cheers from the crowd of about 400 gathered in the park.
Foreign aid programs, immigration and Canada’s role in United Nations treaties would also change radically under a PPC government.
“All the money we’re giving to African countries to fight climate change, we won’t do that,” Bernier said. “Do you really believe that African dictatorships are using the money to fight climate change? So, we can save $5 billion there.
“We know that the UN is a dysfunctional organization because there’s about 133 countries who are members of the UN and a huge majority of them are communist countries or countries under dictatorship. We, Western civilization counties, are a huge minority, so that is why the UN is a socialist organization that ties to impose their views on us.”
Bernier would also pull Canada out of the World Health Organization and eliminate corporate welfare tax incentives, which he said would save the country another $5-10 billion.
“Do you really believe it’s fair to tax a small business here and force that entrepreneur to pay taxes and after that we are giving it to Bombardier, GM or SNC Lavelin – no more corporate welfare,” he said. “We’ll have a tax system for businesses that will be fair for everybody. We’re not a globalist organization and we don’t what to deal with globalists, we want more of our own sovereignty.”
He says Canada’s current immigration rate of 400,000 new people every year is not sustainable and should be cut to 150,000 annually, with more emphasis on finding skilled workers.
“We want to help the real refugees where their lives are in danger in another country, not the ones crossing the border in my province in Quebec with Gucci (clothing), saying their life is in danger in the state of New York,” said Bernier. “They are crossing our border illegally, and that’s OK for Trudeau and OK for O’Toole. We need to have an immigration system that will be respected by us and by other people around the world. It is not respected right now.”
Bernier was nearly an hour late getting to the rally, having driven from Fort St. John with Ryan Dyck, the PPC candidate for Prince George-Peace River Northern Rockies. While waiting for their arrival, Jeremy Gustafson took advantage of his extended stage time to introduce himself as the party’s Cariboo-Prince George candidate. The former film production crew member from Campbell River recently gave up his studio-sized condominium in Vancouver and now lives in his riding in Horsefly.
The first Francophone leaders’ debate on Thursday did not include Bernier because his party gained just 1.6 per cent of the popular vote in the 2019 election. That did not meet the minimum four percent requirement to take part in the debate and it was also determined he did not have at least four per cent of national support in public polling averages five days after the election was called.
But Bernier says the polls show the PPC’s popularity is increasing and he has between five and seven per cent of national support, ahead of the Green Party’s three per cent. He’s asking the 300,000 people who voted for his party in 2019 to try each convince 10 more voters to give the party a chance on Sept. 20, which he said would be enough for a 16 per cent stake in Parliament.
“It took 20 years and six elections for the Green Party of Canada to have more than 1.6 per cent of the vote; we did that our first year,” he said. “We have a full slate of 312 candidates all across the country and all these candidates are ready to fight for our country.”
With recent polls showing a close race between the Liberals and Conservatives, Bernier dismissed O’Toole’s argument that a vote for the PPC would lessen the chances of defeating the Liberals because it would split the vote. He said the country’s two most popular parties are leaning toward leftist policies and a Conservative government would be no different than Trudeau’s Liberals.
“Canadians are intelligent and they can see that if they vote Conservative, it’s like voting for the Liberals,” said Bernier. “That will be the same thing – climate change, not balancing the budget, no pipelines, and the equalization formula that’s not fair right now. You are giving a lot of money to eastern provinces and we must change that equalization policy to be fair to everybody by being less generous.”
Bernier told the crowd a story of a CBC reporter who last week contacted Bernier’s election team and asked for the sexual orientation/racial identities of the 312 PPC candidates on the ballot for the Sept. 20 election. The same questions were asked of the other parties. Two days later, when asked again for Bernier’s response, he said he did not know, nor did he care.
“We don’t care, there’s no racial politics with us,” said Bernier. “Our candidates are with us because they share, like you and me, our values. They want to put our country first. It’s not important, the colour of the skin. But that’s the woke culture, it’s everywhere.”
The PPC would abolish the Indian Act, which, according to Bernier, established systemic racism, as a first step in addressing property rights and the basic right of First Nations communities to have safe drinking water supplies.
In his 50-minute speech, Bernier said his is the only party since the pandemic began in March 2020 to voice its objections to COVID-19 lockdowns and their crippling effect on the economy. That started the end the lockdown movement, which he admits was not popular, but necessary to come to the defence of small store and business owners losing their livelihoods while huge stores like Wal-Mart continued to keep their doors open.
The 58-year-old Bernier is against the vaccine passport some provinces are adopting and says he’s comfortable with his decision not to get vaccinated. He says Canadians should have the freedom to make that choice.
“If I have COVID, my chances of dying from COVID are 0.5 per cent and my chances of surviving from COVID are 99.5 per cent,” he said. “So for me, I’m taking a risk, it’s not a big risk, and I’m happy with my decision.
“We are for freedom of choice. I respect people who have decided to take the vaccine or who decided to wear a mask. Everybody must have the freedom. But concerning the vaccine, they must have the right information and informed consent, and I’m not so sure our federal Canadians have the right information to decide if they want the vaccine or not.”
Bernier has been critical of lockdowns since the pandemic began and was arrested in June in St-Pierre-Jolys, Man., for attending a rally in violation of health restrictions
“When Trudeau said those Canadians (who are not vaccinated) are putting their kids and other kids at risk, it’s a lie,” he said. “It’s segregation. It’s a lie because we have science on our side and we know that everybody, vaccinated and unvaccinated Canadians, can have COVID-19 and spread COVID-19. So they divided us for nothing. I’m not more dangerous than a vaccinated person. Everybody can spread the virus.”
Bernier, a former cabinet minister under the Stephen Harper government, wanted to visit Prince George during his campaign to show voters in the two traditionally Conservative ridings there is a legitimate alternative to the incumbent MPs, Bob Zimmer and Todd Doherty.
“It’s a strong Conservative riding and the Conservatives are not conservative anymore,” Bernier said. “I believe our candidate Ryan has a big chance because people are tired of the same of the same. It’s about change and we are the only party fighting for real conservative values.
“People know it’s not about me, it’s about our country and getting back our freedom. I like to run, and now I’m doing a sprint, but a common -sense revolution is more of a marathon.”