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This article was published 18/4/2019 (211 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Editor’s note: People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier was in Brandon on Wednesday for an evening rally at Victoria Inn. Prior to the public event, Brandon Sun reporter Drew May sat down with the federal politician for an interview. Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Drew May: The People’s Party of Canada is the newest federal party, so what do you think your chances are here in western Manitoba in the fall federal election?
Maxime Bernier: I think they’re good. It’s a conservative region and people believe in conservative values and we are the real conservative party. If you believe in conservative values you must believe in free markets, if you believe in free markets you must not support a cartel for dairy, milk and poultry. We are the only ones that want to abolish that cartel and we want them — the supply management producers — to work on the free market. But Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives, they don’t want to touch that and these people will keep their privilege. I think it is not conservative principles and it is not fair for the population because, as you know, they are paying $500 more every year to keep that cartel and ... they represent only 10 per cent of the farmers in this country. ...
Right now our goal is to have all our candidates before the beginning of July and we’ll see what will happen, but up to now, because we have organizations all across the country — 338 ridings all across the country — they are helping us to find good candidates; people who believe in our ideas and principles. It is people who like the conservative values, we are the real conservative party, that’s why we will have a chance here. And I can speak also about the immigration. People want fewer immigrants and we’re the only party to speak about it. The Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP, they don’t like that but we want people that will come here and share our Canadian values, that’s our position and let’s have that debate.
DM: You’re saying you’re the real conservative party, but in Brandon-Souris the Conservative Party of Canada is quite popular, do you think that will be an issue at all in the election?
MB: I don’t think so. The challenge is to be out there and to speak about what we believe, to speak about our principles; individual freedom, personal responsibility, respect and fairness and when we speak about that the more people that we can reach the best will be for us. ...
You want pipelines? We have the solution. Andrew Scheer doesn’t have a solution. We will use the Constitution, we’ll impose a pipeline if necessary on Quebec and on B.C., we’ll use the Constitution S. 92. (10) to build that infrastructure. The federal government used the Constitution more than 300 times since Confederation to build national infrastructure, so it’s a decision that must be taken by the federal government, not the Quebec government. This week the premier of Quebec, my premier, said there is no social consensus in Quebec for a pipeline, but sorry that population in Quebec knows that it’s safer to transport oil and gas by pipelines than by trains and it’s safer for the population and it’s safer for the environment. They remember what we had in Lac Megantic, a huge tragedy seven years ago. I’m, ready to do that fight and to explain the position to Quebecers and Canadian and at the end, it will be good for the prosperity for our country these pipelines and it will be good also for the unity of our country. Look what happened in Alberta last week. It was good news, Jason Kenney has been elected. I’m very happy with that, but he said we need a referendum, he wants a referendum on that, they cannot decide anything. It’s Ottawa that has the power to do that and I’m telling Alberta and western Canadians that if you really want the pipelines, we’re the only party who will have the courage to us the Constitution, and yes, if necessary impress a pipeline on different provinces or First Nations.
DM: You were speaking about supply management. Among that 10 per cent of farmers who do benefit from supply management it’s a hard sell, so for people who are supporting it, how do you sell your idea of cancelling it?
MB: I’m telling them we have to buy back your quota. It will cost about $4 billion, so we’ll buy your quota, you’ll receive the money the first year. They will have a transition period, they will have about five years transition period, they will receive the money the first year. It will be the status quo for five years, they will have time to use the money to invest in their business to be more productive and after the transition period, they will be able to export their products.
DM: In recent months, the issue of canola seed exports to China has been a big issue around here. If you were Prime Minister would you be doing anything differently on the canola issue than Justin Trudeau?
MB: What I’m learning right now is I think you cannot trust China, you cannot trust the communist Chinese government. That’s why we have a huge challenge right now and they have a huge challenge with canola. What we must do in the future is try to find a new market, if 100 per cent of your market is one country you are at risk and that’s the risk right now that they are in. What we can do in the government, first of all, we have embassies all across the world and these people can help to find new markets for these products for sure. It’s a tough time for them so what I’m telling them, we have a platform that with us they won’t have any capital gain tax, we’ll abolish that, that will help them to save money. We’ll have a flat tax on business, a 10 per cent flat tax, that will help them, they will be able to depreciate their investment in one year, that will give them better values when you do a big investment and you are able to depreciate that in the first year you have a better cash flow. … All those three policies will help them but at the same time, the government can do something to help them find new markets.
DM: On immigration, there have been people crossing the border into Manitoba to seek asylum and the current Liberal plan is similar to the Conservative plan. What would you propose on illegal (or irregular) immigration?
MB: First of all, I think that people must respect our borders and we are a sovereign country. These people who are crossing our borders illegally, they are not all real refugees and actually, the Department of Immigration says that at least 40 per cent of them will have to be deported in three years from now because they are not real refugees. I don’t understand why when you’re coming from the state of New York, people who are crossing in Quebec, your life is not in danger over there. Since the beginning we have more than 37,000 people who cross our border illegally, so what we must do, we must sit with the Trump administration and fix the loophole and we are able to do that. We need to have the determination as a country to do it. ...
If you cross our border in an official point of entry, that must be the same thing if you cross our border in a non-official point of entry, so we can declare our border to be an official point of entry all across the country from coast-to-coast. ...
If you speak about immigration globally, if you speak about we are the only party that wants fewer immigrants — 250,000 a year or less. Between maybe 150,000 up to 250,000 a year, we want our immigration system to be sustainable and we want our immigration system to fulfill our economic needs in our country.
DM: On that topic, your pledge to decrease the level of immigrants to 250,000 per year has attracted a certain "white nationalist" perspective to your party. You’ve been on the record saying racists are not welcome, but how do you deal with that as party leader?
MB: I’m saying if you believe in mass immigration, or if you believe in no immigration you are not welcome in our party, and that’s clear. We have a strong platform and we believe in immigration, we just want fewer immigrants. They are not welcome in our party because we won’t change that position. I’m telling them, ‘Go and create your own party, you are not welcome in our party.’ ...
We want people who come in to share our Canadian values like they did in the past. All this country has been built by immigrants, Francophone, Anglophone, First Nations and after that immigrants from Europe, and after that immigrants from Asia, and after that immigrants from Africa, so we are welcoming them. All these people came in the past to share our Canadian values: the rule of law, equality between man and woman, equality before the law, the free market, the freedom and so we want our country to be the same like that in 25 years and so everybody is welcome, but it’s a privilege the be a Canadian. We must have an immigration system that is suitable and we believe that we need to have fewer immigrants, that's it.
DM: With the SNC-Lavalin affair, being that SNC is headquartered in your home province of Quebec, what is your biggest concern coming out of that?
MB: All that scandal happened because of cronyism, because of crony capitalism. I don’t believe in giving subsidies to businesses, that’s why in our platform we want to cut corporate welfare and we’ll save $5 billion. I don’t believe to give privilege to businesses and so what’s happening right now, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals need Quebec to win the next election. They want to give a privilege to their friends at SNC-Lavalin. ...
I’m not working to give a privilege to a special corporation, and it is not the role of the government to give a privilege to a special corporation. The role of the government is to create the best conditions, the best economic condition for every corporation, every business in this country. That’s the proposal for our party, that’s why we’re doing politics differently. We don’t try to pander to special corporations.
DM: Was there anything else about your visit to Brandon or the rally tonight that you thought was important to highlight?
MB: I’m very happy to have the opportunity to be here, and doing that really for me it’s important. I am campaigning right now, we have the platform, that platform will be the same one for the general election. We’re the only party platform that is ready. The Conservatives and Andrew Scheer are too busy to do a survey and polling because they don’t know what they believe in. We know what we believe in. We believe in people. We have faith in people. We have faith that they have the opportunity and the liberty to do what they want to do in life. We have a platform that is based on a smaller government in Ottawa, and that will give more freedom by lowering taxes and less regulations, so I’m very pleased I have the opportunity today to speak about our platform. …
I’m very pleased because in the beginning when I started that party some journalists were saying ‘Bernier, it’s a one-man party, he will go nowhere,’ but you know we have more than 37,000 members. We have more riding associations than the Green Party after 35 years. ...
There’s a momentum and it’s good. It’s great to have the right ideas, and I think we have the right ideas for this country, but it’s better to have the right ideas at the right time and I think the time is there for us. When there’s 52 per cent of the population that said to Angus Reid that they are ready to vote for a new party, it’s a great opportunity for us. I like what I’m doing and I’m very happy with the support we have and we are building. … We can make a huge difference the 21st of October this year.