- In this exclusive interview with MTL Blog, People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier talks about comparisons to Trump, his stances, and his thoughts about the upcoming election.
- The controversial leader is in a fight to hold onto his riding of Beauce and grow his new party.
This is MTL Blog’s Election Interview Series.
Over the course of the next few weeks, leading up to the Federal Election on October 21, we’re speaking to candidates from Canada’s major federal political parties, including the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, and the People’s Party of Canada.
Today, we’re speaking to Maxime Bernier from the People's Party of Canada.
Bernier had a 20-year career in Montreal's financial sector and is in his 13th year as the MP for Beauce in Quebec.
He visited MTL Blog's offices for an exclusive interview about his party's platform, the election, and more.
Questions and responses have been edited for clarity.
Bernier's political life is shrouded in controversy. His critics draw comparisons to Donald Trump and far-right groups but Bernier dismisses those parallels.
Born and raised in Quebec, he followed his father into political life. He's a lover of running and fitness, has degrees in commerce and law, and is the author of a book on tax reform.
Bernier doesn't deny that he holds populist beliefs. He's firmly against mass immigration, says he wants to secure the Canadian border, wants to give more autonomy to provinces, believes in a free-market system, and maintains that Canada is too submissive to the demands of U.N. He views the public discourse surrounding climate change as unnecessarily alarmist.
But despite his at-time hostile Twitter persona, which many equate to the online chracter of Trump, the leader of the PPC is eloquent in his responses.
In this exclusive interview with MTL Blog, he discusses his controversial stances and his thoughts about the upcoming election.
You were a breath away from winning the conservative nomination. You lost out to Andrew Scheer, and then you began the PPC shortly thereafter. Tell me about that, about yourself and what your expectations are for the election.
I decided to come into politics to fight for more freedom, personal responsibility, and free markets. I was really pleased to be the Industry Minister, and I did I think a great reform — the delegation of the telecom services. In politics, I try to push for more freedom and less government.
Like you said, I did run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. I lost with 49 percent of the votes, but I was happy with the result because we had a lot of support. If you look on the positive side, we had a lot of support from the members of the Conservative Party of Canada with a bold platform with reforms that we think need to be done in this country.
I tried to push these ideas to the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada at that time and to Andrew Scheer, but he said that he won't take any of our ideas in his platform for the next election. I decided to quit the Conservative Party of Canada because I didn't see myself running for a party on a platform that I don't believe in.
For me, we are doing politics differently. There's no political correctness with us. We are living the truth, what we believe in. I think Canadians are ready for that. I think they are fed up with traditional politicians like Mr. Trudeau and Scheer that say something and immediately oppose it the next day. Let's tackle the real issues that these parties don't want to tackle like immigration and balancing the budget.
How do you plan on appealing to young Canadians, who might be more left-leaning, might sympathize more with the Liberals and climate change activists? How do you plan on appealing to them?
Scheer or the Liberals won't balance the budget, and I think it is not fair for the youth and future generations because right now, the federal government is in debt and at the end, it will be the future generation that will have to pay for that without receiving any services.
That's unfair. We'll fix that. If they believe in climate change, I'm telling them the provincial government can do that. The environment is a shared jurisdiction with provinces, and that's why we won't impose a government tax at all. We won't impose more regulation. That's what Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau will do.
Mr. Trudeau knows he won't be able to achieve the Paris accord targets but he's saying to Canadians that he will achieve these targets, that he will save the world. People are not stupid. He won't do that. He needs to have a carbon tax of $300 a ton to be able to do that. He's saying that, and Scheer is saying the same thing, but they won't have the courage to impose a tax that will be very harmful to the economy, and so nothing will happen.
Let provinces do what they want to do. That's our position on that. We need to have clear lakes, clear rivers, clear land. We need to do something concrete for the environment and put money there, and that's what we will do. For us, it is important to have a concrete proposal on the environment, but climate change...we'll leave that to provinces.
What would be the first priorities that you as a Prime Minister would tackle head-on?
Doing the reform necessary to be able to balance the budget in two years. After that, lower taxes to every Canadian. There will be a new tax system that will be fair for everybody, and Canadians will save about $35 billion dollars a year with our new tax system. The third one would be on immigration. I think we need to tackle that. We need to be able to have people that will come here to work. Only 26 percent of our immigrants right now are economic immigrants, and we need to have more.
Instead of 350,000 a year, we'll go to a maximum of 150,000 a year, but we'll have 50 percent of them that will be economic immigrants. It's easier for a person when they have a job to start respecting our society and be part of our society.
What do you say to critics who compare you to Donald Trump? Or who say that you're Canada's Donald Trump?
I say I'm Maxime Bernier. Maybe people are doing that because they look at my Twitter account and the way that I use social media. It's very different from the old political parties and traditional leaders. It is different because I'm speaking about policies. If you look at the Twitter account of Andrew Scheer, there's nothing there. It's all blah blah, no policies, no political discussion. For us, and my Twitter account, I try to comment on the actuality and pushing forward of policy.
I'm not looking at Trump. I'm myself and doing politics here in Canada for Canadians. Because there's no political correctness with us, it's maybe why people try to compare us with Trump. It's a new way to do politics. If you want to have bold changes in this country you must speak about your ideas before the election, during the election, and after the election, and that's what we're doing.
In your party's platform, you say that Justin Trudeau supports a "cult of diversity," that he's trying to erase our borders, and he's trying to allow false refugees into the country. What do you mean by "cult of diversity"? In your opinion, what is a false refugee?
A cult of diversity is always celebrating the diversity of our country. This country was built by Francophones, Anglophones, First Nations, and immigrants coming from Europe, Africa, Asia, people from different ethnic backgrounds, and that's okay, but we must celebrate what unites us. That, for us, that's what is more important, and not always our diversity. People are coming here to share Canadian values.
Justin Trudeau said that Canada has no core national identity. I don't believe in that. I'm Canadian, and I'm proud. What are our identities and our values? The separation between the state and religion, equality between man and woman, equality before the law, respect, tolerance. That's Canadian. Free markets, freedom. Those are Canadian values.
What is a fake refugee? It's people who are crossing the border in Quebec at the Roxham Road. 45,000 of them for the last two years and it's not sustainable. They're not really refugees. I don't believe that your life is in danger when you are coming from the state of New York, and these people must follow our immigration channel. If they want to cross the border, they have to cross the border at a real, official port of entry.
That's respecting our borders. That's respecting our sovereignty, and that's respecting also our immigration system.
You mentioned the separation of religion and state. In Quebec, that's been a big issue. Do you support the ban on religious symbols for public sector employees, and do you think it could be a model for the rest of Canada?
I don't think it can be a model for the rest of Canada. I think it's a provincial jurisdiction. It's a provincial matter. In our program, we have nothing about that, and we won't. I respect the decision from the Quebec government. There's a big risk over there what they did.
They have the right to do that, but in the end, they will be held responsible by Quebecers in the next election. They will judge them for that. For me, I don't have anything to add because I don't want to interfere in provincial jurisdiction. What I can tell you at the federal level, the only thing that we want to do is when you become a Canadian citizen is you must be able to perform the oath of citizenship and you must be able to do that with your face uncovered.
Justin Trudeau and his government have made numerous investments in Montreal and in public transit in the past few months. What would your party do to improve public transit in Montreal, and what would your party do for Montreal as a whole?
For public transit? Nothing. Nothing because it's a provincial jurisdiction, and in our position, it's a respect for provincial jurisdiction. It is not the role of the government to tax somebody in B.C. and use that tax to build public transit in Montreal. He [Trudeau] did that to buy votes in different regions.
The province will be able to have money because I will lower taxes, and they will have the responsibility to tax their people for their own jurisdiction and responsibility. On public transit, on infrastructure when it's local, we won't do anything. That's the difference with us and the other leaders that will come to Montreal and tell you, "If you vote for me, I'll build this transit," knowing that it's a provincial jurisdiction.
They're pandering to people and they're pandering to regions. If you respect the constitution you must not do that. Why are people so disappointed with politicians? Because when they are elected they don't do half of what they said.
The most important is that we'll respect taxpayers, and we'll respect the constitution. When I'm speaking to people from Montreal or from Quebec City or Toronto, I'm saying the same thing.
You mention frequently on Twitter that other parties support or have this identity of globalist elites. What is a globalist elite in your opinion?
When I'm speaking about globalism, the best example is the E.U., and also the U.N. You won't have a U.N. bureaucrat come to Canada and write our legislation on immigration. You won't have that. That contract as Justin Trudeau has said, it's not binding to our country. But, why sign an agreement if you don't want to follow what it is in the agreement?
Doing that, we are losing sovereignty. The global contract on migration, that's another example of globalism, an example of an entity like the U.N. imposing their views on our country.
Would you, then, personally align yourself with that populist ideals?
Yes and no. We are a populist party but a smart populist party because we don't appeal to the emotion of people. We are appealing to their intelligence with our bold reform. We need to explain our reform, and that's what we are doing. Usually, politicians don't want to go to much in details with their policy, and we are doing that.
There are some populist movements around the world that I don't agree with because they are appealing to the emotion of people. I'll give you an example. When I'm doing a rally, a platform, we want to abolish the capital gains tax in this country, and some people are coming to me, "Maxime if you're doing that, it will help with rich." In fact, it's a tax that's against wealth and growth in this country. We must abolish that because we'll have more investment, and if we have more investment we'll have more growth and more jobs in this country.
I'm explaining that to Canadians. I'm speaking to their intelligence. I'm not saying to these people, "Oh yeah yeah yeah, let's keep that tax because if we abolish that it will be for the rich." No! If we abolish that tax it will be fair for everybody.
That's the kind of politics that we're doing, and that's an example of what I'm saying that we're a populist party but a smart populist party with bold reforms for a freer and more prosperous country.
You told La Presse that abortion can happen between 24 and 26 weeks, and after that, you said it's a child...
It's not me saying that it's doctors saying that. What I'm saying on abortion, first of all, there's no policy on abortion for our party. It's not part of our platform, and it won't be part of our platform. I want to be clear.
So, you're not re-opening the abortion debate?
If the People's Party of Canada is in government you won't have a bill reopening the debate by the government. Second, my personal point of view on that is the one that you're saying. If 90% of the abortion is happening between the first week and 24th week, I'm okay with that.
I'm pro-choice, and all the votes that I did in the House concerning that debate it was all in line with pro-choice.
For us, the government of the People's Party, won't table any bill on abortion.
On a lighter note, what's your favourite thing about this city? What is Maxime Bernier's Montreal?
I love Montreal. It's a diverse city. I love La Petite Italie, I like life in Montreal. I'm a runner and when I was living in Montreal every day, I was going to Île Sainte-Hélène and I was running with my dog.
There are so many good restaurants. I like Leméac. I like, also, the Italian restaurants in Petite Italie. It's a nice city, Montreal. I think after politics, I'll be back here to work in the financial sector.
The Canadian Federal election is happening on Monday, October 21st, 2019.
Voting for the first time? Want to know more about how our electoral system works? Check out our this handy guide from our colleagues at Narcity Canada!