EXCLUSIVE: Maxime Bernier talks immigration, SNC-Lavalin and China ahead of byelections
A few days ahead of Monday’s byelection, The Post Millennial had a chance to sit down with PPC party leader Maxime Bernier and discuss his party’s progress, international relations and border security.
DZSURDZSA: Let’s start local. Let’s talk about the local byelection in Burnaby South.
Do you believe that the way the byelection has played out and its results will be a good indicator of how the October federal election might go.
BERNIER: It will be one indicator and it will be kind of a test, because after only five months we have a chance to be there in a byelection.
Our goal is we are building this party and I think it’s more than a party, it’s kind of a movement all across the country. So it’s only the beginning after five months and that will be a step, but after that I will always continue to campaign all across the country, so we will see in which place we will be before the general election but I hope we’ll surprise a lot of people, especially in Burnaby South.
We have a great candidate as you know, Laura-Lynn and I think she’s won the debates that she did. Too bad that they didn’t want her at the last debate, I think it was unfair but you know we have to fight against that and we’ll do it.
DZSURDZSA: About the debates, since you bring them up, during the Burnaby South byelection housing has come up as a main issue. Both the NDP, and the Liberal party have announced plans for federal involvement in housing development. How does the PPC hope to approach this issue?
BERNIER: First of all, it is mostly a provincial jurisdiction and a municipal jurisdiction. In our platform we’re doing a campaign on four principles: individual freedom, personal responsibility, fairness and respect.
Respect is for respecting the constitution, respecting the taxpayers, so that being said, at the federal level we can do a lot of things to ensure that people in Burnaby South and all Canadians will have more of their money in their pockets.
First it is starting with our tax reform. Contrary to Andrew Scheer and other leaders, we are saying that we want to lower taxes to everybody in Canada, and we have a plan that is very credible.
“Our goal is we are building this party and I think it’s more than a party, it’s kind of a movement all across the country.”
So a 15% tax rate on people earning more than 15k until 100k, after 100k it will be another rate of 25%, for the poor we’ll increase the personal exemption at 15k a year. You won’t pay any income tax if you earn less than 15k a year.
Doing that will help people, they will have more money in their pockets, but also a big problem is the inflation. Inflation is a hidden tax you know, why does the Bank of Canada have an inflation target of 2%. If inflation is so good, they can have an inflation target of 20%, why not?
Inflation is not good, inflation is a tax, so our goal is to have an agreement with the Bank of Canada.
I want to be clear, the Bank of Canada is an independent institution but every 5 years the federal government can have an agreement with the Bank of Canada. Our agreement will be on the monetary policy and our agreement will be to have zero inflation targets, zero inflation in this country. So people will keep their purchasing power, now the money they have in their pocket, they cannot buy the same amount of goods and services because of inflation, so they will keep their purchasing power.
We will be lowering tax for everybody in this country. How are we going to do that? We’re going to do that by cutting foreign aid. We can save about 5 billion there, but yes we will be there if there’s a humanitarian crisis or an environmental disaster, we will be there. But we won’t be there to give 2.3 billion to African countries to build a road in Africa, or fight climate change.
The people’s party of Canada want to put people first and so we can save 5 billion over there. We can save another 5 billion by cutting corporate welfare.
Andrew Scheer won’t tell you that, he will say I will lower your taxes and he will say at the same time that he will also balance the budget. So we want to balance the budget, we want to lower taxes and also we are saying to Canadians how we will do it.
So speaking about housing, that’s something that we can do at the federal level, giving more money in the pockets of Canadians.
You know what the NDP are telling Canadians is a new program, we don’t need a new program, we need people to be able to have more of their own money and like that they will be able to buy a house or buy a car and do what they want to do.
DZSURDZSA: Your candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson has been excluded from several public events during this local byelection.
The most recent was Breakfast Television Vancouver, considering your party’s stance on the CBC and mainstream media in general, do you think there’s been a certain bias against her during the race?
BERNIER: You know I think so, it’s too bad and it’s happening not only for her, but also sometimes for me as a leader of the party. But you knowm we have to be out there, and we have to use all of the platforms that we are able to use: social media and other non-traditional media.
Also we need to be on the traditional media and it’s a little bit unfair what they did to Laura-Lynn because at the end she won the two first debates and she had a lot of support, so for me we’ll fight but you know at the end that was a decision but I hope that in the near future, I want them to act a little bit more neutral and considering the CBC they must be professional.
In our platform, we are the only party who want to cut the CBC, we want them to be like the PBS in the states. We want them to raise more money from their viewers. If they’re good, they will receive money from their viewers. We want them to be more neutral in their coverage of the news. That’s part of our platform, we’re the only party to speak about that.
I hope that does not influence the CBC but I will try to be there, and I’ll be there each time I have an invitation, and Laura Lynn she’s available for them. Too bad they didn’t want us to participate but you know that’s part of being a new party I think.
DZSURDZSA: Mr. Bernier the People’s Party of Canada is a new party, never seen before in Canada. How do you ensure the PPC’s longevity and that it continues on after Maxime Bernier?
BERNIER: Thanks for the question, first of all, you’re right we’re growing. Actually about one percentage a month, and if you look at national polling survey, we’re about around 5%, 4% after five months. For me that’s okay, I think we’ll continue to grow like that and that’s great, we can just go up.
So that being said, this party is built on a strong platform. Four principles: individual freedom, personal responsibility, fairness and respect. And our platform is current with these principles. So we are able to attract people because of our platform, because of these ideas, so our goal is after the next election, to with our members, we have right now more than 36,000 members after five months. If you compare that with the green party, after 35 years, they have only 19,000 members. So we’re growing pretty fast and my goal is after the election we’ll be able with our members to have a convection.
“In our platform, we are the only party who want to cut the CBC, we want them to be like the PBS in the states. We want them to raise more money from their viewers. If they’re good, they will receive money from their viewers. “
We don’t have time to have a convention before the election, we need to build this party, we need to have candidates. As you have said we have a riding association in every riding. (9:00) but we need to have candidates and that will be our priority starting next month. But that being said, after the election, we’ll have a convention with our members, they will participate, and we’ll look at our platform.
For me I’m here for the long run, I’m in shape, I like what I’m doing, it’s my best time in politics and we will see what will happen. I think that this party is here for a long time, I don’t want to do any compromise with our policies and if you look at what happened in the past here in Canada with the reform party, that was a regional party from Western Canada. Our party is not a regional party, we have members from across the country, but the Reform did merge with the Conservative party of Canada.
There’s no question, our principles are strong, we always fight for that and I think we’re starting something new for a long time in this country, long after Maxime Bernier and after me we will have a convention, we’ll have a leadership convention and we will have another leader for sure.
DZSURDZSA: Many people on the right have expressed concern over the PPC, particularly their ability to split the vote.
I know you’ve spoken about this issue before, but how do you comfort those people who simply want Trudeau out of office and believe that the PPC might not be their greatest shot?
BERNIER: First of all, if they want Trudeau out of the office, they won’t be able to have that with Andrew Scheer. For me, Andrew Scheer is a weak leader. When I was with him, he was always behind Justin Trudeau by 6-8 points in the polls. You can look at that, it’s a fact, and I’m not with him anymore and he’s behind Justin Trudeau.
What I’m telling Canadians right now, former Conservatives who want to be sure that Justin Trudeau is not the Prime Minister after the 21st of October: come with us, we have the momentum and we won’t do a compromise with our ideas. I’m asking Canadians not to vote against something, against Justin Trudeau, but to vote for something, for their values, for what they believe in, and that’s new in Canadian politics.
So I’m sure that doing that we can be in government, we can be the official opposition, we can have the balance of power, we don’t know what can happen.
If you look at what happened in France at the last presidential election. I like to use that example, Macron was a socialist 11-months before the presidential election and he created his own party and now he’s the president of France. I’m not a socialist, I know that for Macron, it’s very tough for him right now in France.
What I’m telling you is, he was able to build a party in 11 months and become the president of France. We started our party 13 months before the next election, and that’s going very well. We’ll have candidates in every riding, and we are able to raise money also and that’s important for a new party.
We did a money bomb a couple of weeks ago and we we’re able to raise $300,000 in a single weekend.
I’m saying to these people, we have the momentum, come with us, vote for your values and yes in the end we will be able to get rid of Justin Trudeau.
DZSURDZSA: Let’s move the conversation over to our neighbours to the south: The United States. We’ve recently signed a free trade deal with the US.
In your opinion, was the USMCA a success for Canada?
BERNIER: No, but I will vote for it because it’s better than nothing but we still have tariffs on aluminum and steel. And why do we still have these tariffs? Because Justin Trudeau was not able to put on the table, the abolition of the cartel in supply management. The cartel, who are charging twice the price for Canadian families for dairy, poultry and milk. Canadian families can save more than $800 a year if we abolish that.
I’m the only politician to speak for the abolition of that cartel. I’m the only politician to speak for 36 million Canadians. All of the other politicians want that cartel to keep their privilege, Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh, Andrew Scheer, Elizabeth May, the Bloc Quebecois. Everybody, they’re working for 19,000 producers under supply management.
I’m working for 36 or 37 million Canadians and I’m very proud to do that and so my position on free trade with the US. Put that on the table, give that to the Americans, that will be good for our Canadian consumers. But also it will be good for Canadian dairy, poultry and eggs.
They will be able to export. Right now they’re not able to export in that socialist system. And yes, Donald Trump wanted to be able to sell dairy, poultry and milk to Canadians.
I believe in freedom, I believe in freedom of choice, Canadians must be able to choose to buy eggs from the US or from Canada. Because we didn’t give that to Donald Trump, and to Canadian consumers, we still have tariffs on Aluminum and steel.
My position is very clear about that, he wasn’t able to negotiate the best deal for this country.
DZSURDZSA: That kind of answers my next question, on how you negotiate an end to steel and aluminum tariffs. So you believe at the crux of this issue, because justin Trudeau’s solution is to launch retaliatory tariffs, but you’re saying we need to put dairy on the table?
BERNIER: Absolutely, nobody wins in a commercial war. At the end it’s always the consumer who is paying more. I think it was a bad idea to do that. The strategy was very weak.
DZSURDZSA: Let’s talk about a hot topic, immigration. During the last debate in Burnaby south, there was a lot of emotion around this issue from both sides.
As of late, immigration has been a tough issue to talk about. During the second Burnaby South all-candidates debate, Jagmeet said he was “disgusted” by your candidate’s views on illegal immigration, and later, had suggested that Laura-Lynn was calling refugees criminals.
How would the PPC handle our southern border, particularly the border with Quebec?
BERNIER: First of all, our foreign policy will be based on the security and prosperity of our country. When I’m speaking about security, it is starting by being sure we have borders that people respect.
So the way to deal with that is to sit with President Trump. President Trump wants his border to be respected with Mexico, and we want the same thing also in Canada.
These people who are crossing our border in Quebec, in my own province, they’re illegal immigrants and actually the department of immigration said that at least 40% of them will have to be deported because they’re not real refugees, and I understand that because when you’re coming from New York state, your life is not in danger in New York state. So we want to help the real refugees, that’s unfair for the real refugees and our immigration system is not sustainable anymore so you need to fix that.
The way to fix that is sit with President Trump and being sure that everybody understands that we must put an end to that.
Right now for Trudeau and for Andrew Scheer, it is normal that these people are crossing the border in Quebec. More than 35,000 of them are coming to our country, that will be a huge cost for our society and we will have to pay for that and people they are losing faith in our immigration system because of that. So that’s why we have a position on immigration that is very different from the other old traditional parties.
We want fewer immigrants, 250,000 a year, instead of 350,000 a year. Justin Trudeau increased that by 40% and only 6% of Canadians said that they want more immigrants. 40% of them said in a poll by Angus Reid that they want fewer immigrants, so we are in line with the population.
We’ll have less immigrants, but we will have more economic immigrants, because it’s easier for that person when they’re coming to Canada, when they have a job, to integrate in our society.
We want people who come here to share our Canadian values. So less refugees, less reunification of families, more economic immigrants to answer the needs of our economy. That’s very different and I will speak about that and what Jagmeet Singh said, it’s not true. This party is not anti-immigration, we’re not open borders, we just want fewer immigrants, and I think it’s time to have this debate.
We want fewer immigrants, 250,000 a year, instead of 350,000 a year.
We care about this country, we don’t want this country to be like in Europe, in France, in Belgium, they have huge challenges with their new immigrants. We don’t want that, we need to have the discussion right now in Canada, because we don’t want this country to be like that in 20 years.
DZSURDZSA: Many Canadians overlook the fact that not all illegal immigration takes place along our border. People have been also arriving at air ports of entry. In 2018, the Canada Border Services Agency reported over 5,000 asylum claims at our airports. How do we deal with those people who choose too arrive to Canada by flight and not by land?
BERNIER: We must put more resources there. When that person came by plane or crossing our border, we must be sure that the process for that it’s about three and a half years and it’s a huge cost. So the goal is to stop that in the beginning. We want to be sure that they won’t take the plane to come to Canada, and I think that the department of immigration are having an agreement with some transporter about that. And also if that happens, we must be sure that the process will be shorter, I don’t want that to take 3 years, to decide whether that person is an illegal immigrant or not.
We’ll put more money there, we’ll be sure to streamline the process and like that it will be fair.
DZSURDZSA: The biggest story in the news these last few weeks already, SNC-Lavalin, let’s talk about that. The Prime Minister has denied any wrongdoing and many people have pointed to the company’s significance for the nation’s well being. You’re from Quebec, how do we balance people’s jobs and a company’s corruption and wrongdoing.
BERNIER: We don’t balance that, we don’t do that. No corporation is above the law. It’s too bad. SNC-Lavalin, they did things that are criminal and the law must apply to them.
I’m against the remediation agreement, we didn’t have that in our legislation for the last 150 years. They put that in the budget, I call that the SNC-Lavalin clause, in the budget, to be sure that they would be able to have a special deal with SNC-Lavalin.
“First of all, if they want Trudeau out of the office, they won’t be able to have that with Andrew Scheer. For me, Andrew Scheer is a weak leader.”
First of all our party is against that, we’re the only party and I said that publicly, that will abolish that possibility. So no deal with a corporation, they must respect the law, they’re not above the law. Justin Trudeau wanted to have a deal, and that’s all up for debate right now, but also Andrew Scheer.
Andrew Scheer said he would have done the same thing, but publicly to save jobs. These people who are working with SNC-Lavalin are competent people, if something happened they would be able to find a job in another corporation. So that being said it’s all about crony capitalism and that’s a big part of it.
Politicians giving favours or privilege to big corporations. Politicians giving subsidies to big corporations. Politicians sticking with lobbies, as you know Andrew Scheer had a meeting with SNC-Lavalin, Justin Trudeau had a meeting with SNC-Lavalin. I didn’t have a meeting with this corporations, and I won’t have any meeting. It’s not the role of the government to give privilege to big corporations or subsidies to big corporations.
We want to end crony capitalism. That’s the source of that scandal, the crony capitalism in Canada, in Ottawa, so our position is very different from the other parties. Yes, I want to know what happened, I want to know if the former Justice Minister received pressure, yes, it’s important to know that. But the most important is to fight crony capitalism and you won’t have that with the traditional, old political parties.
DZSURDZSA: So I want to talk about veterans and first nations, that has come up in the news and they feel very let down by the current government. A recent report has shown that over 3,000 veterans must way more than a year for the federal government to process their disability claims. Does the PPC have a plan to both process these claims quickly and fairly?
First of all I will have a policy on defense and for our veterans, that will be a part of our platform. Right now what I can tell you is the philosophy of that policy. It’s all a question of money. We must be sure that these people receive the services that they need and we must be sure that the department will have the money to be able to deliver these services, so that’s why we want to privatize Canada Post and save money over there, abolishing telecom and save money over there, cutting foreign aid and save money over there.
We want a government who will respect the constitution and a government that will be strong in our jurisdiction. Defence and veterans are a federal jurisdiction, and the federal government must put the money and yes I’ve read that report and we need to fix that and we’ll do it. It will be a priority in our first budget like the same thing on defence, we want to be able to achieve our goal of spending 2% of our GDP for our national defence. It will be a part of the first budget, but we won’t be able to do that in the first mandate because you know, we have a lot of things to do, but in every budget we will do a report and increase that.
Same things for our veterans, we need to listen to them and I don’t know what sort of program or what sort of solution but I can tell you that we will put the money to solve that problem.
DZSURDZSA: Your party has yet to comment exclusively on First Nations issues.
What do you have to say to those indigenous people who are tired of the traditional parties but might be skeptical of a new party like the PPC?
BERNIER: What I’m telling them is that we will have a policy on First Nations, our relationship with First Nations will be based on property rights on the reserves.
You know, a reserve it’s a kind of socialist system. There’s no property rights, so we need to change that. We need to give something, we want them to be able to create wealth on the reserve but everything must start by property rights. So we need to have a means to have something that will be a little bit like property rights on reserves.
I don’t think that the federal government has all of the solutions, we need to change that. We need to look at the Indian Act, we need to change the Indian Act or abolish the Indian Act. So that will be a part of our platform and I cannot tell you more because I am actually currently doing my research right now on that and we will have a policy in a couple of weeks from now that will go into details. The core is property rights on the reserve and being sure that we can change or abolish the Indian Act.
DZSURDZSA: So let’s move to the topic of foreign relations. Recently, over the last year at least, Canada has gotten into some disputes, whether with China, the free trade agreement with the United States or Saudi Arabia.
Your party has expressed a desire for a free trade deal with China. Today, Chinese and Canadian relations have been strained by the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Do you think there’s a way to repair the current diplomatic freeze and if so, why would free trade with China be in our interest?
BERNIER: You’re right, during the leadership campaign I did for being the leader of the CPC two years ago, in my platform I had a proposal for free trade with China and the platform of the PPC is based on that. But after everything that happened we changed and I’m not pushing for free trade with China anymore.
I think that Canadian corporations, if they want to trade with China, they can trade with China. But I think it’s not time for having a discussion about free trade with China.
We must be sure that our relationship is good with China, our diplomatic relationships are good, but I don’t want us to sign a free trade deal with China.
There’s a debate about the 5G network with Huawei, and I hope that the federal government won’t go ahead with that. We must listen to our allies, the United States and the UK, they’re telling us don’t go there and also our security agencies are telling us the same thing for the security of our country, so I’m against allowing Huawei to be in Canada and on the 5G network.
I think that Canadian corporations can develop that kind of technology or other corporations but not a Chinese corporation.
“What I’m telling Canadians right now, former Conservatives who want to be sure that Justin Trudeau is not the Prime Minister after the 21st of October: come with us, we have the momentum and we won’t do a compromise with our ideas.”
And on our relation with Saudi Arabia, it won’t be based on Twitter. I think that Minister Freeland tried to do diplomacy on Twitter and I don’t think that’s a good thing to do. Our diplomacy will be based on the prosperity of our country and the security of our country.
We don’t have a lot of influence, we must be realistic and yes we are players, but we’re not one of the big players on the international scene. So we’ll deal with this country and we will have in mind every time, what can we do for the prosperity of our country and the security of our country. That will be the basis of our foreign policy.
DZSURDZSA: Free speech, it seems to be on everybody’s mind. The recently elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford has required universities in the province to have free speech policies.
As a party that hopes to uphold individual freedom, how do you intend on dealing with the issue of free speech on campus, at a national level?
BERNIER: Education is a provincial jurisdiction, we must admit that. I’m pleased with what the Ford government did about that. That’s a good step in the right direction.
What we can do is if the federal government is giving subsidies to universities, they must have a code and we must be sure that they will respect free speech on campus and I’m concerned about that. If they want money from the federal government, they must be able to ensure us that yes free discussion can happen on campus and I don’t want to listen to any excuses that they can bring.
University must be a place to have an exchange of ideas and that’s what we want. So we can act there very directly with the subsidies that we’re giving to universities.
As a politician I like to have debates and I’m in politics to debate ideas. For me, if there’s only 10 per cent of the population that believes in our ideas, for me it’s a motivation to speak more about it and to debate. I think that we have the right ideas, ideas that are based on freedom and personal responsibility, that’s important and we must be speaking about it with passion and with conviction, that’s what I like.
That’s why I said it’s my best time in politics, I’m speaking about what we believe, and we have a lot of support all across the country. So that’s going very well and free speech is very important for me and every time somebody’s against that, I will be out there promoting our freedom.