Perspective

Maxime Bernier - Open to discuss anything

Interview with former federal cabinet minister, MP for Beauce (Quebec) and leader of the federal People’s Party of Canada about the nation’s state of affairs and his new party’s role and policies.


Interview held on April 2, 2019 at Maxime Bernier's office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.


S: Maxime Bernier, Thanks for taking the time to talk with with us, It’s an honour. 

M: It’s my pleasure and I’m pleased to have this opportunity.


On the economy


S: How is the economy doing in your mind?

M: I think the economy could be better, I’ll give you an example, when the Trudeau government decided to table their first budget in 2015, it was all about the government increasing spending to create more growth. Under Stephen Harper (2011–2014) we had an average of 1.9 percent GDP growth every year. Right now, after four years of the liberal government we have an average of 1.8 percent growth every year with huge spending, so what I’m telling you is spending more money won’t create, and did not create wealth and jobs in this country. You cannot spend your way to prosperity. What you need is to have a framework that will give every industry, every entrepreneur the right economic environment for growth. We know that when entrepreneurs invest, that’s when you have growth. 

The deficit was supposed to be a 10 billion dollar deficit the first year, and we now know it’s an average of 15 billion dollars each year. The Liberals were supposed to balance the budget in 2019, so we still have a deficit of 15 billion dollars this year and another deficit of 19 billion in 2020. So what I’m saying is that they are spending a lot of money that we don’t have, they are putting that on the Canada Credit Card, but at the end of the day it’s unfair because they are spending money on programs [for now] and it will be the future generations that will have to pay without having any benefits and that’s unfair. This spending does not create any wealth or any growth.


S: Some would argue now that the economy is better now than it was under the Harper government.

M: It’s supposed to be better now but it is not. Look in Alberta and western Canada, it’s not going well. Yes we have full employment in certain provinces, but after 10 years of growth we could have a recession soon, and if we do have a recession we won’t have the fiscal room at the top to allow for that and that’s not right. As you know the government right now is paying 24 billion dollars a year to pay only the interest on our debt. The interest rates are very low right now and they will have to go up.


S: Will they go up?

M: They will, it’s only a question of time, we don’t know when, but they cannot stay at this level.


S: Who decides?

M: It’s The Bank of Canada and the economy. The Bank of Canada started to increase the interest rates a year ago and now they have decided to back off because they don’t see the growth. So that is what I’m telling you. We have a huge deficit, we are spending a lot to only pay the interest on the debt; currently at 24 billion dollars which may be 30 billion dollars in 2 years from now when the interest rates go up. That’s irresponsible and that’s why they are not helping the economy.


S: So, why do they do it?

M: To buy votes, they’re doing it to buy votes. Look at the SNC Lavalin scandal in Ottawa, The Trudeau government wanted to have support in Quebec, and so they decided they wanted to give an incentive to SNC Lavalin, they create special programs to special groups in society to be able to have their votes. So they are using the people’s money to buy votes with different interest groups. We’re not doing that at the People’s Party of Canada. We are working for all Canadians. We don’t try to please special interest groups. For example, you know about our policy to try to abolish the supply management for the dairy, poultry and eggs. We are paying twice the price for these products. We are the only party trying to fight against it and we want to help 36 million Canadians. The NDP, the Liberals, the Conservatives, they all want to support this cartel. So that is the mentality of the Liberals and Conservatives, they’re doing polling and they have a platform that is trying to please every special interest group, but in the end it’s Canadians that have to pay for it.


S: The Conservatives, when they were in power, did they support this type of agenda?

M: They did with supply management.


S: Was anyone in the party saying why are we doing this when it goes against our basic principals?

M: I did! But they told me, Maxime, that was not part of our platform, it wasn’t part of our policy discussion that we, the Conservative Party of Canada had, so we don’t have any legitimacy to raise that point. I think they were right because the members of the Conservative Party of Canada supported that decision to keep that cartel for the dairy, poultry and eggs, so I’m saying it’s against the real conservative conviction. That’s why I said that party is morally and intellectually corrupt. 


On Conservatives 

versus Liberals and implementing their agendas when in Government


M: We must ask the question, why the Conservatives want to be in government? We don’t know why, we know they want to be in government to govern, but we don’t know their platform, we don’t know what they believe in. We know they don’t believe in free market principles anymore. They [The Conservative Party] don’t have any convictions right now, when they’re in government they try to please everyone. Look at Andrew Shear. Andrew Shear said last November that the Conservative Party of Canada is a pragmatic centrist political party with lots of ideas for a lot of people. So what he’s telling us is that he will do everything to please you and to have your vote without any conviction. That’s why I quit that party, they don’t have any convictions anymore. They just want to be in power to be in power without doing any reform.


S: And they don’t mind spending all our money along with it.

M: They [The Conservatives] will spend money if they need to spend money. I must admit, we did spend a lot of money when I was a conservative and they were in power but we were actually able to come back to a balanced budget at the end so that was a very good decision by my former government. But now, the Conservative Party, I don’t know, they are against the carbon tax, but they are saying we must fight climate change and they believe in the Paris Accord, so they will spend more money, they will tax more people, but what is their plan?


S: They [Media and Government] put forward the idea that Canadians wants this type of agenda of high spending to continue, isn’t that their assumption?

M: It is, it absolutely is. I will give you an example, I was doing a rally and I was saying that I would abolish some tax credit that the conservatives put in place and a lady asked me a questions and she said, “Mr. Bernier, I don’t like your position on that, that you want to abolish this tax credit, I have a son and that son is playing hockey and I have that tax credit and so why aren’t you keeping that tax credit.” And I said, “No I won’t, because I want to help you but the way I will help you — I will lower your taxes, that is important and that would be a fair policy for everybody.” So no more tax credit for that, or that or that, it’s just buying votes. But I told her you will pay lower taxes under a Peoples Party government and you will be able to do what you want with that money in your pocket. So that is another philosophy. If you want to help them, lower taxes and people will have more money to pay for their bills.

The income coming from the population to the government last year increased by 6 percent and this year the government increased their income by 6.7 percent, but they decided to spend that instead of keeping it and being sure not to have a deficit, they had the choice. What I’m saying is that Trudeau’s government had a choice, to spend more or to balance the budget.


S: Is it because they just don’t care?

M: They just don’t care, for them they believe that more spending will help to grow the economy, but that’s not true. It is when you have an investment from an entrepreneur that will create wealth not the government spending money that we don’t have. So they believe in that, and at the same time want to buy votes and so they are giving different programs and incentive to different groups of the population.


S: So by taking Canadians money and handing it back to them in some form they’re actually...

M: Well, look at the Carbon Tax, that’s the best example. They are saying we will tax you, but at the end we will give you more money, so you have a rebate. So in between the government must manage that, and there is a cost for that. So why tax people knowing that doing so we won’t even achieve the Paris Accord goals. The UN says that they need to impose at least a 300 dollar per ton carbon tax to be able to achieve the Paris Accord goals but they are only imposing a $28/ton tax.


On The Federal 

government’s 

increasing size 

and involvement in Canadians’ lives.


M: I believe that Canadians know better than government what is good for them. That’s why we believe in people, that they have the ability, the dignity and the right to do what is good for them, to decide their own destiny. Right now the government is always there.


S: Are they always growing?

M: The federal government is always growing, for sure, I will give you an example with the Trudeau administration.  Politicians, they want to please everybody, and during the Chretien government, Chretien had a surplus that was good but with that surplus they decided to create a program, they called it the infrastructure program. The Chretien government was spending money in the provincial jurisdiction. It is not the job of the federal government to build local roads in Quebec, or local bridge in BC, that is a provincial matter, so that must stay provincial. But the Chretien government wanted to have votes and please provinces, they said, we have a surplus so we will spend the money on infrastructure that is under your jurisdiction, that is local infrastructure.


S: And

 he was claiming at the time that those types of expenditures would fire up the economy?

M: Yes, same thing, same logic. That’s why when politicians have a surplus they try to interfere in provincial jurisdictions. That’s why it is very important for us to respect the constitution and not interfere in provincial jurisdiction, Why? Because it will maintain constitutional peace. 

S: The general democratic framing in the western world is that there is a debate between having more or less government involved in people’s lives, it seems that you are the only party proposing less government.

M: This is why I pushed the Conservatives at that time before I resigned to be the free market alternative, the free enterprise political party, and for individual freedom and personal responsibility. These ideas were very popular when I was running for the leadership of the conservative party of Canada. As you know I didn’t win with 49% of the vote. But after that I spoke with the establishment of the party and they were telling me, Maxime, you know, your reforms are too bold, we won’t take any of your ideas, so that’s why I decided to quit and to form The People’s Party. It’s a Party based on freedom ideas and personal responsibility. Actually, our four principals are: Individual freedom, personal responsibility, respect and fairness and all our policies obey these principals. So that is why it’s my best time in politics right now, speaking about what I believe, about these ideas which I believe, they are at the base of Western civilization. And so we must speak about that right now, and you are right, the liberals and conservatives, they are all playing the same game: trying to please everyone with no conviction, doing politics based on surveying and polling, and for us, we don’t believe in that.


S: Is Canada in danger of becoming a socialist nation?

M: We have a socialist government that is trying to convince the population about socialist ideas, but I am trying to do the opposite, and I’m the only one that is doing that. That is why we have the People’s Party and why people are coming to us, we have people who voted for Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, and Justin Trudeau. But they are saying to me, Maxime, “I don’t recognize myself in this socialist party right now”. 

I remember a discussion I had with some guys in B.C. who said they voted for Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, for a balanced budget and lower taxes. Trudeau told us he would balance the budget and told us he would have a smaller deficits which just wasn’t true. So I am joining you, I am coming with the People’s Party because you believe in that, you believe in these principals, having a budget that will balance, lower taxes and having a smaller government. So we can attract people like that and that’s great for us. Canadians believe in freedom of choice, individual freedom and personal responsibility.

Something is happening right now in Canada, when I’m doing a rally, and there are 300 people there listening to politicians from Quebec or B.C or Nova Scotia, and I’m speaking about freedom ideas, something is happening. When you are able to build a party with more than 36,000 founding members after 5 months, something’s happening. I can tell you the Green Party has about 19,000 members after about 35 years. But for us, after 5 months 36,000, that’s a lot. So our ideas are popular, but we need to be out there to speak about it.


S: Why does media always present ideas of spending and redistribution instead of ideas like freedom, smaller government, individual responsibility. Why is the media always on the side of those presenting high government spending?

M: Don’t forget that the media is taking what is happening in the news and giving that back to Canadians. So if you have political parties like the NDP and the Liberals, which are socialist right now, and the Conservatives that don’t have any convictions, they are making the news. These political parties guide the agenda,  so the media has to follow it. I think they are representing the different points of view in parliament and that is why there are more leftists in the house right now and so the political news is more in line with [them] and [so they] have more coverage. 

Yes I am the only one, and when I am there, yes they will cover what I am saying and they will cover our press conferences, they will be there. But, being in their shoes, if you have socialist politicians speaking about socialist policies, they must cover the parliament and so they must speak about it.

On the Trudeau 

government's 

handling of 

SNC Lavalin 


S: Was it a problem with how Trudeau handled it or was it a structural problem?

M: It was a structural problem. It is all about cronies and crony capitalism.


S: Is it unavoidable in the type of situation we have?

M: You know the most interesting thing is, when the media asked Andrew Shear if we should have special deals with corrupt corporations, he didn’t answer the question, because for him, it is the same kind of politics — they try to please their friends. As for Trudeau right now, when you have a big government that is giving privilege and subsidies to corporations, you will have things like this.


S: So could he have helped it? Was he stuck with a darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation?

M: No, no... they are doing it because they have a big government in Ottawa. For us [the PPC] we won’t give any subsidies to businesses, so that won’t happen. We won’t give any privilege to any business, I said that and about that possibility, that the Trudeau government put in the budget to have a special deal with a corrupt corporation, I’m against that. We’ll repeal that clause.


S: Would you say SNC Lavalin are a corrupt corporation?

M: They are! Not the employees, but the executives, and yes they must be prosecuted for what they did. There is no corporation above the law for us. But for the Liberals and the Conservatives, they want to keep that legislative framework that gives the government the ability to give special deals to corrupt corporations and it needs to be explained to Canadians.


S: When did it change? When did we get to the point where the government now could do this? Install legislative framework that would allow for the possibility of the government to give special deals to corporations.


M: There was a clause that was put in in the last budget. The government didn’t have the possibility to make special deals with corporations before the last budget. So it is new in our legislation right now. All across the country you have corporations that competed internationally and didn’t have that clause and were still able to do business internationally, because they were effectively competing.


On the Trans

Mountain Pipeline


S: Tell us where you stand on the Trans Mountain Pipeline and what is the difficulty here?

M: The difficulty is that we need politicians with courage who will act. Who will use the constitution if necessary, to be sure that we will be able to build pipelines in this country. So what’s happening right now, why we don’t have pipelines, because we have governments right now, the Trudeau and the Conservative party that want to continue with consultation and more consultation. In the end there is no decision. So for us, yes, we believe in consultation, but it is a federal decision to build a pipeline or not. So the federal government must take its responsibility and be able to build a pipeline. So our position on that is very different than Andrew Shear and Justin Trudeau.


S: So is that because they are trying to appease the Provincial governments?

M: Because they don’t have the courage to do what needs to be done, they don’t have any vision for this country. We need to build pipelines in this country. That would be great for the prosperity, not only for Alberta and Western Canada but for the entire country.

S: Do they just not care?

M: They say they do care a lot, so they are doing a lot of consultation, but in the end, they are afraid to make a decision that won’t have support in B.C or won’t have support in Quebec. But if you are a national leader, you must lead, you must have a vision, you must do things that will be good for the country and that is what I’m telling Canadians. We are ready to use the Constitution. There is a clause in the Constitution, section 92.10, where you can use the Constitution and impose, if necessary, on Quebec or on B.C. after consultation. The Federal government has used that clause more than 300 times since Confederation to build national infrastructure, so why not use that clause right now, we must do it. So what I am saying, contrary to Andrew Shear when he was out west and said, yes, yes we’re pro–pipeline, but after that when asked the question, “Are you ready to use the Constitution to be sure we’ll have a pipeline?” the response was, “Oh, no we’ll have an agreement with Quebec, we’ll have an agreement with B.C.”


S: Which may cost a lot of money.

M: It would cost a lot of money, and that will delay everything and at the end we’re not sure if the government will go ahead with the construction of a pipeline. So for us, our position is very clear — yes for consultation, but after the consultation, there is a deadline and it is a decision by the federal government, and if we don’t have support in a region of the country we’ll use the Constitution and it’s our responsibility and we’ll do it. We know in 2019 that we can build pipelines that will be safe for the environment and safe for the population.


S: Will it lower the price of gas for Canadians?

M: First of all, Canadians want to buy their oil and gas from Canada first, so we must have that. Instead of importing oil and gas from other countries we will be able to use our own natural resources, and what will be the cost at the end, I don’t know, I can’t predict that, but I can

 tell you that it will be more efficient to transport and more secure also for the population. You know transporting oil and gas by train it is dangerous, we had a big tragedy 6 years ago and so Canadians understand that, and so this is why we need to have pipelines, and the more we speak about it, the more support we will have.


S: Then what is the resistance to it, if it’s such a reasonable move for Canada to make? Who are the resistors?

M: The radical environmentalists and the politicians who are listening to them. It’s a shame we don’t have a pipeline in 2019, that we’re giving another market our oil and gas, we are sending our oil and gas only to the US because we cannot export to other countries. We need that [pipe line] as soon as possible.


On the similarities 

and differences between the Liberal and 

Conservative parties 

- the Carbon Tax


S: What are the similarities between the Liberals and the Conservatives? 

M: I call them the Lib–Cons party, why? First, on the climate change discussion, both believe in the Paris Accord, Andrew Schear won’t oppose the Carbon Tax but he will impose more regulation and give subsidies to businesses to be sure to achieve the goals of the Paris Accord.


S: And that’s being done, not necessarily to achieve the goals but to appease those that are presenting the ideas that it’s not sound not to.

M: Absolutely, and we all know that it’s Canadian consumers that will pay at the end if you impose more regulation on a business, they will transfer that cost to the consumer. So the only difference between Andrew Shear and Justin Trudeau on the environments is that Justin Trudeau will impose the Carbon Tax and Andrew shear won’t impose the Carbon Tax but both believe in the Paris Accord.


Immigration 


M: Speaking about immigration, both parties want more immigration and we are the only party that want to go back to the average under the Stephen Harper government.


S: How is that number determined and what is the purpose of it? Let’s say it’s not about a human crisis, or a Canadian crisis.

M: We need to be able to fulfil the economic needs of our country, that’s why we have immigration in this country. In our party, we are not against immigration, nor are we for open borders. We are pro immigration, but we want fewer than 250,000  immigrants a year. And in that number we want a better ratio of economic immigrants. An economic immigrant is a person that will come to Canada with a job because a corporation or business was not able to find a Canadian, so after that they have the right to find another person coming from another country, and that’s okay. It’s better to have economic immigrants because it’s easier for that person to integrate into our society when they have a job. So we need to have more economic immigrants and fewer refugees and that is our position. But the Liberals and the Conservatives always want more and more.


S: Why is that?

M: The Liberal government is pandering to a special riding when you have a strong ethnic community. This is why they decided to have more immigrants coming from the reunification of family. So if you’re in Canada and work in Canada and you want your grandma and grandad to come, they will have the opportunity to come, they have that right. They’ve increased the number of immigrants coming from the reunification of families and I think it’s only to secure  votes in some ridings where there is a huge immigrant community. But for us we don’t believe in that. We don’t try to pander to any special interest group. That is the is the difference with us. There is no ‘political correctness’ with us. We will speak about what needs to be said, we’re not afraid of that and we think when you speak about individual freedom and personal responsibility you will have a lot of support.

So speaking about immigration, that’s a huge difference with the other political parties, they don’t want to have fewer immigrants because, I think, they are looking to that as a way to have more support and more votes in some ridings. But we need to have that debate right now, I don’t want our country to be like France or Belgium in Europe where they have huge challenges integrating their immigrants. So we need to have that debate right now. We’re proud of our country, this country has been built by francophone, anglophone, first nations, after that immigrants from Europe, after that immigrants from Asia and Africa so that’s great! These people came here because they want to share our Canadian values, the freedom to act, to equality of opportunity.


S: That’s the irony, the very system that, to some extent, the Trudeau government and people of their mentality, are tearing apart is the system that attracted these people in the first place.

M: Absolutely, we just want to be sure that the people coming here are sharing our Canadian values like they did in the past and we’ll have immigrants to help fulfill our economic needs and that is why we have the number of 250,000 a year. We will see what will happen.


Marijuana legislation


M: For us, we won’t go back there, I think the toothpaste is out of the tube so we won’t do anything on the marijuana issue, it will be the status quo.


The brexit situation


S: In Canada we have our French heritage and our British heritage so we are connected to them closely. I got the sense from the Trudeau government that they are looking to move the trading block to the European Union, away from Great Britain and the sense that they are leaving Great Britain high and dry. But wouldn’t Canada be the country that would naturally stand beside them and not go around them if they do achieve independence. The Trudeau government gives the impression that that’s not the case at all.

M: If they do go their own way from the European Union, the first thing to do is to call the British Prime Minister and say if you want to have a deal with us, we’ll have a free trade with you. I think it’s important for us. But at least we must be proactive and offer Great Britain/England our support to have a free trade deal with them. And for Trudeau it is not a preoccupation, but for the People’s Party of Canada we need to have a free trade deal with Great Britain. We have a free trade agreement with the European Union right now as a country and if Great Britain is not in the European Union then we need to be able have free trade with them. 


Privacy laws


S: Do you think the Privacy rights of Canadians have been violated in the last number of years or do you think they have the same rights to privacy that they have always enjoyed? Or is it being eroded because of a fear culture that is being developed?

M: We have privacy in this country, the question is with the new technology, it’s important what can be done at the federal government level to respect the privacy rights of citizens. 

I’m looking at it right now, as we don’t have anything special in our platform right now. I am doing some consultation on that and my goal is to be sure that the government will always respect the privacy of its citizens. I know we have legislation right now but some people are asking for change in that legislation and so we are looking at it. For me individual freedom, personal responsibility and privacy are important.


S: What do you see happening in a year from now?

M: Well I hope we have a PPC government! That is the goal that I am working towards. But I don’t know the future. I would like to use the example of Macron in France, he quit the Socialist party 11 months before the election and 11 months later he is now the president of France. I know that I’m not a socialist but I use that example to show that a lot of things can happen. When I see the polls in Canada that say 52% of Canadians are ready to vote for a new party, that tells me that there’s something there. When I’m looking at 30% of the population didn’t vote in the last Federal election, and if I can have only have half of them! We have a lot of support coming from these kinds of people, from former liberals, former conservatives that are with us because they share our kind of values. And so answering the questions, what can happen in a year from now, I hope I will be Prime Minister of Canada, but I’m not here for the short term, we are building this party for the long term and it’s going well and I’m very pleased up until now.


S: Maxime Bernier, thank you very much. 

M: Thank you.

https://www.peoplespartyofcanada.ca


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