Maxime Bernier on immigration, deficits and his old party
So far he’s the only member of his party with a seat in Parliament, but Maxime Bernier was in Saskatoon Thursday hoping to change that.
The ex-Conservative Party MP and former cabinet minister narrowly lost to Andrew Scheer in that party’s leadership race.
He left the party earlier this year to start the People’s Party of Canada.
Bernier visited CTV Saskatoon and spoke with Mike Ciona and Sean Leslie. Here are parts of those conversations, edited for length and clarity.
Your website asks people to join the “Mad Max” party. What are you mad about?
I’m still mad about the Trudeau government, the huge deficit. We’re supposed to have a balanced budget in four years, we’re supposed to have a small deficit. It’s an irresponsible policy because the future generations will have to pay for that. We need to balance the budget, we have to have responsible fiscal policies.
Right now I’m mad at the government but I’m very happy as the leader of the People’s Party of Canada. It’s going very well.
Your criticisms are the same as we’re hearing from the Conservative Party. Why the split?
I didn’t win as you know – with 49 per cent of the vote – and I tried to influence the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada to take some of these ideas, they were very popular. After a year I was not successful. I had a discussion with Andrew Scheer and I asked him what to do – I’m in politics for these ideas. I believe in them, I think they would be the best policies for this country, and do you want to take some for your platform next year, and he said no.
So after that, why stay in the party and run for the party when you don’t believe in that platform? I had two choices: go back in the private sector or to stay in politics. We have the platform right now, it was very proper, based on four principles: individual freedom, personal responsibility, respect and fairness, and let’s create a party. And I’m very happy with that decision.
What’s different between this and Preston Manning’s Reform Party? Is it an electable platform?
Yes it is. People are saying, Justin Trudeau will be elected because of you and I don’t believe that. When I was with Andrew Scheer, Andrew Scheer was not winning. If you look at the polls for the last year and a half, Scheer is always behind Justin Trudeau by six to eight points. So I was a Conservative, I was with him, he wasn’t winning … So if you want to have a new government, a real conservative government, you know Andrew Scheer cannot win. So come with us. We have the momentum right now, we have the great freedom ideas, we know what needs to be done.
Scheer is like the Liberal Party – they believe in corporate welfare, we don’t. You know what happened in Oshawa, we bail out GM and Bombardier. We must abolish that. We can save $5 billion a year and lower taxes for everybody. The bailout, the Paris Accord, I’m against that. There’s a lot of policies that are very different than the Conservatives. And if people want to have a real small government where we respect the Constitution, respect the taxpayers, giving them more freedom and less government and a more prosperous country … I ask them to come and join us.
Immigration is one of the issues you’re focusing on. They key thing is 250,000 immigrants per year is what you’re looking for – that’s 50 or 60 thousand less than what the Liberals are allowing now. Why the focus on that in your campaign?
We know this country has been built by immigrants and that’s important. And we are proud of that. But we want this country to be like that 20 years from now. I don’t want our country to be like some countries in Europe that have huge challenges to integrate their immigrants. So let’s have the pause, let’s have more economic immigrants, and that would be better for these people – they would be able to come to Canada, have a job, to participate in our society and it will be also good for society. We need more economic immigrants, so I want to increase that ratio, but globally a little bit less, making a pause and being sure people are coming here for the right reason – to share in our Canadian values, to know about our history, about our culture … We just want to be sure that our immigration system will be sustainable and we don’t believe in illegal immigration.
If we reduce immigration, do we run the risk of limiting the economy in Western Canada, which relies on immigrants?
I don’t think so … Right now the ratio of economic immigrants versus refugees and reunification of family, 61 per cent of the immigrants who are coming to Canada are economic immigrants. But when we were in government, the Conservative government under Stephen Harper, 75 per cent of our immigrants were economic immigrants – people who are coming here to participate in our society. So they want to have more people but less people that are ready to participate in our society. We want to increase that ratio – maybe 80 per cent of our immigrants must be economic immigrants, people coming because of their skill and because of the private sector need.
As the calendar gets set to flip to 2019, people are starting to think about election time. How is the election going to look for your party?
It is important to build this party and that’s the first step. We have 33,000 founding members and they are helping us build a party in every riding in this country. We now have 241 ridings up and running, we need to have an organization in every riding before the end of this year – we will be there. After that, in January, we’ll find our candidates.
What would be our challenge in the election? We have a platform right now, I’m campaigning right now. That platform will be the same platform during the election. So I want people to understand what we want to do and to look at us differently than the other political parties. Because we’re speaking about our conviction and we’re not trying to please everybody. We know if you try to please everybody, at the end you will end up displeasing a lot of people.