People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier was in Calgary Thursday campaigning with local candidates leading up to the federal election on October 21st. He finished his day with a packed rally that filled the downtown Metropolitan Conference Centre.
The party is polling at roughly three per cent nationwide, but is also attracting controversy and criticism for things like having candidates linked with neo-nazism, the party’s policies on issues like multiculturalism, and for Bernier’s comments about climate change activist Greta Thunberg, which he later walked back. His activities have attracted protestors, some of whom clashed with his supporters Sunday in Hamilton.
Before last week’s rally, Bernier sat down with the Calgary Journal to discuss his campaign and his party’s controversial record.
The Metropolitan Conference Centre was filled with supporters who came to see and hear Bernier — nearly every seat was filled in a room with a maximum capacity of 575 people. During the rally, the crowd was easily excitable, cheering after every point Bernier made.
If his party is elected, Bernier said they would begin pipeline consultations with Indigenous groups, as the Supreme Court has said it is required for the project to proceed.
“But after consultation, if we don't have any agreement with some provinces or First Nations, we will have to use our authority and our jurisdiction,” said Bernier.
Benier said his party wants the Trans Mountain pipeline built as soon as possible and will use a little-known part of the Constitution to do so.
“And yes, we will use the Constitution, the Section 92-10.”
This section of the constitution — which would need to be approved by parliament — would allow the federal government to overrule provincial governments trying to block the creation of “...works and undertakings connecting the provinces, or extending beyond the limits of the province.”
According to Bernier’s speech, this would include pipelines.
Section 92-10-c — if approved by parliament — would allow the federal government to declare that building pipelines is in the best interest of Canadians and allow the federal government to push them through.
“When you pass that legislation, the federal government will have the full authority, the full responsibility, the full jurisdiction to approve pipelines in this country,” said Bernier.
Section 92-10 has been used throughout Canada’s history but hasn’t been enacted since 1993, and prior to that, wasn’t used since 1961.
The party’s website currently states that under the influence of “radical climate activists and radical left-wing foundations,” the current federal government has done everything it can to stifle the oil industry. The party states it would repeal bills C-69 and C-48 and would find a private purchaser to complete the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Bernier said he feels for Albertans because the federal government is interfering in their provincial business.
“We don't believe in a federal government that will interfere in provincial jurisdictions, because we believe in our Constitution and our country,” Bernier said.
The leader of the People’s Party also said he was against Alberta separating from Canada. Being from Quebec, he said, he understood the seperatist movement.
According to a February 2019 poll from the Angus Reid Institute, 50 per-cent of Albertan respondents believe that there is a real possibility that Alberta could separate. This, Bernier said, is partially why his platform is focusing on the prosperity and unity of Canada.
He also said he wants to scale-back the federal equalization program, in which the government provides money to “have not” provinces.
The goal of this program is to allow those “have not” provincial governments to provide their citizens with public services that are considerably equal to the services of other provinces. Formal equalization was first enacted in 1957 while the current program was entrenched into the constitution in 1982.
“That's not a cheque from the Albertan government to Quebec, it's a cheque from the Albertan people to the federal government by their taxes,” Bernier explained.
He doesn’t support the equalization program as it currently functions because, he said, it only serves to keep provinces dependent on equalization funds.
Immigration and Multiculturalism
Bernier said he would like to cut immigration in half. In 2018, the federal government accepted just over 300,000 immigrants to Canada but Bernier said he would reduce this number to 150,000 immigrants per year.
Indigenous people and newcomers from around the world helped to build Canada as we now know it, Bernier said. Despite this, he said his party would repeal the Canadian Multiculturalism Act:
“We don't need the government in Ottawa to tell us who we are,” Bernier explained.
The Multiculturalism Act was enacted in 1988 by the Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brain Mulroney.
Bernier stood behind his party platform that climate change is not made worse by human activities.
When presented with statistics that, according to NASA, 97 per cent of climate scientists believe human activity is accelerating climate change, Bernier acknowledged that the climate is changing but believes humans are not the primary driver of this change. Climate change, he said, is not an urgent issue.
“I don’t agree that it’s an emergency,” said Bernier.
His party platform says the PPC would abolish the carbon tax if elected as well as pull out of the Paris Accord.
“Withdraw from the Paris Accord and abandon unrealistic greenhouse gas emission reduction targets,” states the PPC website.
“Stop sending billions of dollars to developing countries to help them reduce their emissions.”
But despite Bernier’s insistence, his views do not match with the overwhelming number of climate scientists. For example, The Winnipeg-based Climate Atlas of Canada states that the earth is warming because of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
“Our planet's climate is influenced by many natural factors, including the Earth's tilt, its orbit around the sun, large volcanic eruptions, and changing ocean currents,” their website says.
“Because we know a lot about how these forces work, we also know that none of them explain the sudden, recent warming of the globe.
Earlier this year, the Globe and Mail were given access to far-right extremist chat rooms. They analyzed 150,000 private messages and published an article in April about what they found.
The people in these chat rooms, they found, were extremely supportive of Bernier. They rallied around him during the conservative leadership race and later supported his new party.
Bernier called attempts to link him with white supremacists, “sad.”
“It is sad, because it's based on nothing, and I'm not here to justify that and that and I won’t do it,” Bernier said when asked what he thought about having the support of this group of people.
“I want people who support us for ideas. And, and these people, if they read our platform, they don't have any, they don't have any reason to support us. Because we're not like that.”
Since Bernier’s Calgary visit he has continued his campaign across Canada — his stop in Hamilton was met with protests that turned violent.
According to an article from CBC two people from each side — four people total — were arrested for breach of peace. The police say more arrests may follow as they continue to review footage of the protests.
Editor's note, The Calgary Journal has reached out to the Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green Parties to offer them an interview as well, at the time of publication no interviews have been set up.
- By Chelsey Mutter