People’s Party of Canada (PPC) leader Maxime Bernier promised pipelines, changes to equalization and a true era of change during a Thursday evening town hall in Red Deer.
Speaking to a crowd of about 120 people at the Radisson hotel, within the Red Deer-Lacombe riding, during his week-long, cross-Alberta tour, he said his party will start a “real, common-sense revolution” using “bold reforms” to better the country.
Among changes would be an effort to address Alberta’s anger over its treatment by the federal government, primarily in the area of pipelines, such as the Trans Mountain expansion project.
“I know that you are mad because – they call me ‘Mad Max’ – I’m mad also. I’m looking at what’s happening in Ottawa – no one is ready to fight for pipelines, including my former friend Andrew Scheer,” he said. “You’re so mad, there’s now a ‘little’ independist movement, but we had, in 1968 in Quebec, a ‘little’ independist movement.”
Referring to the formation of the Parti Quebecois (PQ) and subsequent referendums to separate from Canada, Bernier said it was important for the unity, prosperity and future of the country to get pipelines built.
His solution would be to invoke clause 92(10) of the Canadian Constitution and impose pipelines on those who oppose them, whether they’re the Quebec government – who Bernier believes is out of line with the general Quebec population – or the B.C. government.
Similar to Alberta Senator Doug Black’s Bill S-245 that would have declared Trans Mountain in the general interest of the country, the declaratory power is a tactic that has been used over 400 times in the country’s history. Black’s bill passed with 78 per cent of senators voting in favour, however, it was defeated 197-86 in second reading in the House of Commons.
Bernier, however, says it’s the only way to get the pipeline built.
“It’s easy…The legislation will say this pipeline is in the national interest of our country. That’s it. When you do that, the federal government has the full authority, the full jurisdiction, the full responsibility to approve pipelines,” he said.
“B.C. and Quebec will try to fight it, they will take it to court, but they will won’t be able to stop it. That’s the only way.”
Another bold reform would be a change of the equalization formula.
Bernier said if a PPC government was elected, he’d schedule a cabinet meeting for 8 a.m., and have a new formula put together by noon that would be “fair for every province,” something he said his opponents wouldn’t touch because they were pandering for Quebec votes.
“We must be less generous. (Equalization) is a poverty trap,” he said, adding he didn’t understand why Quebec had received equalization payments for the last 45 years. “If we receive equalization money, it means we are a poor province, and no one likes that.
“We need to give the right incentive for other provinces to develop their natural resources, like you’re doing here.”
Bernier, who ran for CPC leadership and lost in the final round of voting to Andrew Scheer, left the party right before their policy convention last August and soon after officially formed the PPC, which he says now has 41,000 members.
He bills the party as a grassroots conservative movement, and did his best to distinguish the party from the CPC, mostly by taking shots at Scheer for turning the party into a “centrist” one, having no vision, and doing little more than pandering for votes.
Bernier also slammed Scheer for changing his plan to balance the budget from two years to five years.
“We will balance the budget in two years and I can say that to Andrew Scheer, and Justin Trudeau…I will show them when you have vision, when you have courage, you are able to balance the budget,” he said. “You can cut the CBC.”
Bernier pledged to cut foreign aid, stop corporate welfare, abolish CRTC and privatize Canada Post.
Changes would also come to the tax system. Those who make under $15,000 a year would not pay tax at all, while those making between $15,000-$100,000 would pay 15 per cent. Those making more would pay $25 per cent.
Absent from his speech, however, was any focus on rural crime or crime in general, which has been an issue targetted by current Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins.
When asked by the Lacombe Globe what his plans were to address the issue, he said he will reinstate the former Conservative government’s “tough on crime” measures.
“What Stephen Harper did to be tough on crime was great, and were the right policies, right legislation, but in 2015 when Trudeau came into power, he repealed our legislation for minimum sentence,” he said. “We’ll bring back those reforms.”
He added they’ll release platform policies with regards to the Canadian Forces and veterans in coming weeks.
Overall, he says he likes the support he has seen for his party so far, including during an PPC-led “oil and gas rally” earlier in the day, where there were about 40 supporters, as well as a stop at the Ponoka Legion, alongside Red Deer-Lacombe PPC candidate Laura-Lynn Thompson.
“Our platform is built on strong ideas without any compromise and I think that’s what people like. They like the authenticity of our campaign,” he said, add vote splitting isn’t something of concern.
“If you vote for us you won’t split the vote because you won’t be able to elect a Liberal candidate in Alberta,” he said. “Your choice is between us – a principled, common-sense party – and Andrew Scheer and his new centrist party.”
The federal election will be on Oct. 21, 2019.