Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), was in Smithers Wednesday (July 21) drumming up support for what he expects will be an early federal election call next month or early in the fall.
Bernier, along with Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidate Jody Craven conducted a series of private events including a tour of a construction site on Third Avenue, a lunch at Alpenhorn Bistro and Bar, a tour of the Pacific Inland Resources (PIR) sawmill and a meet and greet at Nielsen’s Gallery and Framing.
The Interior News caught up with Bernier at PIR where he expressed optimism support for his party is growing in light of government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions and believes PPC candidates will be elected in the next election.
“People are tired with the lockdowns and the loss of our freedoms,” he said. “Right now in B.C… this summer, I think you still have your freedoms, but I was in Ontario and I was in Manitoba and over there they had draconian lockdowns and the people here don’t want that to happen this fall. Maybe we regain some of our freedoms this summer, but we don’t want that again.”
He doesn’t believe the measures implemented to date are a solution.
“That’s the first time in history that we are doing lockdowns to kill a virus,” he said. “There’s other ways to protect older people because they’re the ones that are most vulnerable, but not shutting down the economy.”
Bernier noted one of the most prevalent issues he has found in Northwest B.C. and Smithers during what has been dubbed the “Mad Max B.C. Summer Freedom Tour” was businesses not being able to find workers.
“With all these lockdowns the federal government decided to give money that we don’t have to Canadians and provinces and now a lot of our fellow citizens are staying at home, but we are paying for that right now with the inflation,” he said.
With Canada’s aging population and low birth rate, one of the primary solutions to worker shortages is immigration. While the PPC’s immigration policy is the strictest among all the national parties, Bernier said it is better suited to solving the problem than the other parties’.
“The Liberal government wants to have 450,000 newcomers every year, but the huge majority of these people are not skilled workers,” he said. “[They come] under the reunification of families or refugees. So, yes, for us, we want fewer immigrants between 100,000 and 150,000. We want to go back to the average we had under the Harper government, but we want maybe 80 per cent of them to be skilled immigrants, a person that will come here that will have a job and it will be easier for that person to integrate into our society and we want to be sure that all immigrants will have an interview and we want to be sure they share our Canadian values; I think it’s important.”
Bernier said he is committed to bold economic reforms that will promote national prosperity and Canadian unity.
“Our goal is to have a voice in Ottawa,” he said. “I won’t be prime minister tomorrow, I’m realistic about that… but I think some of our candidates will be elected, but the most important is to have the debate on real important issues like the equalization formula, it’s unfair to you here in western Canada. We need to be less generous and we need to have a new formula that will be fair for every province and we are the only party that is thinking about that.”
In an earlier public pre-campaign stop in Terrace on Tuesday (July 20) at the Highway of Tears memorial totem pole west of Kitsumkalum on Hwy 16 attended by residential school survivors Thomas Samuel and Louis Roger Bernier addressed his party’s policy on Indigenous relations.
After a brief ceremony led by Samuel, Bernier told reporters Indigenous issues are part of his election platform, and promised reforms to Canada-Indigenous relations that would be based on respecting Indigenous people and culture.
“When people are speaking about systemic racism in this country, I don’t believe in that, but the only racist act that we have in Canada is the Indian Act, it’s based on race, we must abolish that,” he said.
“We must have a kind of property rights on reserve, that would bring more prosperity, so we want to do bold reforms and that’s very important.”
Finally, Bernier expressed confidence in Craven as the local candidate.
“I’m very pleased that he’s back with us,” Bernier said. “He told me he’s having a better team right now with more people that are coming on board to help him and I’m very pleased with that. So, I had the chance to meet them and they will help us and we’ll have more support here to be able to do better than what we did last time.”
In the 2019 federal election Craven finished sixth out of eight candidates with 929 votes, approximately 400 ballots behind the Christian Heritage Party’s (CHP) Rod Taylor.
Along with Craven, Taylor has been nominated as the CHP candidate for a possible election.
The NDP has also chosen its candidate, not surprisingly sitting MP Taylor Bachrach who was elected in the 44th general election by a margin of 3,000 votes over Conservative challenger Claire Rattée.
Most recently, Adeana Young was nominated to represent the Green Party.
The Liberals and Conservatives have yet to announce their nominees.
– With files from Ben Bogstie