Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier makes his B.C. pitch

"I want a limited government because in the end I want more freedom and if we have more freedom, we have more prosperity."

Bernier is participating in a Conservative Party leadership debate in the Lower Mainland this weekend

Candidate Maxime Bernier addresses a Conservative Party leadership debate Monday, February 13, 2017 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

The candidates for the leadership of the federal Conservative party are coming to B.C. this weekend to make their pitch to British Columbians at two leadership debates.

The first takes place in Langley's Darvonda Nurseries at 1 p.m. PT on Feb. 18, and the second in Vancouver at the Vogue Theatre at 1 p.m. on Feb. 19.

Maxime Bernier, considered by some to the front-runner in the federal Conservative leadership race, will be attending the Langley debate and he told CBC's The Early Edition he'll be pushing his small government platform.

"I want to [see] a smaller government in Ottawa; a government that will respect the constitution, not interfering in provincial jurisdiction; a government that will respect taxpayers and Canadians," he said.

"I want a limited government because in the end I want more freedom and if we have more freedom, we have more prosperity."

Free speech the most important freedom

Recently, Bernier reversed his support for a transgender rights bill and criticized Motion M-103, an anti-islamophobia motion which has a stated objective of recognizing "the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear."

"For me, the most important freedom in the country is the freedom of speech, freedom of religion. I don't like the motion as it is right now," Bernier said.

"My question is why are we focusing on only one religion? Why are we not speaking about other religions?"

Bernier, however, seemed to be open to reversing the Conservative's traditional stance on supervised injection sites and supporting the Liberal's new approach.

The Harper government introduced Bill C-2 that made it more difficult to open the sites. The Trudeau government has introduced Bill C-37 to repeal those conditions. 

"Because of the data, because of the statistics, we must be open to review the position and that is what the Trudeau government wants to do," he said. "Our position was different when we were in government. We may have another look at that."

Broad support

According to some analysts, Bernier has the broadest and deepest donor base among the candidates for leadership although the impact of businessman Kevin O'Leary's late entrance into the contest is still unknown.

Bernier told host Rick Cluff he believed Conservatives wanted a candidate who was popular across the country, which he said he was.

"I will have — I hope — a lot of support in Quebec but outside of Quebec also. In Alberta, they call me the Albertan from Quebec and I'm very pleased with that."

The leadership vote takes place on May 27.

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Conservative Party leadership candidate Maxime Bernier makes his pitch