Bernier faces a challenge keeping racists out of his new party, says Stockwell Day
'That's where Mr. Bernier may be vulnerable'
Quebec MP Maxime Bernier's new federal party, the People's Party of Canada, will have its work cut out ensuring anti-immigrant activists and racists don't infiltrate the candidate nomination system, former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day said today.
Bernier unveiled his party's name and its list of principles in Ottawa on Friday, and vowed to run a full slate of 338 candidates in the 2019 election.
"For too long, Canadian politics has been hijacked by interest groups, cartels, lobbies, international groups, corporate or union interests of politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa who are disconnected from ordinary citizens," he said.
"We don't believe that government intervention is a solution for everything. Government should not intervene to solve each and every problem on the road to a utopian and unrealistic vision of society. "
But Day said that Bernier — a staunch defender of free speech who has been calling for a reduction in Canada's immigration intake — will have his work cut out ensuring his new party doesn't attract the "wrong type of people."
"What you have to screen is your candidates," Day told CBC Edmonton Friday. "And the federal Conservatives have a pretty good process in place to do that ... you're not going to be able to run if you have racist views.
"But with a new party, there's often a scramble in every riding before the election and that's where Mr Bernier may be vulnerable in terms of who gets inside the candidate system."
Last month, Bernier — who finished a close second to Andrew Scheer in the Conservatives' last leadership contest — announced he was leaving the "intellectually and morally corrupt" Conservative Party to start his own movement.
Prior to his exit, Bernier made waves with tweets about Canada's "extreme multiculturalism," warning that "the cult of diversity will divide us into little tribes that have less and less in common, apart from their dependence on government in Ottawa."
Speaking later Friday to CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Bernier continued on that train of thought. He said he would like to have a wider debate about immigration and consider possible changes to the system, such as cutting the number of family reunifications in favour of increasing economic immigration.
He also said he would like to lower the total number of immigrants that come to Canada every year.
"Let's open the debate," he said. "Immigration has been good for this country but I don't want Canadians to be against immigration. I want to make sure that people who are coming here, they are coming for the right reason."
Keeping racists at bay
But when asked during his press conference about potential supporters who want to limit immigration for xenophobic reasons, Bernier said "they have no place in our party."
Speaking later on Power & Politics he expanded on that answer, saying that his platform is about freedom, responsibility, fairness and respect and that all his policies will be based on those principles.
"Extreme people who are against immigration, they're not welcome in this party. And it's clear. I will have the privilege to choose the candidates that will run for this party and we'll choose people who share the values of our party," he told host Vassy Kapelos.
Bernier, who now sits in the House of Commons as an independent, said it will still take time to register the party with Elections Canada, but he has raised $140,000 so far.
He added he is respecting Elections Canada's rules, including maximum limits on donations, even though he can't hand out tax receipts yet.
A key plank of Bernier's platform is ending supply management in the agricultural sector. He argues that giving up supply management would "be good for Canadian consumers," who he said are paying too much now for dairy, poultry and eggs because of Canada's system of production control.
Bernier said he would put supply management on the table in the NAFTA negotiations in order to keep chapter 19 — the dispute resolution mechanism that allows companies to seek recourse for unfairly levied tariffs — and the cultural exemption.
"What I'm reading right now there are only three files on the table: chapter 19, cultural exception and supply management. It's easy give (away) supply management and try to keep the two others."
As part of his announcement Friday, Bernier announced some of the PPC's guiding principles, including:
- Advocating for smaller government.
- Respecting the taxpayers.
- Upholding the Constitution.
- Denouncing programs that prevent competitiveness.
Scheer, meanwhile, said the former cabinet minister was more occupied with advancing his own profile than the needs of the party.
Scheer and Bernier will meet again when the House of Commons resumes on Monday after the summer break.