People's Party won't touch social issues but candidates can express opinions, Bernier says
The party picked a controversial candidate for the Burnaby South byelection
Maxime Bernier says his People's Party of Canada won't touch hot-button social issues such as abortion, transgender rights or gay marriage in its platform, but candidates can express their own opinions on those matters.
On Monday, the PPC tweeted that Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson — an ardent abortion foe and former talk show host — will be the party's candidate in the Burnaby South byelection.
Earlier this year, Thompson ran for a trustee position on Burnaby's school board on a platform opposing British Columbia's sexual orientation and gender identity policy, known as SOGI.
Thompson has spoken out against SOGI and what she claims is a "trans agenda" on her YouTube channel and at rallies, although she wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the party is for "all people."
"I love this land as you can be gay, lesbian, trans, pansexual, polyamorous, heterosexual or any of the many genders that some identify," she wrote.
Bernier said his candidate is entitled to her own beliefs and opinions.
"She has the right of her own religious beliefs and that's OK, we're in a free country," Bernier told CBC News Network's Power & Politics.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/MaximeBernier?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MaximeBernier</a> says social issues will not be part of the PPC platform. Says his candidates have a right to have their own opinion, but they must sign a pledge to fight for the party's platform to be adopted. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/JNmYnVFyuJ">pic.twitter.com/JNmYnVFyuJ</a>—@PnPCBC
Thompson's opposition to SOGI was a provincial matter that has no bearing on federal politics, Bernier said, adding that the People's Party does not and will not include such social issues in its platform.
"We ask our candidates to sign a pledge that they will fight for our platform to be adopted. So that's important and she believes in our platform," he told host Vassy Kapelos.
Conservatives not reopening debates
Bernier's former party is also signalling it intends to steer clear of controversial social topics like abortion or same-sex marriage.
Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has said that he would not reopen debates on those topics, despite his personal Catholic beliefs.
"I have made it very clear. I will not reopen these types of divisive social issues," Scheer told CBC Radio's The House in the lead-up to the party's policy convention in August.
A slim majority of delegates at that convention voted against a resolution that would have struck from the party's policy book a pledge that a Conservative government would not support any legislation to regulate abortion.
On Monday, Thompson took to Facebook to announce her nomination, and admitted that she tried to run for the Conservatives but was turned down twice.
Bernier, she wrote, "bravely declared the death of political correctness. He opened the door for conversations, healthy debate and holding fast to what is really Canadian ... freedom!"
When some of her 6,333 Facebook followers questioned Bernier's voting record on social conservative issues, Thompson argued that the former Conservative cabinet minister — who narrowly lost a race to replace Stephen Harper as Conservative leader to Scheer — at least allows members to talk about controversial topics like abortion, while Scheer shuts them down.
"The People's Party of Canada believes that this should be open for debate in a democratic society," she tweeted.
Thompson will be facing off for the Burnaby-South seat against NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Liberal Karen Wang and Conservative Jay Shin. The Green Party has said it won't run a candidate.
Bernier launched his People's Party of Canada last September, presenting it as a repudiation of the "morally and intellectually corrupt" Conservative Party of Canada he had sought to lead. He has said his goal is to run candidates in all 338 federal ridings.
No trade with China
While he has favoured a free trade deal with China in the past, Bernier said he has changed his position in light of recent events.
Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were taken separately into Chinese custody on alleged national security grounds in December, after Canada arrested Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an extradition request from the U.S.
"I think we must take a step back and just [have] more diplomatic relations with China and being sure they understand we are a rule-of-law country," he told CBC News Network's Power & Politics.
He went on to say that he supports the way the government has handled the current dispute with China.
Watch the full interview with Maxime Bernier