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Speech - Choosing the Principled Alternative

Maxime Bernier, Leader of the People’s Party of Canada
The Rebel Live Conference
Calgary, October 10, 2018

You probably know that one of my nicknames, apart from “Mad Max,” is “the Albertan from Quebec.” So it’s always a pleasure to be back here in Calgary, to reconnect with my Alberta roots!

And it’s even more of a pleasure to be in a room full of true Alberta conservatives. That’s like being in conservative heaven!

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding here: I’m talking of course about a… small-c conservative heaven!

I hear that the leader of the big-c Conservatives, Andrew Scheer, has declined Ezra’s invitation to address this room.

And as you all know, at the Conservative convention in Halifax in August, the Rebel’s journalists were banned. Not respectable enough.

Which means that you too in this room, attending this Rebel conference, are considered not respectable by the Conservative leadership.

That should tell you something. Is the Conservative Party of Canada still a true small-c conservative party?

You know my answer to this. It’s NO. That’s why I resigned in August and created a new party.

I’m fairly certain that some of you in this room are not happy about my departure from the Conservative Party.

Perhaps you believe I should have stayed and pushed for my ideas within the party. That we should have remained united to beat the Trudeau Liberals next year.

I tried to do this for more than a year, without success. And it was my plan to continue until just a few days before my resignation.

When my tweets about radical multiculturalism created a storm in early August, I thought I was expressing what almost all conservatives believe in.

We must start pushing back against this politically correct nonsense that’s destroying our society and culture. But the reaction from my Conservative colleagues was universally negative.

And then, in a phone conservation, Andrew Scheer told me I did not represent the party and my ideas were not welcome. He repeated the same line publicly. And I was told to either shut up and toe the party line, or leave.

This should not have surprised anyone. Andrew plays the same game of pandering as Trudeau.

Are you following him on Twitter or Facebook? Every second day, he wishes happy independence day, or happy whatever holiday, to Canadians who immigrated here from this or that country. He seems to be running not for Prime Minister, but for Secretary General of the UN.

This is the Trudeau way of doing politics. Focus on what divides us instead of appealing to our common identity and treating us as Canadians first and foremost. That’s not the conservative way.

So, what should I have done? There comes a time when you have to choose. Choose to play along in a losing game. Or choose to be true to yourself, true to your principles, and loyal toward all the people who support you.

I chose the principled alternative. And I hope to convince you to do the same.

I’m pretty sure nobody here needs convincing that the Trudeau Liberals must go. Ezra and his team do a fantastic job of exposing Trudeau’s disastrous policies.

The only important debate from a true conservative perspective is: Who is best positioned to replace him? We have less than one year to decide this.

Andrew Scheer is NOT that person. For a whole series of reasons that now differentiate the old Conservative Party from the People’s Party.

Exhibit 1: Pandering to interest groups

Let’s talk about supply management. I know, you’re fed up with this issue! But it cannot be avoided.

That’s the socialist system put in place by Pierre Trudeau in the 1970s that protects 13,000 millionaire farmers. It forces Canadian families to pay hundreds of dollars more every year for poultry, eggs, and dairy products.

It’s a cartel that is legally allowed to fix prices. It’s the opposite of the free market.

There is absolutely no reason for a conservative party to support such a system. Apart from the fact that in a few rural ridings, mostly in Quebec and Ontario, the supply management vote can have an influence on the results.

It’s not the economic issue itself that is so important. It’s important because it’s a litmus test.

If you cannot resist pressure from the supply management cartel, how will you be able to resist pressure from all the other powerful interest groups? Those that demand subsidies, tariffs, protection from competition, legal privilege, and various other special goodies from government, at the expense of 37 million Canadians? You won’t be able.

I have been absolutely clear on this: The People’s Party will propose policies that are good for ALL Canadians. It will resist pressure from interest groups. I know this can cost votes. But how can we restore a true democracy if nobody is willing to take this risk?

Andrew wants to keep playing that game. That’s why I called the Conservative Party “too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.” The People’s Party is the principled alternative.

Exhibit 2: Immigration

We all agree that we are a country built on immigration. But mass immigration is causing a backlash everywhere.

What we need is a policy of sustainable immigration to fulfill Canada’s economic needs.

Our immigration policy should not aim to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada, as radical proponents of multiculturalism want.

The vast majority of Canadians rightly expect immigrants to learn about our history and culture, master one of our official languages, and adopt widely shared Canadian values.

Under the Harper government, Canada welcomed on average 250,000 immigrants every year. Under the Liberals, that number is set to go up to 350,000, and perhaps even higher. Trudeau’s advisory council suggested we should go as high as 450,000 a year.

The more immigrants there are, the more difficult it will be to integrate them into our society, and the more social and cultural disruption it will bring.

49% of Canadians say they want fewer immigrants. I have been very clear I want to go back to the average of the Harper years. The Conservative Party under Andrew Scheer has not proposed any number. They want to do studies and decide later.

On issues such as immigration and multiculturalism, they are simply not willing to push back against the dominant left-wing narrative. They are afraid to create controversies.

I’m not afraid to tackle controversial issues. That’s why the People’s Party is the principled alternative.

Exhibit 3: Corporate welfare

Are you tired of paying taxes to bail out Bombardier, Chrysler and GM? And to fund superclusters, export development programs, technology adoption, and all kinds of other bureaucratic programs to support businesses?

Almost all economists agree that corporate welfare does not make our economy more productive. Either a company is well managed and profitable, and it does not need government help. Or it’s badly managed and unprofitable, and it should not get government help.

Abolishing corporate welfare should be one of the least controversial policies for a conservative party. It only serves to buy votes with taxpayers’ money.

I propose to abolish all corporate welfare programs, including regional development agencies. And lower taxes to all businesses instead.

Andrew Scheer never denounces corporate welfare. He has proposed instead to use these regional agencies more efficiently to buy votes, by naming a minister from the region for each one. On this issue again, the People’s Party is the principled alternative.

Exhibit 4: Climate change

The United Nations recently released another report announcing the end of the world within a few years unless we essentially shut down much of our economy.

I recognize that most scientists say that human activity is responsible for climate change. But there are also scientists saying other factors like the sun have more impact on climate change.

I’m not a scientist. I’m not going to decide who is right.

What I know is that we’re not going to destroy our economy. On the contrary, if global warming is to get worse, which is still uncertain, we must be richer so that we can better adapt to it. Only gradual technological change will allow us to transition to other sources of energy.

In any case, whatever we do here in Canada will have zero effect on global climate. The Liberal carbon tax is not only bad for our economy, it’s only hypocritical virtue-signalling.

Andrew Scheer is against the Liberals’ carbon tax. But the first thing he did after becoming leader last year was to whip his caucus to vote in favour of the Paris Accord on climate change. And he says he will soon have a plan to reach the Paris CO2 reduction targets.

The Paris Accord also commits Canada and other rich countries to transfer billions of dollars to poor countries to help them fight climate change. It’s a giant redistribution scheme.

I’m the only politician in Ottawa who promises to take Canada out of the Paris Accord. And who will not impose any new tax, regulation, or subsidies program on top of all those that exist to fight climate change.

Another proof that the People’s Party is the principled alternative.

Exhibit 5: Equalization

I know that’s one of your favourite topics! You’re fed up paying for this program only to see the billions of dollars go to other provinces. As a Quebecer, I can tell you I’m ashamed to live in a province that has been a beneficiary for half a century.

The equalization program is unfair for the provinces that never receive any money. And it’s unfair and inefficient for the recipient provinces because it is designed as a welfare trap that keeps them poorer.

It encourages them to keep taxes high and to intervene more in their economies. They don’t have as much incentive to make their economies more competitive because more private sector growth will lead to less equalization money.

Have you heard Andrew Scheer say something like this? No. And you won’t. He’s just too afraid to touch it. When the program’s formula was renewed without change this summer, I was the only politician in Ottawa who said anything.

I’m from Quebec, and I’m not afraid to open this debate. If this will not convince you that the People’s Party is the principled alternative, I don’t know what will.

There are many more issues where the People’s Party proposes solutions that challenge the status quo: 

  • Abolish foreign aid and save the $5 billion we spend every year to help Canadians instead; 
  • A foreign policy that focuses on the security and prosperity of Canadians – NOT on pleasing the dysfunctional United Nations; 
  • Get rid of boutique tax credits and lower personal taxes; 
  • Let provinces experiment with private delivery of health care within a publicly funded universal system, as European countries have done, so that we can eliminate long waiting lists; 
  • Privatize Canada Post;
  • Completely open the telecom and air travel sectors to foreign competition to get better services and lower prices. 

On these and many other issues, the Conservative Party has nothing specific to offer. 

Defending clear principles

On the masthead of my blog, there was for many years a sentence that summarizes my approach to politics: “If we want conservative principles to win the battle of ideas, we have to defend them openly, with passion and conviction.”

I have been defending the same small-government principles since I entered politics 12 years ago. The specific policies I proposed during the leadership campaign are the same ones that form the basis of the People’s Party platform.

With me, you know what you’re getting.

What about Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives? A year and a half after becoming leader, Scheer is still an unknown quantity. Most Canadians don’t know who he is and what he really stands for. The party has to run ads on TV to make sure Canadians have some idea of who he is. 

We know he’s against the carbon tax, against illegal migrants, and in favour of pipelines. That’s fine, we all agree with this. But what else?

The Conservative Party still has no platform for next year’s election. They keep saying they will unveil bits and pieces of it in the coming months.

Do you know why it’s not ready? It’s because they are still doing polls and focus groups, that’s why. It’s not about principles, it’s about pandering.

They’re trying to determine the types of promises to specific groups and voter segments that will bring them the most votes. And the buzzwords that will get the most positive reactions.

It’s all about election gimmicks. That’s how the Conservatives do politics. Just like the Liberals.

My approach is the exact opposite. I believe we must be out there, all the time, with the same straightforward ideas and policies. Before, during and after the elections.

That’s how more Canadians will get to understand them, agree with them, and support them.

That’s how we push back against political correctness. Against the predominant left-wing narrative that tries to portray our ideas as illegitimate.

Scheer will never be an effective salesman for conservative ideas.

Don’t take my word for it. Take his.

Last week, in a Toronto Sun interview, Scheer said that the Liberals have moved so far to the left that, and I quote: “We have an opportunity to say that we are a pragmatic centrist party with room for lots of different views on lots of different issues.”

Yep. Pragmatic. Centrist. Lots of different views. No principle. No coherent direction. Whatever you want, he will give it to you.

Does this sound like the true conservative solutions that you want to hear about? I don’t think so.

He certainly has a point. The NDP has become so far left that they’ve dropped out of the political spectrum. The Liberals are the new left. The Conservatives are moving to the center to replace them.

This means that the People’s Party is now the only party occupying the right. The People’s Party is the principled alternative.


I hope that by now, you are at least convinced that there are major differences between the Conservative Party and the People’s Party.

And that if you want to support a party that will defend true conservative principles, you have to vote for us.

There is another argument that many people are still raising: Only the Conservatives are strong enough to win. Voting for the People’s Party will split the vote and help Trudeau be re-elected.

Let’s look at the facts.

Despite Trudeau’s disastrous record, despite the India trip, the deficits bigger than promised, the attacks on small businesses, the carbon tax, the illegal migrants crisis, the various ethical scandals; despite all of this, the Liberals are still ahead in the polls. Scheer has been behind Trudeau in almost every poll over the past year and a half.

He’s no salesman for true conservative ideas. And he’s a weak salesman for pragmatic, centrist ideas. He’s simply not going to win.

While the Conservative Party is stagnating, the People’s Party is growing fast. We’re not in the 1980s and early 1990s anymore, before the Internet, when it took years and years for the Reform Party to get established. What took years then takes weeks today.

We’re going to have associations in every riding before the end of this year. Candidates in every riding will be chosen early next year. We will be ready.

A lot can happen within a year. Emmanuel Macron left the Socialist Party and founded a new one a year before he was elected president of France.

So, I’m telling you. You can have both: getting rid of Trudeau, and electing a true conservative party to replace Justin Trudeau next year.

Vote for your values and principles. Vote for what you believe in. AND vote strategically. Choose the principled alternative, the People’s Party.

Thank you.