Maxime Bernier wants to win the Canadian Trump vote.
In a speech on Saturday at a conference hosted by the right-wing Rebel Media in Calgary, the leader of the new People’s Party of Canada questioned the science of climate change, pilloried the United Nations and insisted immigrants to Canada must embrace “Western civilization values.”
His language was not as extreme as Donald Trump’s – this is Canada, after all – but he made it perfectly clear, at least to this listener, that the implicit motto of the People’s Party is: Canada First. For however many believe that the Canadian economy and social fabric are being undermined by environmentalists, do-gooders and immigrants, Mr. Bernier promises he will be their voice.
The party, which the Beauce, Que., MP founded in September after deciding Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives had become too centrist, is making good progress. Its leader has laid to rest accusations that he lacked the discipline or public support to craft a working political party with national reach. Mr. Bernier claims to already have signed up 33,000 supporters with PPC riding associations organizing across the country.
In some ways, Mr. Bernier is simply a Conservative in a hurry, with his proposals to lower taxes, eliminate corporate subsidies, deregulate the telecom sector, cut funding to the CBC and privatize Canada Post.
But in front of a friendly crowd, his vision grows darker.
First, he pledged, “I am the only politician in Ottawa who promises to take Canada out of the Paris accord” to fight global warming. He acknowledges that most scientists believe human activity is responsible for climate change, but "there are also scientists saying other factors, like the sun, have more impact.” Regardless, “we are not going to destroy our economy on that subject.” Climate-change deniers will feel very much at home in the People’s Party.
Second, Mr. Bernier is committed to “abolishing foreign aid and saving the $5-billion that we spend every year to help Canadians instead.” Canada under the People’s Party would have “a foreign policy that focuses on security and prosperity of Canadians, not on pleasing a dysfunctional United Nations.” Even Mr. Trump hasn’t proposed completely eliminating foreign aid, although he would doubtless warm to the idea if he thought he could get away with it.
Third, and darkest, “our immigration policy should not aim to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of our country,” he told the audience. Immigration levels should be reduced, and immigrants must “adopt widely shared Canadian values, Western civilization values,” he maintained.
“On issues such as immigration, multiculturalism, diversity, [the Conservatives] are simply not willing to push back against the dominant left-wing narrative,” Mr. Bernier declared, “and they are afraid to create controversies. I’m not afraid.”
The day before, at a party rally in Calgary, Mr. Bernier was asked how he would stem the tide of migrants crossing the Quebec border illegally. He replied, that if he were prime minister, “it will be easier for me and for us to sit with Donald Trump to have a discussion about that.” That’s probably true.
And if there were any doubt about the buttons Mr. Bernier intends to push in the months ahead, on Sunday, he tweeted a video of crowds in Pakistan protesting the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian who had been convicted of blasphemy. “Radical multiculturalism is the misguided belief that all values and cultures can coexist in one society,” he tweeted. “They cannot. We must protect our society against this kind of barbarism.”
No credible voice in this country seeks to undermine the values and beliefs embedded in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in the fabric of Canadian society. Immigrants and refugees come here in search of a future protected by those values and beliefs. Mr. Bernier is simply stoking irrational fears of a threat that does not exist. It is pure Trumpism.
Not everything Mr. Bernier advocates would please the President. The People’s Party Leader is, for one thing, an ardent free-trader.
But in his attacks on multicultural diversity and tolerance, he echoes – in a typically attenuated, Canadian way – Mr. Trump’s rhetoric; he stokes the anger Mr. Trump seeks to stoke.
In terms of splitting the vote, Mr. Bernier’s insurrection may be a problem for the Conservative Party. But in terms of what he believes and who he represents, they’re well rid of him.