PPC leader Maxime Bernier urged supporters to use words to fight the culture war, accused the media of being afraid of truth based on facts, and blasted the federal Conservatives for following polls and trends instead of their convictions during a roughly two hour meet and greet in Prince Albert on Thursday.
Bernier arrived in the city as part of his Summer Leader’s Tour that saw him make stops in across Western Canada over the last two weeks.
The PPC leader said the goal was to grow the party, but on Thursday he said that wouldn’t involve backing down from positions just because they are unpopular. Instead, he said the party will work to convince Canadians that those unpopular views are the correct ones.
“I’m saying to people, ‘be engaged,’” Bernier said during an interview prior to Thursday’s event. “Work at the provincial level. Work at the municipal level. Be sure that you elect people who are fighting for our values. That’s the kind of culture war that we must do in this country. I’m saying to people, ‘we don’t need to be a huge majority to change things.’”
Federal conservative leadership hopeful Pierre Poilievre was a frequent target during Bernier’s speech, and also during the question and answer session that followed. The PPC leader said his former cabinet colleague is the front runner because he’s acting like a Conservative, but he questioned whether Poilievre would remain true to his principles when in leadership.
Instead, Bernier pointed to Jagmeet Singh and the NDP as the best party to emulate. Bernier called Singh “’the most powerful man in Ottawa”, and said the PPC can pull the Conservatives to the right like the NDP pulls the Liberals to the left, as long as they stay true to their principles.
“For us, if our ideas are not popular today, we don’t care,” Bernier told attendees. “We know that it’s not because an idea is popular that the idea is just and true, and the more you speak about your idea with passion and conviction, the more support you will have.”
On the policy front, Bernier said inflation and “wokism in schools” are the primary concern he’s hearing about on tour. He said lockdowns and out-of-control spending have driven prices above and beyond what regular Canadians can afford.
Bernier vowed that any future PPC MPs would work to balance the budget, and reduce out-of-control spending. That includes things like COVID-19 relief packages, which Bernier said wouldn’t have been necessary if travel wasn’t restricted and businesses were allowed to remain open.
The reduction would also include an end to any financial support for Ukraine as it fights off a Russian invasion. In 2022, the federal government promised more than $3.4 billion in support for Ukraine, including $626 million in military aid. Bernier said the conflict is not Canada’s fight and added that corruption in Ukraine makes it difficult to know whether the money is reaching its intended target.
“It’s using our foreign policy to buy votes in Canada because we have the biggest (number of) Canadians of Ukrainian origin—a million people—and by the way, they are almost all in the same ridings,” Bernier told attendees. “If you are telling them what they want to hear, they will vote for you and you have more chances to win these ridings.
“That war, we must not be there. It’s not our war. We are broke and we are giving money.”
When it comes to education policy, Bernier said the area is out of the government’s jurisdiction, but he promised to speak out against education policy he didn’t agree with, like support for youth under 18 transitioning from one gender to another.
“It’s kind of normal in this country that if you are a young boy you may be a young girl and you can transition before being 18 years old,” Bernier said during an interview. “The promotion of that in some schools, that’s not our values, and we must speak about that.”
The PPC has failed to get a candidate elected since its founding in 2018. Bernier said he’s not concerned about that, since the party grew from 1.6 per cent of the vote in 2019 to nearly 5 per cent in 2021. He’s confident they can make a similar jump when the next election is held.
Bernier said a big part of that will be growing the various PPC riding associations around Canada, and supporting the roughly 100 candidates who have already agreed to run. The other part he’s focused on is getting back into the leadership debate during the next election.