“Kevin O’Leary is saying ‘I will be able to beat Justin Trudeau’, but it could be tough for him to have the support of Quebecers — he can’t understand them and he can’t speak to them,” Conservative Party leadership candidate Maxime Bernier said amid laughter in a full room in Macdonald Hall on Monday.
The Queen’s University Conservative Association (QUCA) hosted Maxime Bernier for the final installment of their speaker series, and announced to the crowd that they had elected to endorse him as their candidate for Conservative leadership.
President of QUCA Abby Chaudhry, ArtSci ’17, explained that QUCA endorses Bernier for his comprehensive platform, which takes “strong principle stances on supply management and simplifying the tax code.”
Bernier, a Quebec native, served as the Minister of Industry, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Bernier explained to the crowd that his platform is based on four key principles: individual freedom, personal responsibility, respect and fairness.
One of Bernier’s main focuses is the abolishment of supply management, or what he called a “legal cartel”, which has doubled the price of most food products in Canada.
According to Bernier, the current government has been fixing the prices and production of these goods on the Canadian market, and has imposed a hefty tariff at the border, which he wishes to abolish.
Free market values are at the heart of Bernier’s platform, and he says that the current system of supply management immediately contradicts these values.
“If you want to manage the economy, you’d be a communist country. I won’t do that, I will respect the free market,” Bernier said.
Bernier also described his plans to reform the current tax system, imposing two income tax rates for citizens instead of five.
Under his proposed reform, those earning between $15,000 and $100,000 per year will be taxed at 15 per cent, and those earning above $100,000 will be taxed at 25 per cent.
Bernier also promised to increase the personal exemption threshold, meaning that those earning under $15,000 won’t pay any income tax.
“My tax reform will be good for the rich, it will be good for the middle class, but it will be good also for the poor,” Bernier said.
Another practice that Bernier wishes to abolish is corporate welfare, as he believes that when the government gives corporations large amounts of money, it’s put towards paying expensive executive salaries and benefits, which is unfair to the taxpayers.
Bernier also criticized the lack of economic growth under the Trudeau government and attributed it to a reliance on spending to stimulate the economy, where they should instead be encouraging investment from the private sector to do so.
“When the government is spending money we don’t have, it is not a stimulant for the economy, it is a sedative for the economy,” Bernier said.
Privatization of Canada Post and a reform of the CBC will also be on Bernier’s agenda, should he be elected. Bernier said he wants the CBC to “raise more money from their viewers” while still focusing on their mandate, though he didn’t say specifically how he plans to accomplish this.
When asked about his stance on climate change, Bernier said he supports carbon tax implementation on the provincial level, but he won’t impose a federal carbon tax. In place of this tax, Bernier will focus on giving incentive to entrepreneurs to develop new environmentally friendly technologies.
In response to a question about freedom of religion, Bernier explained that he won’t specifically “do anything” for Christian Canadians, Jewish Canadians, or Muslim Canadians, because he’s “working for all Canadians, of all faiths.”
This response ties into Bernier’s belief, which he asserted several times throughout his speech, that individual liberties and freedoms are of the utmost importance to Canadians.
“As Conservatives we have faith in people. We have faith that you have the ability and the right to make your own decisions, and you’re responsible for your actions,” Bernier said.
Finally, Bernier noted the importance of his Quebecois heritage in appealing to francophone voters. “I’m speaking about our platform in French in Quebec, and people like it.”
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