Bernier's party would 'do nothing' on climate change, no longer wants free trade with China
OTTAWA -- Maxime Bernier says that if the People's Party was to form government, he would "do nothing" on climate change, because he'd leave it up to each of the provinces and territories to determine their own plan.
"My party will do nothing on climate change because environment, it's a shared jurisdiction, and provinces, they have programs for that, and so I'll let provinces decide what they're going to do to fight climate change," Bernier said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.
Bernier, who opposes the Paris Accord, the United Nations framework that is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, acknowledged that climate change exists.
Though, at the federal level he wouldn’t implement a carbon tax or any policies aimed at curbing global warming.
Instead he said that if provinces have a plan already in place, he’s happy to let them carry on with it, though if a province doesn't want to take any further steps towards improving its approach to the environment, he's fine with that as well.
"It's a shared jurisdiction with provinces, and like right now some provinces want to do something… and other provinces, they don't want to do anything about that," Bernier said.
A handful of provinces have balked at the federal government's climate change plan, which includes imposing a carbon tax in provinces that hadn't put in place plans that meet the Liberals' criteria.
Quebec, Alberta and B.C. already have carbon taxes or cap-and-trade programs in effect; Nova Scotia’s came into effect on Jan. 1; and, the plans in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador will reduce enough emissions on their own to satisfy the federal government.
In the case of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick, the federal carbon tax will be imposed, as it will on the three territories, though that imposition is at their request and with some modifications.
These measures are being taken with the aim of Canada doing its part to help keep the world from warming up past 2 degrees Celsius. This is a target the federal government has repeatedly stated it'll meet, even though studies have warned that it may not be enough to curb the effects of climate change.
No longer keen on trade with China
Bernier also said that he is no longer keen on the idea of Canada pursuing a free trade deal with China.
During the Conservative leadership race, Bernier championed the idea, but following the recent developments -- including Canadians being detained in China, an exchange of travel warnings, and accusations and threats flung at Canada by various Chinese officials -- he's changed his mind.
"I changed my idea on that with everything that is happening recently. I think it is not important to have the free trade agreement with China. It is not a priority and I’m not for that right now and I don't see future free trade with China," Bernier said.
He also took aim at comments that China's Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye has made, both this week during a rare briefing with reporters, and in an op-ed earlier this month, where he alleged that "white supremacy" is at play in Canada's demand that two citizens detained in China be released.
"It's not true that we are white supremacists in Canada. It's very crazy to say that," Bernier said.
"Up to now I think the Trudeau government did the right thing... but when the ambassador is insulting us, I think we must respond to that."
Open to candidates, personal views aside
With the registration of his first byelection candidate, the People’s Party is officially recognized by Elections Canada as a federal party. With that comes the ability for donors to receive a tax credit for their contribution to the party.
In an email to supporters on Friday, Bernier called it a "historic day," and encouraged donors to chip in.
"Let's show everyone that we are now a serious contender, with the resources to win," the email said.
He has vowed to run a candidate in all 338 ridings in 2019, but already one of the party’s picks has come under scrutiny for her past comments on gender identity.
Burnaby South candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson is a former talk-show host who has in the past been outspoken about her opposition to B.C. schools talking to students about the concept of gender fluidity.
Bernier has defended her publically, and in Sunday’s interview said that he is "very proud" of her being a candidate, and that she has a right to her personal beliefs.
He said that it's a provincial matter and that transgender rights or same sex marriage would not be a topic on the agenda of his party.
"The most important is that she agrees with our party, with our platform, with our bold reform that we want to do… She agrees with that and she will fight for that if she's elected. That’s what’s most important," Bernier said.
Sign up for our political newsletter