People's Party under Bernier to champion more privatized healthcare, unity over diversity
OTTAWA – The People’s Party of Canada under the shepherding of Maxime Bernier will champion more privatized health care in Canada because, in his view, current wait times are unfair.
In his first sit-down interview on Question Period since taking on the new endeavour, Bernier told host Evan Solomon that if his current party-of-one forms government, he will follow through on a longstanding promise: ending the health transfers from the federal government to the provinces and territories. He also spoke more about his thoughts on diversity.
“I want to stop federal transfers in health care; it’s a provincial jurisdiction. So we want to lower our taxes at the federal level, and let the provinces tax for their own responsibility,” Bernier said, though he added that the equalization formula would stay.
In a follow-up exchange with CTVNews.ca Bernier clarified that he wants to leave it up to the provinces to “be more accountable and experiment more instead of blaming the lack of money from Ottawa for their failure.”
He said that while he doesn’t intend to tinker with the Canada Health Act, he sees room for allowing more privatized health care in Canada.
“If you read the legislation pretty well, you see that you can have private delivery health care in Canada. So what I want, I just want a better system for Canadians,” Bernier said. “If you look at other countries, they are having a mixed system and it’s a better system than us.”
Bernier said his objective is not making it so that wealthy people are able to access health services that others cannot. Rather, he cited the current wait times in Canada as a motivating factor.
“I don’t want people to wait for when they need services, health care services. I don’t want them to wait too long, and they’re waiting too long right now,” Bernier said.
According to a 2017 Fraser Institute report, medically necessary treatment wait times have increased since the year before, as have wait times to see a general practitioner.
In the follow up with CTVNews.ca he also elaborated on his ideas for a healthcare system that includes more privatization.
He disputed that this would equate to a “two-tier” system, rather he said it would be a “a universal system with public funding coupled with private delivery of services. You go to a private hospital but the government pays for it.”
He said the term two-tier is a “loaded buzzword” that implies the rich get better access, which he stated in the interview with Question Period that he is against.
While the term is considered politicized by some, generally it refers to a mixed system of public and private service.
This is one of a slate of policies Bernier is championing as part of the new federal party he unveiled on Friday. “I’m running on four principles: individual freedom; personal responsibility; fairness; and also respect,” Bernier said.
Unity over diversity
Another key issue for the People’s Party will be promoting unity over diversity.
Prior to disaffecting from the federal Conservatives, Bernier faced criticism over a series of tweets in which he said “more diversity” will “destroy” what makes Canada great. He then said that more diversity will "divide us into little tribes" and bring "distrust, social conflict, and potentially violence."
In the Question Period interview airing Sunday, Bernier tried to further explain his position. He said that while this country has been built with the help of immigrants, and that our diversity is “a strength of our country,” perhaps it’s time to focus more on what unites Canadians.
“Instead of always promoting the diversity in our country, why not promote what unites us. That’s the most important.”
Bernier also wants to have a national conversation about Canada’s current immigration ratio. He said that he is against “mass immigration” and suggested possibly bringing in more economic immigrants.
“Maybe we can question the ratio that we have in this country right now. We have economic immigrants, we have the reunification of family, and we have the refugees… I want to have a discussion about that,” he said.
Bernier denied that this view will attract racist or xenophobic supporters, saying that he doesn’t want people who have those values in his party.
Eyeing disaffected voters
Bernier said that in addition to pulling in party faithful from the main three political parties, his party will make a deliberate effort to reach out to the 31.7 per cent of eligible voters that did not cast a ballot in the 2015 federal election.
“There’s 30 per cent, 30 per cent of Canadians that didn’t vote at the last election, so why didn’t they vote? Because they don’t believe in politicians anymore. They don’t believe in a politician who's saying something one day and saying the opposite the other day,” Bernier said.
Bernier said he is confident that he will be able to run candidates across the country, citing his current levels of support and money raised so far, said that come January the party could be in a very different position.
“We are doing politics differently. We aren’t trying to please every special interest group, we are speaking for Canadians, and we have policies that we think are the best for the prosperity for this country… so we can attract a lot of people under our umbrella,” he said.
Bernier also had a message to his detractors, including his former Conservative colleagues who questioned his work ethic.
“Why are they so afraid? If I’m lazy, this party won’t be a success if I’m lazy.”