Your free speech is safe with me.
That’s the message Maxime Bernier delivered to supporters when the People’s Party of Canada leader made a campaign stop in Sarnia last week.
“For us, it’s so important to have free speech in this country… I don’t have the obligation to please you when I’m telling you what I believe in,” Bernier told about 100 people after taking the Sarnia Library Theatre stage with local PPC candidate Brian Everaert.
“Free speech, it is not hate speech. In a democracy and a real debate, you have to have that freedom.”
The enthusiastic crowd, which had to pass a handful of protestors outside to enter, listened intently to Bernier and Everaert during the two-hour session, hosted by the local PPC association.
Bernier defended the local candidate after CBC news reported Everaert had called Islam “the wart on the ass of the world” in a 2017 Facebook post.
Everaert told the CBC he was referring only to “radical Islam” and that he made the comment in response to the 2017 Westminster terror attack, in which four people were killed and 50 injured by a man driving a van in London, England.
“Some of our candidates can do some mistakes, but they are free to express their views, and that’s OK,” said Bernier, drawing some laughs from the crowd.
“We’re not perfect. The goal is to speak about what we believe with passion and conviction, and that’s the way we do politics.”
The businessman and former Conservative said immigration is treated as a taboo subject in this country when it needs to be discussed honestly.
He stressed the PPC is not opposed to immigration, but only when it is sustainable and suits the economic needs of Canada.
Bernier voiced strong support for pipelines, and briefly touched on climate change. Under a PPC government Canada would exit the Paris Climate Agreement and do nothing to reduce carbon emissions nationally, he said, leaving it to the provinces to make their own decisions.
A PPC government would also provide the money needed to build a residential detox centre for the Sarnia community, he said in response to a question.
Bernier made it clear he has no time for special interest groups, which he illustrated by recalling a Muslim-association debate he attended in Toronto. At that debate, Bernier was asked what he would do for the Muslim community.
”Nothing,” he repeated again in Sarnia. “I will do nothing for the Muslim community, I will do nothing for the Jewish community, I will do nothing for the Christian community, but I will do everything for you as Canadians.”
Bernier became the first and so far only party leader to visit Sarnia this election.