Pierre Poilievre pulled no punches in a November interview with Black Press Media during his first visit to northwest B.C. since being elected to lead the Conservative Party of Canada. The fiery opposition leader promised a new approach to Indigenous reconciliation, reeling off criticisms of Liberal policies on economy, the toxic drug crisis and use of the Emergencies Act to quell Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa. Painting a bleak picture of Canada today, Poilievre thinks his solutions are a winning ticket for the next federal election.
“We have 40-year-high inflation right now, food prices are rising faster than at any time in my life. One in five Canadians are skipping meals because they can’t afford food. Thirty-five-year-olds are living in their parents’ basements because they can’t afford houses. We can’t get children’s medicines in our pharmacies even though they’re available in the United States. Violent crime is up 32 per cent.”
An energized Conservative base
The Skeena-Bulkley Valley Electoral District Association claimed a 400 per cent membership increase over the past year, reflecting a national trend attributed in part to the Conservative leadership race. Poilievre sees that momentum growing and fully expects to topple Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election.
“We’ve had massive increase in our membership. We now have 675,000 which makes us the biggest political party in Canadian history. Things are going very badly in this country right now after seven years of Trudeau and people are looking for a change, some common sense. So, I’m going to stop the money printing, control government spending in Ottawa and cancel the tripling of the carbon tax.
“I’m also going to remove the gatekeepers so that we can produce more energy, food and houses here. In other words, stop creating cash and start creating more of what cash buys.”
Accompanied on his northwest tour by BC Liberal MLA for Skeena Ellis Ross and Bob Zimmer, Conservative MP for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, Poilievre won’t say if he’ll endorse Ross to take on Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, next election.
“All I can say is we’ll have a strong candidate and we had a great candidate last time as well. We’re going to put in the effort, and earn the trust of the people of Skeena and I’m confident we can win here.”
Reconciliation and economic freedom
Just back from touring LNG Canada’s massive liquefied natural gas terminal now approaching completion in Kitimat, Poilievre lauded proposed Indigenous-led LNG projects that would directly benefit First Nations.
“We could end poverty in many of these communities if we had the liquefaction facilities to bring this resource to market. It would also increase demand for Canadian natural gas,” Poilievre said.
“I would speed up these projects in particular in ways that allow First Nations to benefit as co-owners, as employees and as the principal beneficiaries.”
Ross, a former Haisla chief councillor, visited Ottawa in October to lobby for Indigenous-led energy projects, like the Haisla Nation’s proposed Cedar LNG and Ksi Lisims LNG in which the Nisga’a Nation is a partner.
“We’ve been talking a lot about giving First Nations back control of their financial and governance decisions, giving more autonomy and less Ottawa control over the lives of First Nations and their communities,” Poilievre said. “We’ve also been talking about removing gatekeepers to build more natural resource projects that will supply jobs, revenues, social services and economic independence in First Nations and other communities.”
Poilievre offered a “bottom-up approach” to Indigenous reconciliation. He promised a break from the federal government’s “paternalistic top down approach” of deciding things for First Nations.
“We need to give First Nations more control over their land, money and decision making. We need to clear paths to allow First Nations communities to escape from the Indian Act where they so choose and to sign treaties.”
‘Weird, woke’ gender impact criteria
Poilievre wants to streamline the approval process for pipelines, natural gas and mining projects. Right now those decisions are being made very slowly, he argued, calling for fact-based decisions “not based on politics.”
“It takes seven or eight years to get a project decision from Ottawa. We need to make the system predictable.”
Offering choice words for some ‘woke’ environmental assessment criteria, Poilievre called to repeal them.
“Bill C-69 included all these weird woke provisions. They want proponents to write up an analysis on the gender impacts of a project. Well, projects are gender-neutral by nature. Anybody can work on them. There are men and women who equally work on them and so this requirement just creates uncertainty.
“Businesses don’t want to invest because they don’t know exactly what it is they’re being tested on… I would make the criteria simple and clear; protect the First Nations, protect the environment, get a clear decision.”
‘Failed experiments’ with ‘safe supply’
Poilievre believes ‘safe supply’ policies of prescribing opioids as an alternative to the toxic, illegal drug supply to people at high risk of overdose, should be replaced with the Alberta model of intensive detox programs.
“On opioids the experiment has failed. The Liberal, NDP woke agenda of giving people free, taxpayer-funded drugs and encouraging them to live on the streets and continue using those drugs has led to a 300 per cent increase in overdose deaths.
“There is no safe supply of poison and we know that now because the data shows it. It has been a catastrophe, we’re on track for 2,000 overdose deaths in B.C. again this year, which will be another record.”
Poilievre’s solution is to defund ‘safe supply’ programs and put the money into rehabilitation.
“Bring the addict in, give them detox, give them a bed, give them a treatment regimen that goes 60-to-90-days. Give them counseling to address the underlying reasons that they have the addiction in the first place and then integrate them into a job after that 60-to-90-day period.
“It won’t work 100 per cent of the time but this approach is going in Alberta and they’ve reduced overdoses by 50 per cent in a single year. So the evidence is in. This is what works.”
Anti-mandate and anti-pipeline protests
Since the Freedom Convoy blockades at Coutts and Windsor were cleared without using the Emergencies Act, Poilievre denied any evidence those measures were needed to deal with anti-mandate protests in Ottawa.
“We can’t seem to find a single law enforcement body that said that the Emergencies Act was necessary. You’d think that if it were necessary you’d have the Mounties, and the OPP and the Ottawa police all chomping at the bit to say so in the hearings. We haven’t had a single one of them say that.
“Some of the hysteria and the allegations that the government made about the truckers have now been disproven by testimony including by government officials and law enforcement personnel.”
Amid allegations of extremist elements in the convoy movement, Poilievre argued bad actors show up at every major protest in the country. And he would approach anti-pipeline protests in B.C. the same way.
“Everybody is entitled to protest. I don’t agree with anti-pipeline protests but I believe they have the right to hold them. They don’t have the right to block people from going to work but they have the right to hold protests, and wave placards, and shout slogans, and give speeches and post on the internet.
“All of that is a democratic right that should be honoured and upheld as long as they respect the freedoms of everyone else to go to work and proceed with projects that are approved by the authorities.”
More hardship on the horizon
Warning of more economic hardships in store for Canadians, Poilievre puts the blame squarely on Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who recently told Black Press reporters in Prince Rupert that his confidence-and-supply deal to prevent another election will hold.
Poilievre said to brace for a tripling of the carbon tax and what he calls the inflation tax “all making people pay more”.
He called for a freeze on employment insurance premiums slated to rise Jan. 1.
“This is not to fund E.I. it’s to create a surplus in the E.I. account that the government will raid and use for other spending. It will mean you’ll get smaller paychecks and employers will pay more for every employee they have.
“That’s punishing work.”
The Conservative leader views out-of-control inflation as another kind of tax and estimates the government will collect about $80-billion from taxes on inflation over the next four years.
“When inflation goes high it means that people have to pay more for the same stuff. Which means the government gets more sales tax revenue.
“It means that companies and employees get more nominal income, not real income, and they pay higher tax on that income, even though it doesn’t buy as much as their previous income did.
“That’s money they’re taking out of the economy.”
While a Poilievre government couldn’t force B.C. to scrap its existing carbon tax, he offered to “prevent the feds from forcing it to go higher”.
“Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau have a costly coalition that the people in the Skeena riding cannot afford. That’s why they’re looking for change.”
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