Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, took questions from local candidate Mark Paralovos and an audience of some 50 energized supporters on Friday evening in a Guelph location organizers said had to be kept secret, calling for individual freedoms and open conversations.
Despite a booking cancellation by the previous venue over fears related to a planned protest of the PPC event, the party leader was still able to talk about increasing free trade, fighting globalism, cutting immigration and pushing for individual freedom over reliance on the government in a new venue inside the city.
The event’s location was kept private due to concerns over “anti-fascist” protestors. There were armed police outside the location, a normal move for when a high-level politician visits Guelph.
Bernier went in-depth on several parts of his platform, rehashing parts of his federal policies with Paralovos. Both slammed the media for ignoring their movement and criticized the other parties for not allowing “the conversation” to happen over contentious issues such as abortion.
When asked about his stance on abortion, Bernier said that the PPC has no official platform plank on the issue but that he was the only party leader who would allow his own members of parliament to vote how they would chose on the issue.
On immigration, Bernier said he wants to bring levels in line with those under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and drop the amount of refugees that are let in. As prime minister, Bernier said he would revitalize free trade to strengthen other country’s economies so there would be less migration and refugees.
Paralovos, admitting that is a critical election issue in Guelph, brought up the question of environmental policies. Bernier said that his plan was an environmental platform over being a climate change policy.
The party leader explained that he did not believe that humans were the primary cause of the earth’s temperature heating up.
Guelph last year elected a Green member of provincial parliament and its municipal government has what many consider to be progressive environmental policies.
When it comes to healthcare, Bernier said that he is for a mixed private-public system. When prodded by an audience member to explain further, the party leader said that there would be equal care guaranteed across public and private systems, though it could cost extra to “have a private room” in private care.
A PPC supporter sent out a tweet later in the evening that appeared to give away the location of the town hall. The Post has reached out to Mark Paralovos for comment on the tweet.
Bernier departed the Conservative Party nearly a year ago after losing the leadership race to Andrew Scheer. He founded the People’s Party, which has candidates in over 300 ridings, according to his numbers.
Paralovos, who has many times expressed he voted Liberal in the last election, was chosen as the local PPC candidate in a two-way contested nomination earlier this year.
Paralovos faces Liberal incumbent MP Lloyd Longfield, Green candidate Steve Dyck, Conservative Dr. Ashish Sachan and New Democrat Aisha Jahangir. The Liberals have held the riding for several years.
Editor’s Note: A more in-depth, analytical report will be released on Saturday breaking down the content of the two-hour Maxime Bernier event.
Bernier open to discussion
From the private, closed town hall, Maxime Bernier said in response to a reporter’s question that he would be open to meet and have a “public” discussion with the activists who earlier planned to hold a protest against his event and created a poster that raised concerns.
Journalists were only given the address of the venue under the condition that they would not report the location before, during or after the event.
It was a changed venue after the initial booking at the Guelph Youth Music Centre was cancelled due to concerns over the potential of “property damage” due the rally. One of the organizers who spoke The Post on the condition of anonymity said that it was to be a peaceful protest.
The “Revolutionary Communist Party — Guelph” Facebook page posted an advertisement for the original rally that depicted a knife stabbing a swastika with blood droplets around the image while implying that Bernier and the PPC were “Nazis” and directly calling them racist, claims Paralovos called “abhorrent” at the town hall.
“That it is too bad we had to change venues, the location, but at least we had the event that was very successful,” Bernier said on the matter.
The party leader leader did not clarify how the activists would be able to talk to him in a debate, but said “they can come here for a civilized discussion” and added: “let’s have a debate”. He previously called them “thugs” on Facebook.
The activists that wanted a rally outside the town hall instead protested Bernier’s visit from city hall on Friday evening in a peaceful affair that included sharing food and singing, according to several people in attendance that spoke with The Post.
“The atmosphere was cordial” and a “community gathering”, Daniel Nardone said, describing it as a “solidarity picnic”. There were some onlookers nearby for a movie playing on Carden Street that came by and asked questions of those rallying.
Nardone did add that several harsh words were said against the party leader and the People’s Party as a whole. Other attendees added that the language was “strong”.