By Kayle Van’t Klooster, January 31 2019 —
Canada has a new political party. Usually, it would be good for our democracy that new ideas and positions are being expressed. Unfortunately, this is not the case here.
At the helm of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier is attempting to stoke the same anger and hatred that fellow right-wing populists Donald Trump, Viktor Orban and Jair Bolsonaro rode to electoral success. In doing so, he is threatening to poison our political discourse.
For many years, Canadians have been fortunate enough to have “boring” politics. Although some issues can get tense, like the recent pipeline debates, it’s just healthy debate at the end of the day. Bernier wants something far darker. He has adopted a simplistic approach to politics, preferring inflammatory rhetoric over real policies and ideas.
What Bernier does not grasp is that rhetoric matters. He is threatening to give a platform to the loud minority of the population that is attracted to fringe policies. Bernier would like to give legitimacy to anti-immigrant and refugee sentiments, isolationist foreign policies and political scapegoating.
His vow to cut humanitarian aid to African nations is counterproductive at best and racial dog-whistling at worst. Furthermore, his claim that these nations have poor economies because of “socialism” is a gross distortion of the truth that attempts to sweep centuries of colonial wrong-doings under the rug. When pressed on the issue, he clarified his statement and said he’d only cut funds for climate change resilience projects in developing countries. A reluctance to recognize sustainable development as the only responsible path to development is not an attribute of a man who will govern based on facts and evidence.
But let’s get to what is the dumbest thing any Canadian politician has said in recent memory. At a speech in Halifax last week, Bernier said he wants to “make Canada great again.” Does he think that we are so devoid of a national identity and rational-thinking that he only needs to parade around as a knock-off, Dollarama-bought Trump to win the election? Does he really think so little of his fellow citizens that he believes he doesn’t need to buckle down and come up with actual solutions to all these problems that are, according to him, so devastating to the nation?
The most unforgivable part of his declaration is the implication that Canada isn’t already great. How dare he say that about the country that welcomed my family and I with open arms nearly 20 years ago. How dare he say that about a country that has dedicated itself to bettering the world through peacekeeping and diplomacy, is filled with famously polite and well-educated citizens and has landscapes that are among the most beautiful on this planet? Were we not great when we gave asylum to Rahaf Mohammed, an 18-year-old Saudi Arabian woman, from a life of abuse?
Perhaps the fact is simply that Bernier wants Canada to look very doom and gloom, so that he can claim that he alone can fix it.
Bernier’s comments bothered me. But unlike Bernier, I believe in the citizens of this great country. This is not a nation that will blindly follow a charlatan just because he uses some buzzwords to “trigger” people.
We must recognize that there is always room to improve. There is frustration in the country and many feel left behind. More needs to be done to help those who are struggling, but that will take a collective effort. No one person can fix these issues — it takes a village. A very big, Canadian village.
Kayle Van’t Klooster is a fourth-year International Relations Major at the University of Calgary. He writes a column for the Gauntlet about Canadian national and international affairs called “For Your Consideration.”