by Maxime Bernier
Leader of The Peoples Party of Canada
November 24, 2023
Today, I want to tell you a story.
It’s from almost twenty years ago, back when I was a Cabinet Minister in the Harper government.
It’s a bit long, but I think it gives important insight into how the government really functions, the corruption in the Conservative Party, and the importance of courageous, principled politicians.
This story starts all the way back in 2006. I had just won my first election as the Member of Parliament for Beauce.
Harper wanted Quebec representation in his Cabinet so he appointed me, a rookie MP, as Minister of Industry.
At first this seemed like a dream come true!
As you may remember, when I started in politics I was mostly focused on the economy. I was eager to reform the Canadian economy and get the government out of the way.
Other than the Ministry of Finance, there weren’t many portfolios better suited to accomplish my goals than the Department of Industry.
I was so eager to get to work to make our economy work for all Canadians.
How naive I was…!
Quickly it started to set in what my job really was. I was just a cog in a completely dysfunctional machine. I had little independence to accomplish the reforms I knew would benefit Canadians.
I wanted to make sweeping changes. Eliminate unnecessary and destructive corporate subsidies. Actually downsize the government, as conservatives should.
But Harper would have none of it. He told me that we weren’t elected on that sort of mandate, and that eliminating these subsidies could jeopardize our chances at re-election.
There was no discussion on what was actually best for our country.
We had just formed government, and Harper was already focused on the next election, not governing.
What I thought was my dream job turned into a nightmare.
My job was little more than photo ops announcing subsidies to different businesses and industries. I had to stand there and smile, announcing projects I knew were destructive and wanted nothing to do with.
Eventually I figured out I could pawn off these photo ops on other MPs and ministers eager to get their face in the media.
This way at least I didn’t have to be there and pretend to smile for the cameras.
I started to work with my team to try and find ways we could actually affect change within the narrow confines of my ministerial independence.
Finally I had an idea!
Technically many of the subsidies the government provides to businesses are loans. There is an expectation that these subsidies will be paid back to the government, but it rarely happens if ever.
My plan was to publicly publish these loans, the amount, the payment schedule, and the names of the businesses, in particular those in the aerospace industry.
I called it “Name and Shame”. My hope was that making these details public would increase the pressure of these businesses to actually pay back their loans.
The unelected bureaucrats in Industry Canada were immediately opposed to it. They told me it was a violation of our contracts with these companies.
But I wasn’t ready to give up there. I brought the contracts to a lawyer I knew personally to get a second opinion. He confirmed what I thought from the start, that there was no issue to publicizing these details.
So that’s exactly what we did!
We built out a simple webpage with all these details so Canadians could get a better understanding of how their money was being spent and these businesses would feel pressure to pay back their loans.
It was a big success!
This wasn’t my only accomplishment as Minister of Industry. I also managed to aggressively deregulate parts of our overly bureaucratized telecommunications sector, despite opposition from Industry Canada and CRTC bureaucrats, other ministers, and even the Prime Minister’s Office.
Thanks to these achievements, Professor Richard J. Schultz from McGill University called me “the best Industry Minister in 30 years, without challenge”.
James Cowan from Canadian Business magazine called my tenure “a golden age” for Canadian business policy.
But it wasn’t enough to keep me on the job. My “Name and Shame” campaign and deregulation efforts had ruffled too many feathers.
Shortly after, Harper appointed me as Minister of Foreign Affairs. This was widely seen as a promotion but those behind the scenes knew it wasn’t.
Harper wanted me out of the country and under his control, and there’s no better department to accomplish that than Foreign Affairs. I was basically just the mouthpiece for the Canadian government in other countries.
The day after I left the Industry Department, the “Name and Shame” webpage disappeared. Like it had never existed.
This was my first taste of how the government really worked, and how the Conservative Party really worked.
I learned two things:
- The government is filled with unelected bureaucrats who have way too much influence over policy. They represent what some call the “Deep State”. They try to shut down good ideas that threaten their power and maintain the status quo. We need strong elected officials to stand up to them and get stuff done.
- The Conservative Party cares about only one thing: power. They don’t care about reforming the country for the better. They just want to avoid controversy and stay in control without actually fixing anything for Canadians.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of my conception of the PPC.
I want to fill Parliament with strong MPs ready to fight back against unelected, deep-state bureaucrats. MPs who are unafraid of ruffling feathers and disrupting the status quo.
Who are ready to start putting Canada and Canadians FIRST.
Thank you for your support,
P.S.: If you have trouble finding where you can donate, you can just click this link! https://www.