The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is barely a year old, but Lee Harding believes it is the true representative of conservative values in this federal election.
Harding is the PPC candidate in the federal riding of Cypress Hills-Grasslands. The Swift Current resident became the party’s candidate in early June and since then he has been talking to people in the riding to tell them about the party platform.
“We've had a really good response at the doors,” he said. “People, when they hear about the People's Party platform, find it matches what their values are, what they're looking for. They almost think it's too good to be true. Many people who are politically attuned know about our party already, but there's many people out there that have only heard a whisper of it and don't really know what it is that we're really about.”
He talks to people about the PPC position to reduce and reform equalization, he tells them about the party’s goal to end handouts to corporations, and their intention to get rid of the carbon tax.
“People find that this is a common sense approach to government and the biggest challenge is cutting through misconceptions,” he said. “Many thinks that a vote for the People's Party could somehow have a Liberal winning. That's completely impossible. The Liberals got only 15 per cent in this constituency last time, and I challenge anyone to tell me with a straight face that they're going to get more this time.”
Harding, who grew up near Lafleche, is a former supporter of the Conservative Party, and in 2010 he was the parliamentary assistant to outgoing Cypress Hills-Grasslands MP David Anderson. But he found a new political home after Maxime Bernier formed the PPC in September 2018.
“The Conservatives have neutered their conservatism,” Harding said. “They are playing it really safe. They just want to be the alternative to Trudeau and not offend anyone. Anything that anyone could try to pin on them that's controversial, they would run away from. So basically, what we've seen is a Scheer campaign that is acquiescing to left-wing fear mongering and also adopting watered down parts of the People's Party platform.”
The PPC wants to present an alternative to the establishment parties, and according the Harding the party’s policies are attracting voters who might not even have voted otherwise in this election.
“At this point there's a lot of disillusionment,” he said. “Twenty-nine per cent of people did not even vote in the 2015 election. They weren't satisfied with anyone. I've had people tell me ‘I refuse to vote Liberal and I can't vote Conservative, I will vote for you.’ We are drawing people, even some NDP people, that are disillusioned with their leader, former Liberals that are disillusioned with Trudeau, Conservatives disillusioned with Scheer.”
He believes the PPC’s intention to balance the federal budget in two years is realistic due to the party’s policy goals that will result in savings and economic growth.
“When we get our pipelines going, the amount it's going to help this economy is tremendous,” he said. “When we stop giving billions to causes all over the world that we don't even believe in, when we stop giving money to corporations that do not deserve it, and even when we defund the CBC, we'll save another billion. These are common sense approaches and even with tax reductions they have a stimulating effect on the economy, and when there's more business you actually have more profits to tax.”
The PPC is willing to use section 92 (10) of the Canadian Constitution to ensure that pipelines are built, by declaring a pipeline project to be to the general advantage of the country.
“There have been many precedents of section 92 being used in the past,” he said. “We used them to build railroads in another era, and the jurisdiction is there. The real problem has been that politicians have not had the courage to use it, and this is the beauty of Bernier. He is saying as a Quebecer that Quebec's opposition to a pipeline is not good enough reason.”
The PPC wants to abolish interprovincial trade barriers and it will end supply management to make dairy, poultry and eggs more affordable to consumers. It will simplify the tax system, personal income taxes will be cut after the deficit has been eliminated, and the personal capital gains tax will be gradually abolished.
Harding is a former Saskatchewan director of the Canadian Taxpayer Federation. He lobbied for lower taxes and less government waste. He received a Master of Public Policy at the University of Calgary in 2016, and he was a researcher and writer for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy until he decided to become the PPC candidate in Cypress Hills-Grasslands.
He noted that Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer has changed a previous commitment to eliminate the deficit in two years and instead indicated it will take five years.
“It's another way for Andrew Scheer to say he won't do it,” Harding said. “That's what it amounts it. And Bernier is showing himself more of a real leader every day, because he is saying things that no one else is saying. He's attracting people to a new party, and Andrew Scheer is acquiescing. There's people every day that are jumping off the Conservative ship, because they realize that in this latest context it has become the Progressive Conservatives of old, and there's not much progress and they're conserving the wrong things.”
The PPC’s foreign policy will focus on the security to protect the interests of Canadians. It will withdraw Canada from all United Nations commitments, including the Global Compact on Migrations and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The PPC’s immigration policy will focus on lowering the number of immigrants and refugees accepted annually by Canada from 350,000 to between 100,000 and 150,000.
“On immigration, 49 per cent of Canadians believe that we should have less immigration, 31 per cent think it's OK where it is, and only six per cent want more immigration, which is where Justin Trudeau wants to take things,” Harding said. “Studies have shown that if you have immigration at a controlled level, it actually works best for everyone, because there's time and opportunity for people to integrate and for the identity of the nation to evolve in a way that happens without tension.”
The PPC will reform the immigration point system and related programs to accept a larger proportion of economic immigrants with appropriate job skills.
“We want to prioritize working age people to be coming to Canada, more than family reunification,” he explained. “I can appreciate why many people will want to come to Canada, but at the same time we have a generous safety net and we need to make sure that people are paying into it as well.”
Harding shares the PPC’s sceptical attitude towards the generally accepted scientific position that human actions are causing climate change.
“I would say the consensus is not as universal as it has been represented to be,” he said. “But even if one were to concede that, the approach that we're taking to prevent climate change is the wrong approach. We should be adapting to climate change, not prevention, and in trying to handicap the oil industry in Canada and calling it good is only paving a path to poverty and the destruction of the middle class in Canada. In time, there will be the development of wonderful technologies that don't require the use of fossil fuels, and I hope that we will have bright minds and business savvy to adjust to those times.”
Voters will cast their ballots on Oct. 21 in this federal election. The other candidates in the Cypress Hills-Grasslands electoral district are William Caton (Liberal Party), Bill Clary (Green Party), Maria Lewans (Independent), Jeremy Patzer (Conservative Party) and Trevor Peterson (New Democratic Party).