Politicians often lie when they speak. It is far rarer for a blatant lie to be fully displayed on a banner before the politician even opens their mouth.
Yet Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada does just that. Bernier claims that his new party, announced on Sept. 14, will “put the power back in the people.” His policies, however, echo those of the Libertarian Party of Canada by calling to limit public power and to expand private power. In fact, Libertarian party leader Tim Moen even expressed an interest in merging parties with Bernier.
If political advertising and branding were held to the same scrutiny as consumer products, Bernier’s People’s party would certainly be in violation of existing law. Under no circumstance can Bernier’s policies, like “abolishing the capital gains tax” or ending federal transfers for provincial healthcare, be understood as empowering the people.
On the contrary, policy proposed by Bernier would empower corporations and diminish the only institution capable of even a marginal defense against corporate power: the state.
Look to Bernier’s marquee policy proposal ending the supply management of dairy, poultry and eggs. It was largely over this issue that Bernier decided to cut his ties with the Conservatives who still support the system. Here, Bernier’s party name rears its head through the same fantasy portal as the Libertarian party who claim that their philosophy maximizes freedom.
Bernier would phase out all protections to the dairy, poultry and egg industries. His stated reasoning is that this is to lower the cost average Canadians pay for these goods.
Currently Canadian dairy, poultry and egg producers have only limited international competition. This enables these industries to produce just for the Canadian market, thereby enabling supply management. Under Bernier’s proposal, American dairy, poultry and eggs would be allowed to flow freely into the Canadian market.
Right now, dairy farms in the U.S. are struggling to stay afloat. There is a glut of dairy in the American market that is driving the price of milk down and even industrial-sized dairy farms to the brink of bankruptcy.
Furthermore, if Canada’s food is coming from another jurisdiction, then the people lose the ability to regulate that food for health or environmental reasons. Instead, it will be up to the Americans and their corporations to determine the health and environmental standards of these industries.
Meanwhile, Bernier says he will not leave Canada’s dairy, poultry and eggs farmers to perish under the weight of their cheap American counterparts. Instead, these farmers will be “compensated” as the supply management system is phased out.
Rather than empowering the people to control their food, Bernier wants to empower corporations.
If Bernier cared about the people, he would advocate for federally subsidizing the cost of dairy, poultry and eggs under the supply management system — his ostensible reason for ending the system — not subsidizing the farmers he would crush with American goods. This would lower the price Canadians pay for these goods while also maintaining control over our food supply.
The People’s Party is an example of another phenomenon also plaguing the political landscape: the right’s appropriation of leftist names and slogans.
Just after Bernier announced his party, he came under fire for naming his party using a phrase normally reserved for communist political parties. As Bernier clarified, “I am not a socialist. I am not a communist.” The Communist Party of Canada expressed jubilation that Bernier had distanced himself from the party in a Facebook post stating, “We’re glad Bernier’s xenophobic and racist party advocating unconstrained corporate exploitation has distanced itself from us!”
The Libertarian party takes its name from a late 19th and early 20th century leftist movement predicated on worker ownership of factories and the erosion of capitalism. Doug Ford’s political platform — Plan for the People — tips its hat to the People’s Republic of China’s Five-Year-Plan. This is not a Canadian problem or even a recent problem. Even the far-right archetype Adolf Hitler simply inserted the word “socialist” into his party’s name and rhetoric while adopting none of socialism’s tenets.
This all undoubtedly leaves a massive question: what is to be done about the utter confusion in political claims and discourse? Bernier most likely believes his People’s Party will help and empower “the people.” It just so happens that those people already have all the help and power they could hope for.
But Bernier should not be told to change his name or censor his rhetoric. Instead, let’s embrace Bernier’s usage of leftist slogans. Turn Bernier’s party into a parody by juxtaposing his embrace of corporate power with the leftist tradition he is pulling from. This is also known as taking the piss out of Bernier.
Or, let leftists seize Bernier’s party in a coordinated takeover.
Perhaps ‘truth in advertising’ legislation is not needed to deal with our current political misnomer problem. Maybe all we need is for comrade Bernier and his fearless Politburo of corporations to lead us through this tangled mess of misappropriated slogans.