St. John’s South – Mount Pearl People’s Party candidate thinks voters are ready for change
By Mark Squibb | Vol 7 No. 18 (Sept. 12, 2019)
Canadians will have a new choice when they cast their ballots in this October’s federal election.
The newly minted People’s Party of Canada (PPC) was formed by Maxime Bernier in September of 2018, following his resignation from the Conservative Party, and is running a full slate of candidates across the country.
Ben Ruckpaul, 24, is the St. John’s South— Mount Pearl People’s Party candidate.
“I’m a come from away, unfortunately,” admits Ruckpaul off the bat. “My seven years here have been absolutely fantastic. Newfoundland has welcomed me with open arms, and one of the reasons why I’m doing this is to help give back.”
Ruckpaul, originally from Pembroke, Ontario, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Memorial University in 2017.
“I read over the policies and the platform of the People’s Party of Canada. I’d always been a fan of Maxime Bernier’s politics when he was a Conservative, very small government, fiscally responsible, etcetera, and I thought this was something that I could really get on board with and would really like to represent in Newfoundland.”
He said that there are a number of distinctions between the PPC and the Conservative Party, and that one of utmost interest to this province is his party’s stance on equalization.
“Andrew Scheer has not spoken about negotiating a change in the equalization formula, and right now it is very, very lopsided,” said Ruckpaul. “Right now you have governments like the Quebec government, they get the brunt of these equalization payments which means that tax revenue from Newfoundland and Labrador is going and paying for services there. It’s not right for our hard-earned money to not work for us.”
The party vows to “establish a parliamentary committee to review and make recommendations on a new formula…”
Ruckpaul said that empowering of the individual is a common thread throughout the party.
“It’s a very ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality,” he explained. “Newfoundlanders have a very, very strong tradition for going out and earning their keep. What I want to do is to emphasize the fact that no one is going to sort it out for you except yourself. The PPC is here to help you empower yourself. We’re not going to give you a handout, we’re not going to teach you how to fish— because you already know how to fish— we’re going to let you go out and fish.”
The focus on the individual, Ruckpaul explained, is a part of the group’s emphasis on freedom of expression.
“What we try to do is empower people at an individual level. And we do that by upholding the rights of freedom of expression and of equality as well,” he said. “No one should be discriminated against. It doesn’t matter if they’re a man or a woman, white, black, straight, gay— that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you’re a Canadian, and you should have a good quality of life. “And the federal government shouldn’t intervene with that.”
The PPC promises to repeal legislation that it feels encroaches on the individual’s freedom of expression.
”We’re actively committed to repealing legislation that was made that infringes on your right to say what you want, to express yourself how you want, because ultimately every society should have the ability to express themselves as they see fit without fear of being discriminated against by the government or fear of being thrown in jail,” said Ruckpaul. “It’s making sure that everything is fair across the board and everything is fair for all Canadians.”
There are a handful of particular bills and motions in the PPC’s spotlight. The party vows to repeal Bill C-16, which prohibited discrimination against gender identity or expression in the Canadian Human Rights Act and protected gender identity and expression from propaganda in the Criminal Code.
“What Bill C-16 does is it does impose certain restrictions upon Canadians with regards of how to refer to other people,” said Ruckpaul.
Repealing the Bill would mean that people would not be penalized for refusing to acknowledge a person’s gender identity. The party also aims to repeal M-103, a motion passed by a vote of 201–91 in March of 2017 to condemn Islamaphobia and systemic racism.
“We are a secular country, and we should have the right to criticize our religious institutions,” said Ruckpaul.
Though the Motion passed, critics at the time condemned the motion for naming only one religious group and not properly defining ‘Islamaphobia.’ Ruckpaul argued that if, for instance, there was a scandal the Catholic church at large, they should be open to criticism.
The party also takes a strong stand against current immigration policies. The PPC wishes to cap national immigration levels at about 150,000 people per year, accept fewer refugees, fence off Roxham Road in Quebec, where the PPC say illegal border jumping is prevalent, and end ‘official multiculturism’ in favor of a uniquely Canadian identity.
Ruckpaul said that it’s important to consider these policies in context.
“It’s not that we don’t want immigrants to come. We do. We want them to come and obviously have a fulfilling experience here and to help solidify what it is to be Canadian,” he said. “However, at the rates that they’re coming in right now, it’s not sustainable. Especially when you look at what’s happening in Toronto where one in four homeless people is a refugee or is an immigrant, which is something that shouldn’t be happening… But we also want to bring in people who are skilled; and get back to our point system, which has been employed by various Liberal and Conservative governments in the past, so that these people can come here and hit the ground running. We don’t want to put the hooks in them at all and have them living off benefits. We want them to continue with their lives, and to continue with their careers and to ultimately come to Canada to start over and live their life how they want to live it.”
Ruckpaul believes the oft toted belief that Newfoundland relies heavily on immigrants and expats to fill the gaps left by an aging population should also be examined.
“Lots of new Canadians, after coming here, have left. The reason for it is that there are no jobs here,” he said, referencing a 2018 Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism survey that received over 3,000 responses from expats aged 19-44 who once lived in the province but no live elsewhere in Canada. That survey found that about half left to find work elsewhere.
“However, what this report found out, is that it’s not that they wanted to leave because they felt intimidated here, they love it here, I love it here, and so does every new Canadian who I’ve met here, they absolutely adore it here. However, they leave because there’s no jobs. It’s up to the provincial government to create those jobs, to empower the private sector, to employ those people, to make it attractive for people to come here again.”
Ruckpaul said that despite being a new party, he feels confident the PPC will gain ground in the election against the Conservative and Liberal parties.
“I get the sense that most people are either very apathetic, or they’re tired. They’re tired of having their votes being bought. They’re tired of having theses politicians from Ottawa coming in with these big promises, and nothing gets done until three months before the election, Ruckpaul said. “Lots of them are older people, and they’ve said ‘I haven’t voted In 30 years, because I didn’t have anyone to vote for, but then I heard my buddy talk about the People’s Party, and I read their platform, and I thought, wow, this is something I can actually get behind.’”
As to his young age, Ruckpaul said he views it as a bonus, not a detriment.
“Everyone is inexperienced when they first run, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they’re 60 years old, or if they’re 24. I think what I can bring to the table is a fresh perspective,” said Ruckpaul.
“I myself as a young person have the opportunity to put myself out there to show people that there are other options out there. There are people who think like you do, who share the same values as you do. I would be more than honoured to represent the people here, and to bring about some real and constructive change for the province.”