Maxime Bernier became the first party leader to visit New Brunswick during the federal election campaign on Tuesday, bringing his contentious brand of populist ideals to CFB Gagetown.
The People's Party of Canada leader stopped to speak with voters at a Tim Hortons after reporters asked him how his pledge to significantly reduce immigration levels would play in a province keen to take in more newcomers.
The new political party says the number of immigrants Canada accepts — 321,045 in 2018 — is "unsustainable" and it wants to lower the figure to between 100,000 and 150,000. That's at odds with the federal government's plan to increase admission targets to 350,000 by 2021.
The New Brunswick government is also increasing its admission target. It announced last month a new five-year population growth strategy with a goal of attracting 7,500 newcomers annually.
Bernier said his plan would support New Brunswick by increasing the percentage of economic immigrants coming to the country.
"If you have a bigger ratio of economic immigrants with fewer immigrants globally, you're able to serve the economic needs of your province," he said.
"The goal of our immigration policy must be to fill the economic needs in this country."
That means accepting fewer refugees and clamping down on migrants crossing the border at unauthorized points, he said.
'There is no climate emergency'
Bernier, who visited Saint John on Monday, was scheduled to attend a candidate announcement Tuesday evening in Fredericton.
The capital city is among the communities along the St. John River that experienced historic spring flooding in recent years — flooding that many experts link to climate change.
Bernier, however, said the flooding is just a natural occurrence.
He was asked what he would say to New Brunswick residents and officials suffering from repeated flooding who believe climate change is a factor.
"We have hurricanes, we have flooding, we have that. It's part of nature, you know," he said. "We can do what we can about it, but I don't want us to impose a carbon tax and more regulation and change our way of living.
"We must not panic. There is no climate emergency."
Bernier's party plans to get rid of the carbon tax, citing an increased cost for business and the threat of job losses. Instead, the party plans to allow provinces to reduce emissions through their own programs "if they want to."
The leader will make stops in Miramichi, Moncton and Shediac on Wednesday.
The People's Party of Canada has candidates in eight of New Brunswick's 10 ridings, with openings in Acadie-Bathurst and Madawaska-Restigouche.
According to the CBC Poll Tracker,the party sits fifth at 2.6 per cent.