Paul Durst is a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces. Photo: Paul Durst/Facebook
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This interview is part of our series of articles profiling the Ottawa-Vanier candidates in the upcoming federal election on Oct. 21. Each candidate was asked the same set of questions. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

When Maxime Bernier announced the formation of the People’s Party of Canada, one of his goals was to set up candidates to run in nearly every riding across Canada during this federal election. The candidate-nomination process was opened up to the public and Paul Durst was selected to represent the party Ottawa-Vanier. 

The Fulcrum: What is something you want voters to know about you?

Paul Durst: I want them to know that I’m a family man. I’ve got five children and a wife. I’ve gone through a lot of experiences there in the family, knowing what my children need and what the best thing for them is. But also I’ve had a lot of experience from my military career of 20 years and 17 years in the public service. I bring a lot of leadership and experiences, some of them very unique, to the role of a politician. I’m ready to work and represent the voices and the needs in Ottawa-Vanier in this upcoming election and beyond. I’m ready to work hard and use the experiences and leadership that I have to be able to achieve the things that they’re in need of. I’ve been a person of service all my life. Whether it’s military or public service, community service or service in my church, it’s all part of who I am. I feel that I still have the energy and ability to continue to serve the people of Ottawa-Vanier in the capacity of their political representative because their voices need to be heard in the House of Commons.  I’m not interested in the way politics is being done now, in that parties seem to have their MPs whipped and told how they’re to think. If they’re not in line with that thinking, then they’re not in the party. How can a person in politics represent their people if their party is telling them how they need to think? I want to change that so that we have people in the House of Commons who represent the voice of the people.

F: How do your background and past experiences make you qualified to be an MP?

PD: I would go back as far as where my education starts. I did my education at the Royal Military College of Canada. I have a bachelor of arts in political science. My political thinking started then, but when you’re in the military, you’ve got a job, you’ve got a role and a mission to do and you’re focusing on that.  I also had a family and I was focusing on those things. But it wasn’t until about a year ago that I sort of woke up to the things that are changing in Canada. I believe that all the experiences I’ve had in the military, the leadership roles, doing mission analysis, doing all the things related to achieving a mission, can go toward accomplishing a mission on behalf of the people in a political role. Also my experience in the public service, serving people, trying to work hard for them, seeing the government perspective on things from a more bureaucratic perspective. And then being a homeowner in the family, and a dad, I see the perspective from that angle as well.

So a taxpayer, a public servant, a former officer in the military, all these things do go together to give me a pretty broad perspective on the various needs of Canadians. But that’s not all. The initial thing that I need is perspectives from talking to the people in Ottawa-Vanier and that’s what I’ve been focusing on for the last several months: Going to as many doors again, talking to the people and seeing what their needs are, so that I can properly represent them and bring all my experience, leadership and unique qualifications to bear to help them achieve the things that they’re in need of. One of the things I think that came to light for me was this idea of identity politics. To me, what this means is people are being looked at in boxes, but I don’t agree with that. I think Canadians are Canadians, and they share values, and they have things in common. And I do believe in diversity and diversity is good, but I believe in unity more. I think that the unity of Canadians is more important than looking at them from any kind of identity, like a racial background, or ethnic background, or religious background or sexual background. It doesn’t matter. Canadians are Canadians. And I think that’s where my military experience comes in, because we had teams called platoons or companies of people, and it didn’t matter what background they had. It’s what they brought to the table to be able to achieve the aim.

F: Why did you choose to run under your party?

PD: I was looking at the established parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, when they get into government, there’s not a whole bunch of difference there. Then I heard of the People’s Party of Canada, in fact, I just heard of the party last October. I started doing my research on it, I found that they have these underlying values. 

Personal responsibility, I love that point. It has to do with people acting on their own knowing that they have the potential to make changes and have self-reliance.  Plus, there’s the individual freedom and some of our freedoms, of opinion and ability to express ourselves are kind of being diminished, and maybe eroding a bit in Canada. We don’t want that to happen.  Also fairness and respect are wonderful principles upon which all the policies that are being developed by the People’s Party are founded on. If you look at them through that kind of lens, they really become logical and common-sense policies that are beneficial to Canadians and aren’t pandering to any special interest groups, or outside influences, but they instead help us to maintain our sovereignty. One of the big things that I was in the army for was to defend the sovereignty of Canada and to make sure that Canada was the way we want to have Canada and I was willing to do and serve for it. That is the way I still continue to feel that we’re serving for the people, the sovereignty of our people so that they can have freedom here.  I feel that through the People’s Party of Canada, that’s the best way to achieve that aim of having a Canada where we have freedom.

F: What are your plans for improving specifically this riding by use of federal powers?

PD: Immediately, what comes to mind as a priority for me will be eliminating the opioid crisis that exists right now in Canada. And it does affect people in our riding. I know people who have watched people die from an opioid overdose because of carfentanil being in their drugs, unbeknownst to them. And so these things are threatening the lives of Canadians. I take that very seriously.  I think that from a federal perspective, we can do more to stop the precursor material for those drugs from coming into Canada. We can do more to stop the production and distribution by being very hard on those people, looking at those crimes very seriously, for those that produce and are distributing those drugs. I also think that it behooves the federal government to work very closely with the provincial government, which is responsible for health care and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted to opioids. It is also a federal responsibility to work with the municipal authorities like law enforcement and the family care community services that are available to the families of people who have addictions, so I think it’s a multi-layered approach, but the federal aspect will be [focused] on preventing these drugs from getting into our communities, and stopping them and being very hard against the crimes because carfentanil is a very powerful drug. Carfentanil is like 10,000 times more powerful than morphine.  These things are killers that need to be stopped. So that’s my priority of Ottawa-Vanier.

F: How will your plans address issues that affect young people and students?

PD: Our young people: They’re very smart, intelligent people. I think we should be promoting the values of individual freedom and personal responsibility for our young to let them know that they can make a difference in this world, in our communities. Just because they’re young, doesn’t mean they don’t have a voice, and they are our future. I really look to our young to be the ones that are going to make the positive changes. Our youth need to be emphasized.

They need to have sports programs that they can be actively involved in. When I was a kid I grew up on baseball in the summer, and then street hockey all year round. I don’t see those things as much anymore. I think those things should be promoted. I think we should give our youth space in which they can go out and burn off this energy. They can have fun working in team sports. It’s good for their self-esteem and I think those kinds of things can be promoted more. I would be happy to advocate for those types of things, being an MP, with the provincial and municipal authorities to be able to encourage our youth to get involved with sports and things that are physically good for them.

Education, again, is another important thing. So I think that every Canadian should be thinking,  ‘I’m going to finish high school.’ That should be on everybody’s map that we have to have high school done. I think then that everybody should have some hope that they can get some post-secondary school training, whether that be at college or university or a trade, I think there are those things in demand that are needed. I would encourage all those things to happen, but education is a provincial matter. We will respect provincial jurisdiction. But of course, I can advocate to help those provincial authorities, promoting education and access to education for all of our young people. Our taxpayers will speak and the PPC will listen. I’m not saying that right off the bat we should throw more money at education because I, you know, I’ve talked with my children to say, ‘look, you need to work. You need to earn your money to get your education. I can help out a little bit, but I’m not going to be able to pay for it.’ I don’t think we should necessarily expect the government to pay for that. I don’t want people to become dependent. We want people to be self-reliant and go after their education. In cases where it just isn’t affordable: Yes, I’d like to see some people get help. But that would be on a case by case basis, and we’d have to look at that more closely.”

F: Any final statements?

PD: I just want people to know that the People’s Party of Canada is a voice for the people. It might not be popular, saying some of the things that we’re saying (the PPC has been widely criticized for its anti-immigrant rhetoric and denial of the science behind climate change). But there are people out there that are saying those things. We’re not making this stuff up. We need to represent the voice of all Canadians. We need to be able to have those discussions and not just be simple followers of a government. The government does not have all of the monopolies on intelligence. There are many smart people out there that want to keep Canada going down a path that’s going to lead to prosperity, and some of the decisions that are being made now do not take us down that path. Canadians know that. We’re a voice for that. We’re a voice for the people.

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The Fulcrum will be publishing other Q&A’s from other candidates in the Ottawa-Vanier federal election. The Fulcrum reached out to the Conservative Party of Canada candidate, Joel Bernard, and the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada candidate, Christian Legeais, but neither responded to requests for an interview.