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With two months to go in the Conservative party leadership campaign, things are still crowded and messy. There’s been name-calling, postmodernist Facebook videos, and general tomfoolery. Amidst all the chaos, we had a chance to sit down with Red Tory and Conservative candidate, Michael Chong. Here’s what he had to say. 


The Prime Minister is a proud feminist, and his campaign message was all about Canada being strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Recently, he’s been criticized for not being vocal enough about either of those messages when it comes to Donald Trump. Do you think he’s practicing careful diplomacy or willful ignorance?

Well, I think a Canadian Prime Minister, as head of government, always has to tread a fine line between defending our relationship with the United States while at the same time disagreeing on matters where we don’t share common interests. We live next to a giant. The United States is not just ten times our size in population—it’s also a very inverse trading relationship. Twenty per cent of our economy is based on selling goods and services to Americans. Only about 1% of their economy is based on selling goods and services to Canadians, so we’re far more reliant on the United States for economic growth and jobs, than they are on us. That’s always a challenge for any prime minister to manage, that relationship.


While you reject Kellie Leitch’s attempt at Canadian nationalism, you also rejected the Harper government’s recognition as Quebec as a ‘nation within a united Canada.’ Do you think Canadians should put their national identity before any sort of family or community heritage?

Yes, I think the thing that binds us all together as Canadians is our common citizenship that’s based on a common set of rights and responsibilities, a shared history, and shared institutions, and I think that is the thing that unites as Canadians.


The Liberals came to power on the promise that their election would be the last under the current voting system, and now we know that has been all but abandoned. Do you see electoral reform as a high priority?

I see democratic reform as a high priority. I’m not surprised that the Liberals have broken their promise on electoral reform. This has been a pattern of deception on part of parties and leadership candidates, and opposition leaders for the last 20 years, where in opposition, parties promise reform to the system, but once they gain power, they quickly abandon these promises. I believe in democratic reform. I think my record demonstrates that I will fight for that reform in government, and I believe we need to introduce further reforms to rebalance power between prime ministers which have too much of it, and elected members of parliament and grassroots party members which don’t have enough of it. So, I think part of my campaign is based on democratic reforms that will deal with the concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s office and ensure that we strengthen our democracy, to make it a lot more participatory, and ultimately to give power back to the people, and to grassroots party members.


The leadership race has heated up, bringing in a wealthy businessman who is famous in the US for his role in a reality TV Show. Do you think that having him in office could hurt the country at all?

Well, I don’t think he’s the right leader to take the party forward. I think I’m the right leader to take the party forward. That’s why I’m in this leadership race. I think we have to build a much bigger Conservative party that’s inclusive, that includes Canadians of all races, religions, and creeds, that’s not focused on circus-like antics or reality TV show tactics, but rather, is focused on a serious, economic agenda to create jobs and prosperity.


On that note, the government seems to have underestimated our yearly deficit by several billions of dollars. Did they forget to carry a few ones and zeros, or are they just irresponsible?

I think the Liberals’ plan for economic growth isn’t working. The proof’s in the pudding. In the last year since they took government, they have tried to stimulate the economy through a massive expansion of government bureaucracy. They have increased taxes in order to try to pay for that increased bureaucracy, and growth has flatlined, and unemployment remains high. So, clearly their plan isn’t working. They’re now more than 25% of the way through their mandate, and we need a new plan. That’s why I believe that the government should focus on getting the deficit under control, returning our budget to balance, and introducing large income tax cuts. I believe that large income tax cuts—both to personal and corporate income taxes—will provide an immediate stimulus to the Canadian economy, and get our job creation engine and economic growth back on track.


Will you make Canada great again?

Canada is already great, and I want to make it an even greater place.


This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.