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  Entrepreneurs already "give back," says Bernier

By Nelson Zandbergen

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  • AVONMORE -- His small c' conservative credentials on full-throated display, Tory MP Maxime Bernier unabashedly preached the merits of small government, individual self-reliance, low taxes and the pursuit of profit at the Township of North Stormont's first business breakfast here on Mon., March 3.

    In front of an audience of more than 100, the Harper government cabinet minister from Beauce, Quebec, even took issue with this era's near-apple-pie catchphrase of "giving back" to the community as often applied to -- and even by -- business people.

    The notion, he provocatively argued, stems from a cultural misunderstanding or lack of appreciation of what the entrepreneur means to the economy.

    "How often have we heard from some politician that successful people should give something back to society'?" he rhetorically asked in his Quebecois accent. "The implication is that you have taken something out of society, and that you should return at least some part of it as a token of gratitude.

    "Personally, I think this is exactly backwards. Wealthy entrepreneurs are making profit because they create something that consumers judge valuable. Something that did not exist before. Business people should never feel guilty for their success, or grateful for having the freedom to be and to act."

    Addressing the business operators in the room, the minister of state for small business, tourism and agriculture added, "On the contrary, we should all be grateful for what you're doing, despite the risks, the hard work, the envy and hostility from many quarters of society. And the roadblocks that governments put in front of you."

    When people are free to be innovative, he said, even those societies without natural resources are able to generate great wealth, noting a couple of countries as examples. And natural resources by themselves do not translate into wealth without entrepreneurs to exploit them, he said, noting, "Entrepreneurs increase productivity, entrepreneurs create wealth, entrepreneurs create jobs, more than me or [MP] Guy [Lauzon] or some bureaucrat in Ottawa.

    "Unless the government gets out of the way and allows the entrepreneur to do these things, none of it will happen."

    All levels of government need to nourish small business and entrepreneurs "not diminish them with job-killing taxes, and burdensome red tape," he said, then seemingly channelling Ronald Reagan:

    "For too long in this country we have had too much government in our pockets, and too much government on our back."

    "Our government is changing that, and there is no limit to human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams."

    The minister's own dream for Canada is that this century be "the century of the entrepreneur, a century of unequalled freedom and prosperity."

    In keeping with his own portfolio, he also pointed out that small and medium-sized businesses represented nearly 100 per cent of the 1.1 million jobs created by the economy since the Harper government began its tenure.

    Sometimes touted as a future replacement for the current prime minister -- and still remembered for losing a much more senior cabinet post after leaving sensitive government documents at a controversial ex-girlfriend's place -- the visiting Bernier seemed quite at home and compared Guy Lauzon's Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry with his own riding. Both districts are half rural, half urban, he observed.

    The staunch federalist told The AgriNews that he looked forward to campaigning against the separatists in the Quebec provincial election.

    Very popular in his home riding, where he won with a higher margin of any Tory MP outside Alberta, the avid runner makes a practice of going door to door to speak with his constituents every two weeks.

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