Bernier’s folly

Valley Journal Advertiser - - OPINION -

The path to po­lit­i­cal wins is more dif­fi­cult to­day for con­ser­va­tives in At­lantic Canada and across the na­tion. When dis­grun­tled MP Maxime Bernier fol­lowed through on his threat to cre­ate a new po­lit­i­cal party, it posed im­me­di­ate prob­lems for An­drew Scheer and his Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada.

The set­back comes as Scheer is start­ing to make in­roads into Lib­eral sup­port in this re­gion — based on re­cent re­gional and na­tional polling data. The bloom was wan­ing on Justin Trudeau’s red rose; but help has come to the Lib­er­als from an un­ex­pected source.

It was one thing to quit the Con­ser­va­tive cau­cus on the eve of the party’s na­tional pol­icy con­ven­tion in Hal­i­fax, but it was quite an­other to em­bark in a di­rec­tion which can only boost Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau’s for­tunes in a re­gion al­ready rock-solid with 32 Lib­eral MPs.

Many la­bel Bernier a sore loser. Since his nar­row de­feat in the Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship cam­paign, he has been a prob­lem for Scheer. First, he was re­moved from the Con­ser­va­tive shadow cab­i­net over op­po­si­tion to sup­ply man­age­ment. Now he’s be­come a much big­ger thorn, call­ing his for­mer col­leagues “in­tel­lec­tu­ally and morally cor­rupt” and lev­el­ling a scathing at­tack on Scheer’s lead­er­ship abil­i­ties.

Bernier ar­gues that the Con­ser­va­tive Party has “all but aban­doned” its core val­ues un­der Scheer and has in­stead fol­lowed the lead of the Lib­er­als in key ar­eas like sup­ply man­age­ment, fis­cal trans­fers, deficit spend­ing and govern­ment sub­si­dies to fail­ing busi­nesses.

He might claim that he’s stand­ing on con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples but his­tory sug­gests he’s lead­ing his new party to­wards a re­peat of the Re­form move­ment which split con­ser­va­tive vot­ers and al­lowed a string of Lib­eral vic­to­ries un­der Jean Chre­tien and Paul Martin. It was only when Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay merged their par­ties did con­ser­va­tives re­gain power.

Bernier doesn’t see it that way, claim­ing he’s do­ing some­thing very dif­fer­ent and unique in Canada, so he can’t be com­pared to other politi­cians. He’s de­lud­ing him­self. The mav­er­ick Que­bec MP says his new party rep­re­sents peo­ple who are tired of pol­i­tics be­ing hi­jacked by spe­cial in­ter­est groups. He wants to re­duce im­mi­gra­tion and tweeted that too many im­mi­grants are erod­ing Canada’s iden­tity and de­stroy­ing what makes it great; and that im­mi­gra­tion shouldn’t be open to those who don’t share Cana­dian val­ues of free­dom and equal­ity. But he claims he’s not racist. Hmmm.

He says his Peo­ple’s Party of Canada plans to run can­di­dates in ev­ery rid­ing in next fall’s fed­eral elec­tion and that thou­sands of peo­ple have reached out to him. If that’s all true, Scheer has a dif­fi­cult po­lit­i­cal road ahead.

There is am­ple his­tory to sug­gest that Bernier will help the Lib­er­als stay in power by pur­su­ing such a fool­hardy ven­ture. His sup­port­ers ap­plaud his at­tempts to em­pha­size pol­icy choices over per­sonal at­tacks but they ring hol­low af­ter his crit­i­cisms of Scheer. It sug­gests he is more in­ter­ested in re­venge and per­sonal power than help­ing the cause of con­ser­va­tive Cana­di­ans.

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