Bernier’s click­bait cam­paign­ing sets a fringe chal­lenge for the To­ries

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - NEWS - CAMP­BELL CLARK

Once Maxime Bernier set out a shin­gle for a new party that claimed to stand for free speech in Cana­dian pol­i­tics, it was in­evitable that there would be some kooky claims from par­ti­sans of the Peo­ple’s Party of Canada. Who knew they’d come from Mr. Bernier him­self? There was Mr. Bernier last week tweet­ing alarmist ques­tions about whether Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is loyal to Canada or a fu­ture “World Gov­ern­ment.”

You might dis­miss that as a fringe-party leader start­ing to be­lieve tin­foil-hat con­spir­acy the­o­ries, but that’s not what it is. It’s click­bait pol­i­tics. Mr. Bernier is try­ing to fill the ranks, and the cof­fers of his fledg­ling party, with provoca­tive tropes. Try one, get a re­ac­tion, try more.

The ba­sis for his al­le­ga­tion that the Prime Min­is­ter is loyal to a global gov­ern­ment is that in 2010, Mr. Trudeau re­port­edly ex­pressed sup­port for a cam­paign to cre­ate some­thing called the United Na­tions Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly, which would add an assem­bly of elected (rather than ap­pointed) rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the United Na­tions.

Now, the UNPA is a mis­guided idea for many rea­sons. It should be noted that Mr. Trudeau hasn’t said much about it since 2010, and his gov­ern­ment isn’t touch­ing the idea, but it is to­tally fair to nee­dle him for hav­ing put his name to a dumb no­tion.

Yet, it’s bonkers to sug­gest Mr. Trudeau is part of a fifth col­umn of global-gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tives try­ing to dis­man­tle Canada from the top.

“IS HE LOYAL TO CANADA OR LOYAL TO A FU­TURE WORLD GOV­ERN­MENT THAT WILL DE­STROY CANADA?” Mr. Bernier tweeted.

That par­tic­u­lar al­le­ga­tion isn’t Mr. Bernier’s orig­i­nal thought – it has been aired for years, with the charge that Mr. Trudeau is a glob­al­ist traitor, in odd lit­tle cor­ners of the in­ter­net. Does Mr. Bernier re­ally be­lieve it? Well, some peo­ple do, and it gets a re­ac­tion.

Mr. Bernier has also taken aim at both Mr. Trudeau and Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer for sup­port­ing UN ini­tia­tives – those glob­al­ists again.

It’s too bad that clashes with all those speeches laud­ing the UN that Mr. Bernier made as for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter a decade ago – ex­cerpts of which are now be­ing glee­fully tweeted by a few Con­ser­va­tive par­ti­sans.

Maybe none of Mr. Bernier’s cyn­i­cal con­spir­acy ped­dling mat­ters. His new party barely reg­is­ters a pulse in pub­lic sup­port; the lat­est round of Nanos Re­search sur­veys found that just 1.4 per cent of vot­ers say they sup­port his Peo­ple’s Party.

But then, Mr. Bernier is on a mis­sion to win sup­port from the Con­ser­va­tive Party he left and the ri­val who bested him, by a hair, in the 2017 lead­er­ship race: Mr. Scheer. And the Con­ser­va­tive Party has to de­cide if it is go­ing to leave him to the fringes or fol­low him down those rab­bit holes.

The Con­ser­va­tives fol­lowed Mr. Bernier in adopt­ing con­spir­acy the­o­ries last month about the Global Com­pact for Mi­gra­tion – a flabby, vague and tooth­less doc­u­ment of vol­un­tary prin­ci­ples about in­ter­na­tional co-op­er­a­tion on mi­gra­tion flows. Mr. Scheer falsely claimed the com­pact would cede Canada’s sovereignty to “for­eign en­ti­ties.”

Mr. Bernier doesn’t have a big fol­low­ing yet, but the Con­ser­va­tives will worry about their flanks. Mr. Bernier is try­ing to push the most re­ac­tive hot but­tons – in­clud­ing mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, gun laws and glob­al­ists.

His party nom­i­nated a so­cial-con­ser­va­tive can­di­date for the Burn­aby-South by-elec­tion, for­mer evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian TV host Laura Lynn Tyler Thomp­son, who was re­jected by the Con­ser­va­tive Party, which con­sid­ered her vo­cif­er­ous cam­paigns against gen­der-iden­tity sex-ed pro­grams too toxic.

Mr. Bernier’s party didn’t go out to re­cruit Ms. Tyler Thomp­son – she came to them as an early sup­porter. But his team is hop­ing that ac­cept­ing a con­tro­ver­sial so­cial-con­ser­va­tive ad­vo­cate will draw in oth­ers who feel the Con­ser­va­tives are afraid of open talk about causes such as out­law­ing abor­tion.

That makes Mr. Bernier a new wrin­kle on the Con­ser­va­tives’ old chal­lenge of keep­ing so­cial con­ser­va­tives on board with­out turn­ing off swing vot­ers.

But there are newer con­stituen­cies on Canada’s right, big or small, that Mr. Bernier is try­ing to take, too, in­clud­ing folks who re­spond to tweets about World Gov­ern­ment. Mr. Scheer’s party has to de­cide whether it’s go­ing to com­pete on that ter­rain – be­cause Mr. Bernier is trawl­ing for clicks.

Maybe none of Mr. Bernier’s cyn­i­cal con­spir­acy ped­dling mat­ters. His new party barely reg­is­ters a pulse in pub­lic sup­port; the lat­est round of Nanos Re­search sur­veys found that just 1.4 per cent of vot­ers say they sup­port his Peo­ple’s Party.

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