‘That’s about to hap­pen’

Bernier has enough sup­port to go for­ward with new party, source says

The Western Star - - CANADA - BY JAN­ICE DICKSON AND MIA RABSON

A num­ber of sup­port­ers who backed Maxime Bernier’s ohso-close bid for the Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship say they want noth­ing to do with his plan to start a new party — but one source says the mav­er­ick exTory al­ready has what he needs to reg­is­ter his en­ter­prise with Elections Canada.

Four mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and at least three sen­a­tors who backed Bernier in last year’s lead­er­ship race say they have no in­ter­est in en­dors­ing what they con­sider a flight of fancy — or sup­port­ing some­one who just tossed a hand grenade into the party’s 2019 elec­tion hopes.

“It’s such a ridicu­lous de­ci­sion, I can’t sup­port this,” Tory Sen. Claude Carig­nan said Fri­day from the floor of the Con­ser­va­tive pol­icy con­ven­tion in Hal­i­fax.

But in an in­ter­view with La Press Cana­di­enne, Bernier him­self said he wasn’t ex­pect­ing any cau­cus mem­bers to join him — so much so, in fact, that he didn’t tell them what he was plan­ning.

“I have the sup­port of mem­bers of the Con­ser­va­tive party,” Bernier said in French. “Maybe not the 3,000 who are in Hal­i­fax now, but the Con­ser­va­tive party has 150,000 mem­bers as we speak. I think that is where I find the sup­port I saw in the last few days, in the phone calls, the emails I got.”

There were signs on so­cial me­dia of peo­ple will­ing to make the jump, in­clud­ing some con­ven­tion del­e­gates who were tear­ing up their mem­ber­ship cards af­ter a pro­posed res­o­lu­tion to abol­ish Canada’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem for poul­try and dairy prod­ucts never even made it to de­bate.

Bernier, who is not in Hal­i­fax, reached out to them on Twitter.

“To all those who feel let down by this party, I say: You will be let down again and again. Don’t waste your time,” he tweeted. “It’s time for a real con­ser­va­tive party de­fend­ing real con­ser­va­tive val­ues. The sooner this gets set­tled, the more chances we will have to de­feat Justin Trudeau.”

Elections Canada re­quires new po­lit­i­cal par­ties to have sig­na­tures and con­tact in­for­ma­tion from at least 250 peo­ple al­ready in place as mem­bers in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble for party sta­tus. Bernier will also need three peo­ple to act as party of­fi­cials, some­one to be an of­fi­cial agent and an au­di­tor.

Go­ing to Elections Canada in one or two months would be “per­fect,” Bernier said, but a source fa­mil­iar with his sta­tus said he al­ready has the names and is just now dou­ble-check­ing the de­tails be­fore tak­ing the next step.

“He’s got enough to go to Elections Canada,” said the source, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they weren’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss de­tails. “That’s about to hap­pen.”

An­other source close to Bernier said the Que­bec MP had been making phone calls to “key peo­ple” across Canada who sup­ported his lead­er­ship bid long be­fore he went ahead with Thurs­day’s scorched-earth news con­fer­ence, where he quit the Tories and tore a strip off leader An­drew Scheer.

Former Con­ser­va­tive cabi­net min­is­ter Stock­well Day said he knows Bernier has some busi­ness lead­ers back­ing him, but noted that start­ing a new po­lit­i­cal party is a her­culean en­deav­our — one in which not all of those sup­port­ers will have any in­ter­est in tak­ing part.

Bernier is likely feel­ing em­bold­ened by the sup­port he has re­ceived — es­pe­cially in fi­nan­cial terms — in the last few months as his feud with Scheer reached a fever pitch, Day said. In June, the day af­ter Scheer stripped him of his shadow cabi­net job, Bernier re­ceived $28,455 in do­na­tions in less than 24 hours.

But Scheer needs to re­mind the party what hap­pens when Con­ser­va­tives splin­ter, Day added.

“If (Bernier) is suc­cess­ful even on pa­per, then the chal­lenge for the Con­ser­va­tives is go­ing to be to ask peo­ple to go back and think about the his­tory of what Con­ser­va­tives gain when they have two vot­ing al­ter­na­tives for vot­ers. Re­ally, they gain noth­ing.”

That’s the fear celebrity busi­ness­man Kevin O’Leary is fighting.

Him­self a one-time can­di­date for Scheer’s job, O’Leary — who dropped out to back Bernier in the fi­nal days of the race — said Fri­day he’s trying to de­cide what to do, al­though he ad­mit­ted he is “get­ting in­trigued” by the prospect of one day tak­ing on a ma­jor pol­icy-making role.

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