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 Mr. Scheer is starting to make inroads into Liberal support in this region, according to recent regional and national polling data.
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 Mr. Bernier a sore loser. Since his narrow defeat in the Conservative leadership campaign, he has been a problem for Mr. 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 attacking Mr. Scheer’s leadership abilities.
Mr. Bernier argues that the Conservative Party has “all but abandoned” its core values under Mr. 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.
Mr. 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. He says his new party represents people who are tired of politics being hijacked by special interest groups. He wants to reduce immigration and tweeted immigrants are eroding Canada’s identity, arguing that immigrants should share Canadian values like 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, Mr. Scheer has a difficult political road ahead.
There is ample history to suggest that Mr. 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 attack, but those claims ring hollow after his criticisms of Mr. Scheer. It suggests he is more interested in revenge and personal power than helping the cause of conservative Canadians.