Conservative Convention: Maxime Bernier and Party Unity

Conservative Convention: Maxime Bernier and Party Unity

Andrew Scheer is congratulated by Maxime Bernier after being elected the new Conservative leader in 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

UPDATED August 23, 2018 3:58pmET

Maxime Bernier announced his departure from the Conservative Party of Canada today, saying it has abandoned small-c conservatives and is “too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.”

Speaking on Parliament Hill just hours before the official convention opening ceremony in Halifax, Bernier said he hopes to start a new party for Canadian conservatives:

The man who narrowly defeated Bernier for the party leadership last year was quick to respond from Halifax:

Current Conservative MPs didn’t hesitate to criticize Bernier:

So too, was the party’s first leader:

Bernier’s move follows the intra-party dispute triggered by his tweets on diversity, integration, and multiculturalism.

Bernier, who lost his parliamentary critic position in June, took to Twitter last week to criticize Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

Among those Conservative MPs responding with critical Twitter threads of their own:

  • Tony Clement – a supporter of Bernier’s leadership run
  • Erin O’Toole – the Conservative foreign affairs critic and a 2017 leadership rival
  • Michelle Rempel – the party’s critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship
  • Deepak Obhrai – another 2017 leadership candidate

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who defeated Bernier on the 13th ballot to capture the Conservative party leadership in 2017, responded on Aug. 15:

Maxime Bernier holds no official role in caucus and does not speak for the Conservative Party of Canada on any issue.

Personally, I disagree with politicians on the left and the right when they use identity politics to divide Canadians. I will not engage in this type of politics.

Conservatives celebrate Canada’s diversity and a Conservative government will continue to welcome those from all over the world who choose to come here because of the society we have built.

At different times, waves of immigrants from all over the world have added to our history and our culture and embraced the fundamental principles that Canada was founded on, including peace, equality, tolerance, freedom and democracy. We must all work to ensure that Canada continues to be a place where people from all over the world can come to find a richer, freer more peaceful life.

Bernier tweeted again the next morning:

Scheer held a Regina news conference that same day to repeat his statement:

But Bernier continued to tweet this week:

And — a tweet claiming credit for Wednesday’s announcement on Conservative immigration policy:

This led to more criticism from the Conservative shadow cabinet:

The back and forth comes two months after Bernier’s removal as critic for innovation, science and economic development.

Bernier’s website hosted excerpts of a planned book — including more criticism of Canada’s supply management system — after allegedly promising his caucus colleagues to cancel the project and remove the chapter. Support for supply management remains official Conservative policy, and formed a sizable chunk of the party’s question period line-up this past spring amidst continuing NAFTA talks.

Scheer told reporters in June that “when a member of our shadow cabinet makes a commitment to the rest of the caucus then that commitment must be respected.”

Bernier’s book excerpt also claimed his leadership loss to Scheer was partly explained by “fake Conservatives” — Quebec farmers who took out memberships to thwart a candidate committed to ending supply management. Those voters were “only interested in blocking my candidacy and protecting their privileges.”

-Andrew Thomson