Maxime Bernier tears strip off Conservatives, Scheer as he quits federal party

He called the party too ‘intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed’

Maverick Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, whose open defiance has been a major headache for the Opposition Conservatives, is quitting the party to start his own political movement — and he’s not pulling his punches.

“I am no longer a Conservative,” Bernier declared Thursday during a bombshell news conference in Ottawa that came just hours before his former party was to gather in Halifax for a three-day policy convention.

Bernier — who narrowly lost the top Tory job to victor Andrew Scheer — delivered a long, blistering statement that left no doubt about his disdain for the party, its policies on supply management and corporate subsidies, among other things, and indeed for his former leadership rival.

“I am now convinced that what we will get if Andrew Scheer becomes prime minister is just a more moderate version of the disastrous Trudeau government,” he said.

“I have come to realize over the past year that this party is too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.

“The whole strategy of the party is to play identity politics, pander to various interest groups and buy votes with promises, just like the Liberals…. Andrew Scheer keeps talking about his “positive Conservative vision.” But nobody knows what that vision is.”

Bernier said he plans to contact Elections Canada immediately about the path towards creating a new party and will spend the next several weeks travelling the country to meet with people interested in joining his cause.

“I hope that the majority of Conservatives will join our new party if they want to beat Justin Trudeau,” he said.

Bernier said it’s the party and its current leader that has lost its way, not him. Scheer, he said, is too focused on polls and focus groups, and too afraid of being attacked by people on the left and in the media to make good Conservative policies.

He specifically pointed to Scheer’s support for retaliatory tariffs against the United States, saying he was told internal party polling showed Canadians supported the Liberal plan and the Conservatives would therefore support it unless the polls changed.

Bernier’s decision comes with the Conservatives gathered in Nova Scotia and marks the culmination of months of turmoil — much of it fomented on Twitter — between himself, Scheer and many Conservative MPs who felt he was jeopardizing their chances in the next election.

READ MORE: Bernier diatribe against ‘extreme multiculturalism’ boosts Liberal coffers

READ MORE: Time to kick maverick Tory MP Maxime Bernier out of caucus, Scheer urged

Bernier’s insistence on ending supply management, in defiance of Conservative policy, and his recent reflections about the perils of “extreme multiculturalism” had Scheer distancing himself from Bernier and his comments.

Earlier this week, Alberta MP and immigration critic Michelle Rempel all but challenged Bernier to pick a side — and on Thursday, he did just that.

“The Conservative party has abandoned conservatives,” he said. ”It does not represent them anymore. And it has nothing of substance to offer Canadians looking for a political alternative.

“If we want conservative principles to win the battle of ideas, we have to defend them openly, with passion and conviction. That is what I want to do.”

As recently as three weeks ago, Bernier said he was planning to run for the Conservatives in the next election despite Scheer’s decision earlier this summer to strip him of his portfolio in the Tory shadow cabinet.

Bernier said he decided to quit the party Aug. 14 after speaking to Scheer, just prior to the Tory leader’s statement criticizing Bernier’s comments about too much diversity being bad for Canada.

“We had a very polite discussion. After that discussion, I realized that I don’t have any place in that party anymore.”

The news appeared to catch most Conservatives completely by surprise, including some who supported Bernier in the leadership race.

Ontario MP Tony Clement says he wasn’t sure what Bernier’s decision would mean for the Conservatives, but it likely won’t end well for the longtime MP from Beauce, near Quebec City.

“History teaches us that people who quit are replaceable and forgettable,” Clement said.

British Columbia MP Todd Doherty took his anger straight to Bernier’s favoured medium: Twitter.

“You had every opportunity to stand in caucus to share your views and provide input,” Doherty wrote.

“When given the opportunity — you stayed silent or blamed it on others around you. You’re Twitter tough … all bark no bite.”

How any new right-of-centre party will impact the political scene in Canada depends a lot on how much money Bernier can raise and how many Tory supporters and donors he takes with him. It also depends on how many candidates he recruits.

Steven Fletcher, a Bernier supporter and former Conservative cabinet minister who was recently denied the chance to run for the party again in the next election, said he thinks Bernier won’t have trouble getting a following.

“There are a lot of people that will support Bernier,” and not just in Quebec, Fletcher said.

“In Winnipeg, Bernier won every (leadership) ballot by a convincing margin. This is amazing for a guy from Quebec, but his policies around aerospace and supply management have a lot of support in Winnipeg.”

Mia Rabson and Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Stoked on science: Resolve for your resolutions

Jade Harvey Guest columnist As we progress further into January and the… Continue reading

Super blood wolf moon fills Okanagan skies, to photographers’ delight

Photographers had a rare chance Sunday to capture a rare lunar eclipse

2019 Budget: Revelstoke city staff recommending a five per cent property tax increase

Additional options that would expand services total another six per cent

Revelstoke Secondary School enthralls the audience with Trap

With a twist ending that had audience members laughing, perhaps uncomfortably, the… Continue reading

Okanagan Military Tattoo returns

Performances July 28 and July 28

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

Auto shop apologizes after B.C. employees disrespect memorial convoy

Mr. Lube staff members suspended after incident Sunday in Nanaimo

One-third of pregnant women think cannabis won’t harm their baby: UBC

Review of six U.S. studies found doctors didn’t communicate health risks of pot use

Heavy snowfall expected for Coquihalla, Okanagan valley

Coquihalla highway, the Connector, and Highway 3, from Princeton to Allison Pass are getting snow.

China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng

Hollywood announces 2019 Oscar nominations

Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

Man charged in 7-Eleven fire in Shuswap granted bail

Accused facing arson charges released with 23 conditions including a 7 p.m. curfew

Most Read