Robert Barron column: Maxime Bernier a gift for Trudeau

Quebec MP could split conservative vote

Justin Trudeau must be smiling.

With a federal election expected next year, and with his popularity waning in many parts of the country, news that Quebec MP Maxime Bernier intends to leave the Conservative Party of Canada and start his own conservative party must be music to the prime minister’s ears.

After all, the last time the nation’s conservatives split into two camps, the Liberal Party of Canada took undisputed control of Parliament and the country for more than a decade.

It wasn’t until the Reform/Canadian Alliance party merged with the Progressive Conservative Party to form the current Conservative Party of Canada in 2003 that Canada’s conservatives began to be a serious threat again to the long-time rule of the Liberal Party.

The united Conservative Party, under Stephen Harper, finally formed a minority government in the federal election in 2006 after many years in the opposition benches, and eventually went on to form a majority government that held power until the election of Trudeau and his Liberal Party in 2015.

But Bernier’s announcement that he intends to form his own party raises the possibility that renewed infighting in conservative circles could see Trudeau and the Liberal Party take next year’s election by, once again, splitting the conservative vote, regardless of where Trudeau stands in the polls.

Bernier said in his announcement that he has come to realize over the past year that the Conservative Party is “too intellectually and morally corrupt” to be reformed.

He said he intends to run candidates of his new party in all of the more than 300 ridings across the country

Al Siebring, a past president of the Conservative’s Cowichan-Malahat-Langford electoral district association, was a delegate at the Conservative Party’s policy convention in Halifax when Bernier made his move on Aug. 23 from Ottawa.

Siebring told me from the convention floor that there was not a lot of support for Bernier among the delegates there, and he also has little support among Conservatives across the country, other than a few pockets in Quebec and Alberta.

“The verdict here is this is all about Max being self-centred and egotistical, and the fact that he can’t get over losing the Conservative leadership race last year,” Siebring said at the time.

Bob Rae, a former NDP premier of Ontario and interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2011 to 2013, also doesn’t believe that Bernier is a serious threat to the Conservative Party.

“Bernier is not a loose cannon, he’s a loose popgun,” Rae reportedly said.

Siebring and Rae may be right about Bernier.

After all, the man has been in the spotlight before for making bad decisions.

Bernier was the minister of Foreign Affairs in Stephen Harper’s government in 2008 when he was forced to resign from cabinet over a security breach involving classified documents.

Apparently, Bernier had left secret documents behind in the apartment of his former girlfriend, Julie Couillard, who had been linked to the criminal biker underworld.

Leaving sensitive documents behind in an insecure location, on top of the fact that they were left with a woman tied to Quebec’s notorious biker gangs, were major transgressions that Harper could not turn a blind eye to.

But strange outcomes are becoming increasingly common in elections across the western world, and even Bernier may surprise the country yet.

I expect it will be an interesting year before next fall’s federal election.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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