Home Page Election 2019 News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In

Conservatives reach out to Bernier supporters, ‘time will tell’ how many will follow him out of the party

By Charelle Evelyn      

Maxime Bernier’s ideas have a lot of appeal among the rank and file, says MP Peter Van Loan, but the Conservative Party is where they can pursue those issues.

With Maxime Bernier, left, out of the Conservative Party, Tory caucus members said they weren’t concerned party members would abandon the leadership of Andrew Scheer, right. The Hill Times file photograph
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

HALIFAX—Members of the Conservative caucus presented a united front Thursday after Maxime Bernier’s dramatic exit from the party, and suggested the party’s rank and file wouldn’t be too quick to follow behind him.

Mr. Bernier (Beauce, Que.) lost the contest to lead the party last May by a razor-thin margin to Andrew Scheer (Regina–Qu’Appelle, Sask.). In fact, Mr. Bernier led the race in 12 of 13 ballots, before eventually losing with 49 per cent of the vote to Mr. Scheer’s 51 per cent.

Despite that nearly-balanced split, members of the Tory caucus—who said they’re now more united than ever—told The Hill Times they’re not worried that Mr. Bernier’s backers in the base will cleave off en masse to the new party the Quebec MP said he would be starting.

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia–Lambton, Ont.) said she doesn’t think there’ll be too much of a groundswell of grassroots support for Mr. Bernier now that he’s left the flock.

“The folks that supported Max, the reactions we’ve heard from them are that they’re angry with him and they’re disappointed, as well,” she said.

Conservative MP Dean Allison (Niagara West, Ont.) said he didn’t know how party members are going to respond. “I guess time will tell how much support he has.”

According to data compiled by CPAC, during the 2017 leadership race, Mr. Bernier garnered support from 158 ridings, with his strongest support in Quebec ridings in the Montreal area, as well as Sherbrooke, Trois Rivieres, Bourassa Terrebone, Gatineau, Manicouagan, and Louis-Saint-Laurent in the final round of voting.

He also scooped up rural ridings across the country, such as Kenora and Timmins–James Bay, Ont., Churchill–Keewatinook Aski, Man., Fort McMurray–Cold Lake and Yellowhead, Alta., and took Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The Globe and Mail  reported last week, the day before Mr. Bernier announced he was leaving the party, that Mr. Bernier still enjoyed widespread support from grassroots Conservatives, despite his controversial comments on Twitter in the past few weeks about Canada’s “extreme multiculturalism.”

Eight of the nine members of the Conservative electoral district association in Mr. Bernier’s riding, Beauce, resigned following his announcement that he was turning in his Conservative card, the CBC reported last week.

“We’ve always been there more for Maxime than for the party,” riding president Charles Laflamme told the CBC on Thursday. “The support was for Maxime.”

Tanya Eickhoff, the president of the Conservative riding association in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount, Que., told The Hill Times Thursday she was “disappointed and angry” following Mr. Bernier’s defection.

Her riding broke for Mr. Bernier in the leadership race, giving him 67.71 points in the final ballot, compared to Mr. Scheer’s 32.29.

“What does he think? Who does he think’s going to join his new party? What is he going to achieve? We have to get rid of Trudeau,” said Ms. Eickhoff, who added the exiting MP has real grassroots support, and the Tories should be careful to include those supporters.

“I think it’s incumbent on all of us that we’re in contact with our supporters,” to mitigate any potential member defections, said MP Mike Lake (Edmonton–Wetaskiwin, Alta.). “We’re a party that has a pretty solid core set of principles…things Canadians can agree on, and we’ve got to try and find that common ground.”

Ontario Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, who announced he’ll be resigning his York–Simcoe seat in the House of Commons at the end of September, said he was “sort of sad” that as he’s leaving politics, there was a return to the type of division in the party that he spent the early part of his career working to bring together.

He said “there’s room for Maxime Bernier” in the party and that there’s no reason for him to have left.

“I think the ideas he speaks about are ideas that have a lot of appeal among the rank and file in our party, but I think the people in our party are part of this party because they feel this is where they can pursue those kinds of ideas,” he said.

MP Candice Bergen (Portage–Lisgar, Man.) said she’s not worried about a schism in the party’s base, even among those who supported Mr. Bernier in the leadership contest.

Tory MP Candice Bergen says she wants Maxime Bernier supporters to know they’re an important part of the Conservative Party. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

“When Max lost the leadership race they recognized that and they have the same goals that we have, which is to beat Justin Trudeau,” she told The Hill Times. “And I’ve actually literally talked to people who’ve told me that they’re very disappointed, and so we want them to know: people who supported Max, they’re huge and important contributors to our party, they have some great ideas.”

Thornhill, Ont., MP Peter Kent said he’s also been hearing from disgruntled supporters, “people who consider themselves libertarian, but considered themselves honest politicians, trying to make policy changes.”

In the aftermath of Mr. Bernier dropping his bomb in a Parliament Hill press conference in Ottawa, in which he called his former party “morally corrupt” and said that he was now “convinced that what we will get if Andrew Scheer becomes prime minister is just a more moderate version of the disastrous Trudeau government,” Mr. Scheer and his lieutenants said that their former colleague had chosen to help the Trudeau government in its re-election bid.

Ms. Bergen said the distraction, which caucus members classified as momentary, was not insurmountable.

“The country’s looking for a party and leader who is going to be presenting ideas and policy that is going to get us back to the place we need to be, and that Canada can be. So any time you’re, even for a brief moment, not focused on that, it’s not a good thing,” she said. “But is it irreparable? Not at all.”

—with files from Samantha Wright Allen


The Hill Times

Explore, analyze, understand
Guide to Using Social and Digital Tools in Election Campaigns: Digital and Social Tools that Politicos are Using to get Elected, Raise Funds, and Recruit Volunteers
Guide to Using Social and Digital Tools in Election Campaigns

Get the book
You Might Be From Canada If…
You Might Be From Canada If . . . is a delightful, illustrated romp through this country as it celebrates its 150th birthday.

Get the book
Inside Ottawa Directory – 2019 Edition
The handy reference guide includes: riding profiles, MPs by province, MP contact details, both Hill and constituency and more.

Get the book

Politics This Morning

Get the latest news from The Hill Times

Politics This Morning

Your email has been added. An email has been sent to your address, please click the link inside of it to confirm your subscription.

Nearly 100 new MPs offer new face of Parliament, including 60 in flipped seats

In many ways the incoming Parliament looks quite similar to its predecessor, with 240 returning MPs, the same number of MPs who are Indigenous or a visible minority, and 10 more women.

Rise of advance voting raising questions about impact on, and of, campaigns: experts

Almost 4.8-million Canadians voted at advance polls this year, according to Elections Canada estimates, a roughly 30.6 per cent increase over 2015, accounting for roughly one-quarter of all ballots cast this election.

Watchdog’s proposed minority Parliament rules ‘appalling,’ says legal expert

News|By Mike Lapointe
Democracy Watch says Governor General should speak with all party leaders before deciding who can try forming government, but Emmett Macfarlane says the confidence convention is the linchpin of the parliamentary system.

McKenna may be moved to new cabinet role after four years implementing Grits’ climate policies, say politicos

News|By Neil Moss
Catherine McKenna's 'tenure in environment would have prepared her well for any other kind of responsibility the prime minister may assign,' says former environment minister Jean Charest.

‘They went with what they knew’: Politicos react to Election 43

'If anybody should've won a majority, it should've been Trudeau. He didn't, and it's his to wear,' says CBC columnist Neil Macdonald of the Oct. 21 election results.

‘A clear mandate’: Trudeau wins second term, with voters handing Liberals a minority

News|By Beatrice Paez
Though not improbable, his victory was not inevitable. It brings an end to a nail-biting, gruelling 40-day slog that has exposed deepening rifts across the country.

McKenna wins re-election in Ottawa Centre, trumpets voters’ support for climate fight

News|By Neil Moss
'I’m so relieved,' Catherine McKenna said, about continuing with the Liberal climate change plan.

Election 2019 was a ‘campaign of fear,’ say pollsters

'There may well be a message to this to the main parties, that slagging each other will only take you so far,' says Greg Lyle.

Election 2019 campaign one of the most ‘uninspiring, disheartening, and dirtiest’ in 40 years, says Savoie

News|By Abbas Rana
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she has never seen an election where mudslinging overwhelmingly dominated the campaign, leaving little or no time for policy discussion.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.