Andrew Lawton

Discount Maxime Bernier at your peril

A part of me feels as though I’m spending too much time writing and talking about Maxime Bernier and his exit from the Conservative Party. But, at the same time, it’s one of the most interesting–and potentially disruptive–episodes of Canada’s politics for several years.

While I will endeavor to diversify, I also won’t apologize for shining the necessary light on this, especially as what it is Bernier is creating continues to become a bit more clear. In my Loonie Politics column this week, I look at Bernier’s fundraising success right out of the gate, and also the polling that’s showing he’s making an impact. As I note, there’s no guarantee he’ll maintain that support for the next 13 months, but it’s a start that should worry the Conservatives.

You can read the full column at Loonie Politics, for which you can pick up a discounted subscription by using the promo code ‘Lawton’.

A Nanos poll, commissioned by the Globe and Mail, found Bernier’s as-of-yet-unnamed party enjoys 17 per cent support among Canadians, with 12 per cent unsure.

This is far from majority — or even minority — government territory, but it’s a strong enough showing for him to be a spoiler for the Conservatives, or, if the number increases, a potential official opposition leader.

What Bernier is able to accomplish electorally will depend not only on his support, but also the distribution of it.  He’ll be able to win votes in Quebec that are generally closed off to conservatives.  His support in Alberta will be strong.  In Ontario, where Conservatives sometimes win with razor thin margins, he has the potential to sabotage the Conservative Party of Canada’s path to a majority.

Anyone telling a pollster this far out from an election that they’ll vote for Maxime Bernier’s party irrespective of its name, platform, candidates and debate performance is either a diehard supporter or someone merely flirting with an exciting, new anti-establishment party.

A fuller picture of what the party is all about will help cement new supporters, but it may also lose support from the fair-weather types who so readily boarded the Bernier bus.

This is all to say that no one should count him out.  Not Andrew Scheer, not the media, and not the Liberals.

This isn’t a prediction, but a warning.  Ignoring or downplaying grassroots movements is an easy way to look like a fool.

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