The Leaders’ Debate Commission sent the first round of invitation to its two official leaders’ debates, including in it the leaders of the Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic, Green and Bloc Québecois parties. Absent from the invitation recipients was Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada.
In his letter to Bernier, debate commissioner David Johnston requested information on three to five ridings in which the PPC believes it has a legitimate chance of victory, to satisfy the criterion that “candidates endorsed by the party have a legitimate chance to be elected in the general election in question.”
Today, Bernier sent this letter to Johnston, citing five ridings in which PPC candidates have considerable profile, as well as media monitoring findings showing more coverage of Bernier than of the Green and Bloc Québecois leaders, who were invited to the debate.
It’s only been two months since Maxime Bernier walked away from the party he once tried to lead to launch the People’s Party of Canada.
In that time, the PPC’s membership has increased, as has its war chest despite not yet being allowed to issue tax receipts. Though Bernier has attracted continued criticism from the mainstream media, and his former colleagues in the Conservative Party of Canada.
Though no poll has shown the PPC as being near victory, the party has momentum and energy. This poses challenges for the Conservative campaign and for right-leaning voters.
It’s still not clear what impact the PPC will have in the narrative of next year’s election campaigns or in the results themselves. Even if the PPC doesn’t win, it could damage Conservative campaigns in ridings with historically narrow margins.
As a longtime conservative, this possibility hasn’t sat well with me. I wanted to challenge Bernier on the impact his party is having on the broader conservative movement in Canada, and also allow him to articulate his vision for Canada in his own words.
I supported Bernier in his leadership bid, and also supported him against critics earlier this summer when he started speaking out on immigration and diversity issues in Canada. Though I’m sympathetic to his ideas, I’m not a fan of having a fractured right again.
I explained to Bernier’s team that I wanted to tackle these in an in-depth interview for the True North Initiative. They were excited for the opportunity, as was I.
In this interview, I put the questions that matter to Canadian conservatives to Bernier.
While I understand the optical victory in Alleslev’s crossing, I haven’t seen anyone ask the most important question: is the newest Conservative MP actually a conservative?
On paper, Alleslev looks as though she belonged in the Conservative party from the start. She graduated from the Royal Military College, served as an Air Force captain, and worked for the Department of National Defense and in the private aerospace sector.
She’s no doubt qualified to take on her new role as global security critic in Scheer’s shadow cabinet.
Whether she was ever a true believer in the Liberal cause we’ll never know, but she ran for that party in 2015 for a reason. Her confidence in that party obviously changed, but I’d urge her to speak to whether her fundamental beliefs did as well.
In her departing speech as a Liberal MP, Alleslev said Canada needs “strong federal leadership to rebuild our nation’s foundations, tax reform, employment reform, a comprehensive foreign policy and a modernized military to reassure our allies and defend Canada’s interests at home and abroad.”
I agree with her that Trudeau isn’t delivering that. But I still wonder whether she objects to the policies Trudeau is championing, or merely to his incompetence in doing so.
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.
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.
I had the great pleasure of joining my friends Bob Metz and Robert Vaughan, hosts of Just Right, last week to discuss what the gentlemen have accurately characterized as Maxime Bernier dropping a “bomb” on Canada’s political establishment, which I wrote about here.
One of my great frustrations with traditional radio is how rarely one gets the opportunity to delve into issues at length during quick segments, so I was glad to get the full hour with Bob and Robert.
As a conservative who both appreciates the principled views of Maxime Bernier and the importance of political party unity, Andrew Lawton joins us for a discussion about the potential consequences of this incredible development. Having recently represented Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party in London West during Ontario’s last election, Andrew shares his views on the perpetual balancing act faced by political parties on the ‘right.’