By Patrick Meagher
The pundits are almost unanimous. Former Conservative Quebec MP Maxime Bernier had a tantrum.
No, Bernier is not going to the Liberals. He called them, under Trudeau, a disaster. He plans to start his own party based on free market principles (he wants to do away with supply management) and end politically-correct immigration and multiculturalism.
But his sudden bolt from his Conservative home will likely not make much of a dent in the long run because it’s highly unlikely that Bernier is going to be able to start a party that matters. Preston Manning did it in Western Canada but Manning had tremendous support from a disaffected western populace. But it took years to build. Remember, in its first shot at an election, the Reform Party did not win a single seat.
The centrist National Post’s Andrew Coyne called Bernier’s move a “crazy leap into the dark.” Columnist Tim Harper, arguing in the left-wing Toronto Star, noted that Bernier did win 49 per cent of the vote in the 2017 Conservative leadership race and being a man who knows how to swim against the stream, he should not be underestimated and “cannot be dismissed as a footnote.”
Maybe, but practically every maverick that tries to go his own way ends up sidelined. Most people just won’t support a party they don’t believe can win.
Bernier also sounds impetuous and self-serving. The Conservative Party has a chance of winning the federal election in 2019. That would freeze out the 55-year-old Bernier, who was aiming to become party leader if the Conservatives lose. In other words, the greater the Conservative Party success in next year’s election, the worse it would have been for Bernier. At this stage in his single life, with everything tied into political ambition, Bernier is acting as if his time has come and might pass him by unless he seizes it.
In rolling the dice, Bernier will be a thorn for the Conservatives and a delightful sideshow for the Liberals. The odds are by far against him.