Spare a brief weekend thought for Maxime Bernier: If only he had kept his ambitions in check and his trap shut, he’d be sitting pretty now!
With Andrew Scheer’s resignation officially stamped “Received,” who would have been in a better position to step lightly into the Opposition Leader’s office after the disastrous election campaign led by every federal Conservative’s second or third choice?
No one, of course! The former front-runner in the 2017 race to lead the Conservative Party of Canada after Stephen Harper’s departure would have been the proverbial deadbolt cinch.
After all, to win the leadership, Mr. Scheer required a push from the party’s cadre of radical abortion foes and the clout of a herd of dairy farmers determined to hang onto supply management, Mr. Bernier’s personal bête noire — or, perhaps we should say, vache noire.
Even so, Mr. Scheer only managed to overcome the ambitions of the former MP for Beauce after 13 ballots by a margin of about 2 per cent. And party members were feeling queasy with buyer’s remorse about five minutes after realizing they’d elected Mr. Scheer on May 27, 2017. If only Mr. Bernier had been a better loser!
Instead, silly frustrated man that he turned out to be, “Mad Max” as he liked to be called created his own party, the would-be-populist People’s Party of Canada, at a time it still looked as if the election would be an easy win for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the underwhelming Mr. Scheer.
Presumably, Mr. Bernier calculated that with the CPC all but wiped out by a nevertheless underperforming PM, that would have put the PPC in a position to ride a populist wave to victory in 2023.
Whatever he thought, it was a grievous miscalculation.
The SNC-Lavalin scandal turned out to have legs, rattling Mr. Trudeau throughout the campaign. Former justice minister Judy Wilson-Reybould’s campaign against the prime minister was effective too. And the embarrassing blackface revelations about Mr. Trudeau’s conduct that emerged during the campaign leading up to the Oct. 21 federal election looked as if they might push the underwhelming Mr. Scheer over the top.
When Mr. Scheer blew the opportunity anyway, it was only a matter of hours before the knives were bound to come out. These are Canada’s Conservatives, after all.
Alas for Mr. Bernier, by the time it was obvious Mr. Trudeau’s troubles were not going to be fatal it was too late for him to change course.
Not only had he committed the ultimate act of political disloyalty, his new party had emitted enough whiffs of racism, xenophobia and other sins of populist intolerance to be thoroughly discredited in most parts of Canada. More than whiffs, many said.
It really didn’t matter if Mr. Bernier was personally free of such ill humours or not, Canadians have sensitive noses and the whole enterprise failed to pass the sniff test.
And now, like Mr. Scheer himself, Mr. Bernier is done like dinner.
How most unfortunate for him! Let’s move on, shall we?