Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer, in happier times on a staircase in the Parliament Building in Ottawa (Photo: Flickr/Andrew Scheer).

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?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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.

Jody Wilson-Reybould (Photo: Erich Saide, Creative Commons).

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?

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  1. Yes, Mr. Bernier’s political career is probably over. It is possible if he displayed great humility, he could eventually (ie. in the distant future) be readmitted to the Conservative fold, as he still has a number of supporters there. However, I don’t think patience or humility are his strongest points. He was sort of correct about the Conservatives choice and fate in the last election, but I suspect his former party is not much in the mood for “I told you so” right now or maybe ever.

    The battle between Scheer and Bernier was between the social conservative and the economic conservative sides of the party and it was close to an even split, mostly papered over in the last year by the Conservatives improving electoral chances. They might be able to continue to paper over the cracks, if think they are still close to getting power. It is a minority parliament and an election could happen at any time. However, if Trudeau’s recent humility and more modest approach wins back some support and the Conservatives start to feel the last election was their best shot at winning, the truce between the sides of the Conservative party could end and blow up into a full scale civil war.

    In any event, I am not sure any potential candidates can bridge these two sides of the Conservative Party as well as Harper did. Mr. Scheer couldn’t and Mr. Bernier would have probably been even worse at it. I think the social conservative side of the party, which is humbled, but not numerically diminished will prevent a leadership candidate who is too socially moderate from winning and the other side of the party will be quite suspicious of those candidates who seem to any degree somewhat religious or pious.

    Getting rid of Mr. Scheer, so someone better could take over sounds good in theory, especially as it was mostly B team candidates who ran in the last leadership race, but what if there isn’t anyone that good ready to take the helm. There sure is no obvious choice in sight right now. The Liberals learned the hard way in the Harper years that getting rid of a leader that doesn’t resonate with voters and replacing them with someone who seems more palatable does not always work as expected. There is not always a short cut to electoral success.

  2. The only part I disagree with is giving Bernier the benefit of the doubt. By the time of the election, his official Twitter account was indistinguishable from your typical alt-right shitposter. If he isn’t like that, he did a good job of hiding it.

  3. Shall we see the resurrection of Maxime Bernier?

    It would be interesting to see if Bernier is willing to take that chance, step before the CPC and say, “I am the leader you really wanted.”

    I have a feeling the gathered throng would mumble, “Scheer weak; Bernier strong” and follow his banner. This is the sort of comedy of dunces that would easily turn to Jason Kenney (draft him, already) and judge him as appropriate leadership material. He’s shorter, but his French isn’t that mangled, so why not?

    Rona Ambrose would prefer a sweet ambassador’s gig in Washington D.C. Chuck that CPC nonsense and be truly free. Suffering along with Chrystia Freeland during the trade negotiations has its rewards, n’est pas?

    Peter McKay will be jumping up and down yelling “Pick me! ME!!” while the CPC is desperate to ignore him.

    So far, Erin O’Toole is the only one to step forward. But he’s more like Scheer Redux, so he is not the answer.

    What a quandary the CONs are in? They are stuck with interim leader Scheer for the next four years because …. karma. And because the BQ says when the next election will be.

    PMJT is turning out to be, by pure accident and, as skilled a political operator as his father. The FORCE is strong in him.

    Felicem natalem Christi.

    1. “ …Peter McKay will be jumping up and down yelling “Pick me! ME!!” while the CPC is desperate to ignore him…” Maybe, like Jason Kenney driving into the UCP convention in a blue pickup truck, Mr McKay will arrive at a future CPC convention in his favourite mode of transport: a yellow-orange Search & Rescue helicopter …

  4. The more federal Conservative leadership pretenders that are hoisted on their own petard the better for Canada, I always say. The sooner the better!

    The current remaining political remnants of Conservative leadership suspects begs the question: If (insert leadership candidate name here) is the answer, the question must be: How hard up is the CPC? That would include Conservative retreads like Peter MacKay, Rona Ambrose, Erin O’Toole and Michael Chong. It may be time for the CPC to look elsewhere for political salvation and embrace energizing new faces — if the end game is defeating the politically challenged and sometimes politically incorrect Justin Trudeau.

  5. These two duds were the choice of delegates at the convention even though there was lots of other possibilites. The party doesn’t want good; they want wild eyed radicals with extreme beliefs. It may be that the reformatories are so far gone up right wing creek that they will never paddle their way back, merely split into a number of bitter, paranoid camps.

  6. Does anyone really believe that Scheer won that contest?
    The ballots were destroyed within hours of the phony count.

  7. David, as a political observer I have also wondered how it happened that Bernier failed to play the US citizenship card in running against Scheer for the CPC leadership. I haven’t seen any real explanation. Surely a timely revelation would have bled away enough Scheer supporters to allow Bernier to win. And when it did come out during the election, didn’t Scheer’s team claim “everybody knew”?

  8. I’m not sure what was scarier about Mad Max: the notion that his xenophobia was merely cynical pandering to the darkest corners of Canada’s alt-right … or that he might actually believe the claptrap he was spouting about “mass immigration”. Canada’s better off with him defeated, deflated and chastened.

    Now, if only one of our political leaders had the gumption to call out Quebec’s Assemblée Nationale for Bill 21 …

  9. So many questions about poor old Mad Max when the answer was always plain: knockers knocked him out.

  10. I’m open, but it’s certainly worth noting that at least some of the concern over Bernier’s stance on immigration and its perceived ‘racism’ was artificially generated via a contract from the Conservative party to an ex-Liberal party executive well known for his dirty tricks.

    Perhaps it’s even possible that Bernier could benefit from his hard break from the conservatives.

    At the very least, Bernier won’t be held responsible for the obvious errors of the Scheer campaign.

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