The Bernier Problem

Maxime Bernier is a problem for the Conservatives now no matter what he does. Image credit: Maxime Bernier/

By: Laura Steiner

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has a problem. His name is Maxime Bernier. Late last week the former Conservative leadership hopeful announced his decision to leave the party, and form his own.

How big of a problem is related to how much effort Bernier puts in.  If he’s serious enough to raise the money, lure some former colleagues away, and field candidates in all ridings he becomes more of a threat.  He successfully splits the right, hands Justin Trudeau at least one more majority mandate and raises questions about Scheer’s leadership.

If Bernier becomes a leader without followers, focused on only those two issues of supply management and immigration, then he fades into obscurity.  However, his tweets on immigration will remain creating a different problem for Scheer.  The Conservatives have unveiled an immigration plank focusing on helping immigrants to become more self-sufficient, prioritizing the most vulnerable, and matching economic migrants with Canadian industries in need.  Immigration is expected to be a big issue in the 2019 election campaign.

 Bernier tweeted the following on August 21:


The “half of all Canadians” refers to a recent Ipsos Reid survey saying that 49% of Canadians want to see the 2018 immigration target of 310,000 reduced.  His sentiments tap into a mean-spirited populism, to which, Canada is not immune.  Canadians use diversity to positively define themselves, and take great pride in it.  This helps Trudeau to whip up patriotism, and move from a policy debate to emotional one.  It’s a losing fight.

Bernier will continue being a problem for the Conservatives either as a political party leader, or through his tweets.  It’s up to the Conservatives to either ignore him, or deal with him.