Posted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:12 am Post subject: For Bernier, it was just a matter of time
For Conservative MP Maxime Bernier it was just a matter of time
By CHANTAL HÉBERTStar Columnist
Wed., June 13, 2018
OTTAWA—Absent Monday’s federal byelection in the Quebec riding of Chicoutimi-Le Fjord Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer might not have so expeditiously booted his former rival Maxime Bernier from his shadow cabinet. Still it was probably only a matter of time before last year’s leadership runner-up found himself out in the cold.
On Tuesday, Bernier lost his role as official opposition innovation critic over what caucus insiders characterize as a breach of his promise to desist from publicly challenging party policy by pursuing the elimination of Canada’s supply management system.
Andrew Scheer, right, is congratulated by Maxime Bernier after being elected the new leader of the federal Conservative party at the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on May 27, 2017. Bernier has long asserted that Scheer owes his leadership position to “fake” Conservative members drawn from the ranks of the Quebec dairy lobby.
Bernier is said to have broken his word by uploading to his personal website the supply management chapter of a future book on his political vision, and by staying out of the House of Commons rather than showing unanimous for a motion of support for the Liberal government in the nascent tariff battle with the Trump administration.
The chapter was contentious not because it reiterates Bernier’s longstanding opposition to the system that shelters Canada’s poultry and dairy industries from foreign competition but because it asserts that Scheer owes his leadership position to “fake” Conservative members drawn from the ranks of the Quebec dairy lobby.
After its initial publication embarrassed Scheer earlier this spring Bernier said he was putting the book project on ice. But the contentious chapter resurfaced on his website in the immediate aftermath of the imposition by the Trump administration of tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. The White House has since framed those actions as measures designed to put pressure on Canada to abandon its protectionist dairy policies.
Bernier’s timing could not have been worse.
He may have believed the American tariffs offered him an opportunity to advance his contention that larger Canadian interests are being sacrificed on the altar of the sacred cow of the supply management system.
But in the current deteriorating Canada/U.S. climate, using Trump’s bullying moves to validate his point could not but amount to a poor way to win more voters to his argument.
Whatever the intention it also looked like a shot across the Conservative bow in the imminent Chicoutimi-Le Fjord byelection.
Scheer has high hopes for Monday’s vote. Party strategists see the byelection as a dry run for next year’s general campaign in Quebec.
A four-way split in the vote allowed the Liberals to narrowly win the seat from the NDP in 2015. But since then New Democrat and BQ fortunes have declined precipitously. In a one-on-one battle with the Liberals in Quebec, the Conservatives believe they can deprive Trudeau of gains in his home province next year and in the process deny him a second term in government.
In the lead-up to the byelection, the Conservative party has consistently played up Scheer’s pro-supply management credentials. It must have struck a Liberal nerve for Trudeau ended up stopping in the riding on the way to the G7 just to reassert his own determination to defend the system against all comers at the NAFTA table.
With less than a week to go to the byelection, a local poll published on Wednesday showed the Conservatives with a strong lead on the Liberals. Under that light, Bernier’s decision to once again highlight his dissent could only too easily be construed by many of his caucus colleagues as a deliberate act of sabotage.
In politics, the degree of one’s independence from the party line is inversely proportional to the importance of one’s parliamentary role. Second only to the ministerial obligation to cabinet solidarity is that of official opposition critics to their party’s core policies.
Bernier is hardly the only former leadership candidate who has had to put a lid on contrary views since losing to Scheer. The main theme of Ontario MP Michael Chong’s campaign revolved around the need for the Conservatives to embrace carbon pricing as part of a more muscular climate change strategy.
But as a member of Scheer’s shadow cabinet, Chong has kept quiet in the face of his party’s enduring anti-carbon tax crusade.
Support for supply management is as intrinsic to Scheer’s leadership as the Conservative opposition to carbon pricing. Like it or not the ship on both policies sailed at the time of last year’s CPC vote.
No one should necessarily count on many of Bernier’s colleagues to intercede in his favour.
He is as popular within the libertarian ranks of the party as he is unpopular among his Quebec colleagues. They would be happy enough to see the last of him in the House of Commons.
My reaction -- say goodbye to a Conservative presence in Quebec. The dairy industry of Quebec won't let the Conservative Party go with its real leader -- it has to go with this 'treacherous worm instead because he was so easily bought.
He posed as a "nicer" version of Stephen Harper. Not on his best day. There's a difference between being "nice" and being "weak".
Forget the words. They are there to deny reality. Look at the action -- the Conservative Party turns its back, and then ostracizes one of their biggest assets, certainly in Quebec, all in favour of a man who exemplifies the idea of mediocrity.
The folklore of Quebec can explain this very well. It's those dry Protestant joy-killers at work again ...
And Scheer is acting that out on the national stage because ... because ... does anyone have a good reason? And then he lines up behind Trudeau at one of the places where Trudeau is most full of it, proudly saying "Me, too!" -- just like Joe Clark!
Madame Hebert is one of the most insightful and incisive commentators on Quebec politics, at least in the English language ...
Monsieur Bernier, however, despite his indisputable leadership qualities, also has a regrettable history of serious errors in judgement :( He is also, outside of his family fiefdom in the Beauce, as deeply unpopular in Quebec as he is popular in therestofcanada ...
While 'Supply Management' is certainly protectionist, exceptionalist, and border-line socialist, the dairy industry is nevertheless a matter of great pride and prejudice in Quebec ...
While commitment to principle is indeed a very noble and idealistic thing, when it comes to realpolitik, being a team-player would be much more profitable in the long run than impetuous acts of vainglorious heroism ...
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum You cannot attach files in this forum You can download files in this forum