Following weeks of controversy over his tweets and clashes between him and the Conservative Party’s leadership, MP Maxime Bernier announced on Thursday that he’s quitting the party and will form a new one based on his right-wing values.
“As of today, I’m no longer a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. I want to do politics differently,” Bernier, who was a frontrunner in the 2017 Conservative leadership race, told reporters in Ottawa. “I will find another way to give a voice for millions of Canadians … to have a new party that will promote conservative values,”
He added that he will be in “discussions” about his next move in the coming weeks.
Benier’s announcement comes as Conservatives gather in Halifax for their national convention, and confirms speculations that the Quebec MP would start a new political party rooted in his right-wing ideas that had been swatted away by the party’s leadership.
Bernier made headlines in recent weeks for his controversial tweets in which he criticized “extreme multiculturalism,” and said diversity would “destroy” Canada. This prompted other Conservative MPs to call for his removal from caucus.
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In his Thursday press conference, Bernier criticized the party for abandoning its “core conservative principles” under leader Andrew Scheer, and pointed to issues such as supply management, retaliatory tariffs against the U.S., corporate subsidies, and immigration.
Scheer, who held his own press conference after Bernier, said the MP had traded an opportunity to influence policy in favour of his own interests and that he doesn't expect any caucus members to leave and follow Bernier.
Bernier went on to accuse the Conservatives of spouting platitudes and following public opinion surveys, rather than defending conservative ideas “with conviction.”
“I didn’t change. It’s the party who changed,” he said, when asked why he wouldn’t step down, since he was elected as a Conservative MP.
“I’m now convinced that what we will get if Andrew Scheer becomes prime minister is a more moderate version of the disastrous Trudeau government,” he continued. “This party is too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.”
Bernier plans to keep his current seat in the house and run in the next federal election. According to media reports, Bernier was also courted by the Libertarian Party of Canada, but wasn’t interested.
About 10 minutes into Bernier's announcement, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who's known for his own brand of conservative populist politics, threw his support behind Scheer, calling for a "united" Conservative party.
"A strong, focused and determined Conservative party led by @AndrewScheer can and will defeat the Liberals in 2019," he tweeted.
Cover Image: Maxime Bernier addresses a Conservative Party leadership debate in Montreal in 2017. (The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson.)