One for the history books: the day before the Conservative Party of Canada’s last big pre-election convention, Quebec MP Maxime Bernier pulls the rug out from under them. Dismayed at the party’s degeneracy under Andrew Scheer, he concluded after a polite discussion with his leader last week that the party was irredeemably “intellectually and morally corrupt.” So now he’s going to start his own party, the one for Canadians hungry for reasoned debate about controversial ideas. Ending supply management, reining in “excessive diversity,” privatizing health care: nothing is off the table in this promised new party of patriotic freethought.
Bernier’s caucus colleagues eager to pounce on him in Halifax will have to settle for his grenade. Andrew Scheer has to shred the barn-burner he was going to give the party faithful tomorrow night and write something new that can keep other disaffected members from running to the exits. Either way, his weekend is probably ruined. Almost makes you reappraise Stephen Harper (who tweeted today that Bernier is just a sore loser).
Meanwhile they’re popping champagne in the PMO. Bernier throws the CPC into chaos regardless of whether or not it grows to anything more than a crank parliamentary performance piece. But if Mad Max poaches any sizeable chunk of dissident libertarians and/or Patriots, it tanks any hopes the Conservatives have of taking government. The Tories imploding due to the xenophobia they quietly (and loudly) stoked for years would be what the kids call extremely good shit.
It probably won’t erupt into a Reform-style phenomenon. If the party lives up to Bernier’s hype today, it’s going to be completely off the chain. If there’s any “historical” comparison it’s Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta and its thirst for a more muscular provincial patriotism. Both parties are political vanity projects from semi-disgraced Tories and both of them tap into the same well of resentment powering far-right politics in the rest of the Atlantic world.
In the short run, the most Bernier’s new party will give us is a few laughs and maybe another term or two of Justin Trudeau. I would be shocked if the Bernier Party ran a full slate of candidates in the next election. Its only material impact where it is active will be to vote-split the Conservatives.
In the medium to long run, assuming it has any endurance beyond Bernier’s personal grievances with Scheer, the party will probably do alright. The last few years—the last few months!—have been a good object lesson in how fertile Canadian soil is for far-right politics. Bernier’s party doesn’t have to win elections to be successful; it just has to pull the rest of us towards its pole.
God only knows, man. 2018 is wild. We’re all just along for the ride.
Follow Drew Brown on Twitter.
Sign up for the VICE Canada Newsletter to get the best of VICE Canada delivered to your inbox.