The ongoing dispute between Beauce MP, Maxime Bernier and Opposition Leader, Andrew Scheer serves only to signal a fractured movement to opposing parties.
Now is not the time to defend, there are enough avenues to go on the offensive on all fronts. The NDP’s finances are in shambles, Trudeau is fumbling on the world stage, and Ontario has a majority PC government.
Conservatism has always found union in the face of a common enemy. In the United States, Reagan took cues from Republican Candidate Barry Goldwater by bringing together conservatives of all stripes in the fight against international communism. While Canada’s enemy is not as clear as the hammer and sickle of the USSR, Conservatives do share a consensus that another term of Liberal policies will be disastrous to Canada globally and domestically.
A diversity of opinion has been both the saving grace and Achilles heel of the Conservative party. Generally, conservatives tow the parliamentary line but there’s a distinct feeling that party members don’t agree on everything and are allowed to vote on conscience. While this opens up the constituency to a wider array of individuals, it also creates room for factionalism to develop within the party.
The federal Conservative leadership race was awarded to Andrew Scheer by 1% of the vote. Many people within the party saw Maxime Bernier as too over confident and headstrong on certain issues like dairy supply management, yet it signalled that the caucus was divided. On a more provincial level, division was also revealed when Christine Elliott refused to unite behind Doug Ford.
The truth is Scheer needs Bernier, and Bernier needs Scheer. Neither MP is more correct than the other, both have made mistakes in the current matter.
Kicking Bernier out of the shadow cabinet for claiming that “fake conservatives” lost him the leadership race to Scheer, was in some ways a justified move to punish what was perceived as disloyalty. While Maxime seemed to take the leadership race gracefully at the time, the book chapter comment was an unnecessary pouring of salt on healing wounds. Tories are known to desire hierarchy, especially when it comes to managing their own affairs. The opposition leader can’t be seen as allowing his underlings to talk out of turn, and Scheer had every right to make the decision he did.
On the other hand, Maxime was correct in pointing a finger at “extreme Liberal multiculturalism” and the “cult of diversity” in today’s political climate. It is a problem that permeates every level of society from corporate diversity initiatives to Dalhousie university excluding white candidates from the hiring of a new dean. Scheer, by joining in on the condemnation of his own party member on an issue that has become mainstream conversation amongst conservative constituents is a bad move. The opposition leader is now parroting the exact same sentiments of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. By turning his back on Maxime Bernier, Scheer is showing just how much of a hold “diversity for the sake of diversity” has over party politics.
Replying to Bernier’s comments, Scheer said that the Quebec MP “holds no official role in caucus and does not speak for the Conservative Party of Canada on any issue”. If this were truly the case, than why even bother to address the comments in the first place? Maxime is free to voice his own concerns, which resonate with many conservative voters.
There are two potential outcomes to this entire affair. First, Scheer gives into demands to remove Bernier from the caucus, which would inevitably break the only party with a chance to defeat Trudeau in 2019. On the other hand, Scheer can let bygones be bygones and both conservatives can make amends. While Bernier might have lost a place in the shadow cabinet, there’s the potential of being rewarded a cabinet seat in a federal Conservative government.
I suspect the latter course of events will follow. This is how these things usually go. There’s internal party squabbles, amends are made and everybody comes out the better. After all Christine Elliott was awarded with being Ontario’s Minister of Health, despite being Ford’s most vocal internal opponent.