Don Martin: Scheer hopes ignoring Bernier will send him to political oblivion
Published Friday, August 24, 2018 7:50PM EDT
HALIFAX -- He’s already a non-person in the Conservative party he fell just shy of leading 15 months ago.
The day after he bombshelled his former party’s policy convention with plans to launch a competing libertarian-leaning party, renegade MP Maxime Bernier is widely dismissed here as a good-riddance who is too lazy to launch a party of his own by Conservative MPs who claim to be his friends. There are no signs of sympathizers.
And if Bernier’s mission launch on Thursday was designed to sabotage the party celebration, well, his plot didn’t even rate a direct mention in the Conservative leader’s keynote speech Friday night, although there was plenty of signalling about the virtues of unity and party loyalty.
About the only convention response to Maxime Bernier was how it dealt with his defining political priority -- the elimination of dairy and egg and poultry protectionism. As if to snub him, there appeared to be a concerted effort by delegates to foot-drag debate on other issues until time expired for supply management to be voted on.
That triggered a quick response by Bernier himself, warning those who support his elimination position that they will be “let down again and again. Don’t waste your time.”
So the Scheer response to Bernier and his policy complaints is clearly to purge him from Conservative pre-election memory. The big Max attack elephant in the convention hall was ignored.
Some might see that as a missed opportunity. Others see it as depriving Bernier’s anti-Scheer crusade of fresh oxygen.
Either way, Scheer leaves the convention stage with a decent speech behind him, delivered well enough to invigorate the convention even if it won’t be remembered in 14 days, never mind seen as electoral inspiration 14 months from now as they engage the campaign.
(For my money, former MP Peter MacKay unleashed a better crowd-pleasing eruption of Justin Trudeau-bashing. There seems little doubt he’ll be the frontrunner in the next leadership race).
But Scheer said what needed to be said, juxtapositioning Liberal failings and broken promises with Conservative plans to fix the problems they hope to inherit.
He embraced the red meat issues of individual choice and freedom of expression, attacked on carbon taxation and questioned the political correctness campaign of trashing prime ministers like Sir John A. Macdonald with blemishes on their ancient record which might be considered offensive today. All standing-ovation worthy to this crowd.
This was a day of lookahead vision, not of election platform construction. All that we know for sure is that Maxime Bernier’s chance to influence change in the Conservative party has been scrubbed forever. The only way he’ll ever make a mark in politics is if his highly theoretical fledgling party takes flight into the future. His former party hopes it’s all Dodo and no Phoenix.