Tories dismiss Bernier's success in attracting former Conservative party execs
Janice Dickson , The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, October 4, 2018 2:05PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 4, 2018 5:00PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Conservatives are largely dismissing Maxime Bernier's claims of making political gains in his home province of Quebec by attracting former Conservative party riding executives to his fledging political party.
Bernier's new venture, The People's Party, says that more than 20 officers, including party executives, from seven Conservative party riding associations in Quebec have resigned over the past month to join his new party.
The renegade MP, who deserted the Conservative party in August, has yet to file the necessary paperwork to register his party with Elections Canada, but is expected to do so next week.
Bernier's party says it has attracted former Conservative executive members from the following ridings: Berthier-Maskinonge, Saint-Maurice--Champlain, Joliette, Notre-Dame-de-Grace--Westmount, Trois-Rivieres, Drummond and Bernier's own riding, Beauce.
And for his part, Bernier says in a statement that he is "delighted" by the additions, and that his party welcomes all disaffected supporters "especially those from the Conservative Party."
But if Conservatives are at all worried about Bernier's ability to lure members from their fold to his new party, they're not showing it.
Alexandre Meterissian, a former Conservative staffer now with the public affairs firm Hatley Strategy Advisors, says he's not reading anything into Bernier's apparent gains in Quebec.
Meterissian said most of the Conservative party executives who quit to join Bernier's party had worked or volunteered in ridings the Tories do not expect to win, noting that so far no riding executives from seats Tories currently hold have chosen to join Bernier.
"Maxime Bernier has a good popularity level in certain parts of Quebec City and that region around the Beauce area, but outside of that, he's not a heavy hitter in Quebec," said Meterissian.
Conservative MP Tony Clement also dismissed notions of People's Party success this week when asked about executive members ditching his party to join Bernier's.
"There's always going to be some people who were, initially, interested in Mr. Bernier, not a lot of people, just some people," he said.
Clement insisted the Conservative party has "huge" support in Quebec, pointing to MP Richard Martel's recent byelection victory in the Quebec riding of Chicoutimi--Le Fjord.
Currently in Quebec, the Tories have 11 seats, the Liberals 40, the NDP 15 and the Bloc Quebecois 10.
Quebec will ultimately be a strategic battleground for both the Conservatives and the Liberals, Meterissian said.
He believes the Liberals have strong support in the region and will benefit from the decline of the NDP, where he says party leader Jagmeet Singh has had difficulty attracting supporters.
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