What Does Maxime Bernier's Loss Mean?

For many supporters of the Libertarian Party of Canada the prospect of Maxime Bernier becoming leader of the CPC has been the elephant in the room over the past several months. It's time to address that. For myself, it was a difficult balancing act. I call the Libertarian Party home. I truly believe that it has the best vision for a better Canada, and I know that until a party that is grounded in principles fills the seats of Parliament we're going to end up with bigger government time and time again. Over the course of the CPC leadership race I've often had to remind folks that the Conservative Party hasn't proven that it's the best way to affect change in Ottawa - the CPC under Stephen Harper gave us the biggest, most costly, most intrusive federal government Canada had ever had, after all. 

Maxime Bernier was different. Maxime brought energy, positivity, and originality to a race that was littered with candidates who only offered more of the same. What's most important is that he unapologetically ran his campaign on a principled stance of reducing the size and scope of the federal government. So, when I saw the results of the final ballot count at the CPC Leadership Convention last night I was beset. I was unreservedly disappointed. Yes, my home is with the Libertarian Party, but I'm happy whenever libertarian ideas and policies manifest themselves by any means. 

But then I started thinking, "what does Maxime Bernier's loss really mean?" For one thing, it means that the CPC will remain in the hands of dinosaurs. After reviewing the reallocation of votes in the later ballot rounds it becomes clear that not only is Sheer socially conservative but what put him over the top were the transfers of support from Brad Trost and Pierre Lemieux - candidates who ran on socially conservative platforms. The party now belongs to a man who stands against gay marriage, against reasonable reform of drug policy and who was largely backed by thousands of dairy farmers who pledged to help defeat Bernier in his home riding in 2019 for daring to say that it was time to dismantle the rusted, socialistic supply management regime. Additionally, Sheer's supporters revere him for being Harper 2.0. Wait, what? Thousands of Canadians bought CPC memberships so that they could vote for the change they saw in Bernier, and we all know how effective the change candidate can be. To that effect, one should be hesitant in assuming a Harper 2.0 can gain enough support to topple Trudeau in 2019. Casting support behind Sheer doesn't only seem to be wrong in principle, it's also just poor election strategy. 

That was one discernment, but a more important one was my realization that even with the social conservative Andrew Sheer in charge of the Official Opposition, the future doesn't look so bleak at all. Firstly, Maxime Bernier adopted many of the Libertarian Party's 2015 platform positions, made them his own and exposed liberty-inspired politics to tens of thousands of Canadians. His income and corporate tax plans bore a striking resemblance to ours; his plan to scrap everything from equalization payments, federal involvement in healthcare, supply management, the CRTC, Canada Post were the exact same as ours and even his Canada-first foreign policy fit the bill. I can honestly say that every single one of Maxime's policies fell in line with our party principles. Secondly, Maxime then ran a campaign with those policies and achieved 49% support on the final ballot. Though he didn't win that doesn't sound like much of a loss for liberty to me. In fact, that sounds like a major victory. Our ideas are resonating with Canadians. We can say that with more confidence than ever before.

So, with Andrew Sheer as the new face of the Conservatives and Bernier's campaign in the rear-view, where do his supporters - and liberty-lovers in general - go from here? I think that they will find themselves right at home in the Libertarian Party of Canada. Actually, I think it's a better home. The LPoC is an entire party that is grounded in the principles of small government. Libertarians will not face the same resistance from Red Tories and social conservatives that surely awaited them and would work to grind them down over time in the Conservative Party. "But if I support the Libertarian Party all that will do is split the vote and the Liberals will win in 2019!" Yeah, I've heard that one before. In response, I'll plead with those sitting on the fence to be cognisant of how one affects long-term change. Vote for Sheer's Conservatives and you're giving a mandate to a party that would continue to waste billions on a failing drug war, that would waste billions on foreign aid that props up the rich in poor countries, that would waste billions on a foreign policy that doesn't put Canada first, that would continue to bail corporations out of their mistakes with our tax dollars, and that will continue to sell our grandchildren's futures by endowing them with a public debt which they did not vote in favour of and will ultimately become their responsibility. 

I would also implore Bernier supporters to consider the odds of the Conservatives forming government in 2019 under Sheer. It's likely no coincidence that all of the heavyweights in Harper's cabinet such as John Baird, Jason Kenney and Peter Mackay understood that the road to 24 Sussex Drive in 2019 was a steep one for any Conservative, and so abstained from leadership bids. Hell, even one-time frontrunner Kevin O'Leary purportedly dropped from the race due to this concern. Couple with these reservations an NDP leadership race that will likely produce a New Democratic Party turning back to its socialist roots and it isn't unreasonable to assume the Liberals will absorb even more support in the center of the political spectrum. 

The purpose of these observations isn't to paint a stark picture of the future political landscape, but to say that there truly is no better time for principled conservatives to put their hearts and effort behind a fresh, optimistic and growing party. Yes, there's work to be done. But if we can make the Libertarian Party a comfortable place for Maxime Bernier supporters and let them bring the same energy and dedication to this party that they brought to the Bernier campaign then we can create a Canada built on the foundations of freedom and personal responsibility.

With this optimistic vision in mind now is a time to utilize the momentum and prepare to field 338 strong candidates in 2019. We need donations. We need volunteers. We need our members and supporters to reach out and let Maxime's supporters know that there is hope for a strong and free Canada and all that is needed to achieve that is for them to take the bold step of leaving Sheer's CPC and joining a party that has, and always will, espouse the right principles.

Welcome to the Libertarian Party of Canada: we're even more Bernier than Bernier.

 

Trevor Schmidt
Executive Director
Libertarian Party of Canada

Showing 5 reactions

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  • commented 2017-06-02 10:35:41 -0400
    I’m in, a life long supporter and sponser of the CPC I’ve had enough. Conservatives values are stuck in the past, and with Scheer are actually in reverse. Canada needs a progressive policy driven party that returns power to the individual.

    I applaud the Libertarians for offering to make room for Bernier and his supporters. Canada truly does need a third party that resonates with the voter.
  • commented 2017-05-30 12:10:08 -0400
    You are there to provide the theoretical truths and advantages of freedom to which I adhere but come time to vote one must be pragmatic and vote for the greatest option to effect change.
  • commented 2017-05-29 06:32:39 -0400
    After this leadership race, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth knowing that social conservatives are the majority of voters for that party. I cannot get behind a politician as balantly anti-LGBT, anti-Abortion and as religious as Scheer; no thanks! He is not fit to beat Justin Trudeau in 2019, so in the meantime I hope to expand my energy towards helping to build this party from the ground up.
  • commented 2017-05-29 00:14:27 -0400
    Thank you for posting this! I’ve always been a Conservative voter and thought I aligned with most of the party values, but this leadership race made me realize just how little the party actually represents me. The outcome of that exhausting, drawn-out race is embarrassing and just goes to show how how backwards thinking the Conservative voter base is.

    They’ve lost me as a member and a voter, and I am now excited to support the Libertarian Party! I think the party will see a surge of disenfranchised Maxime supporters looking for libertarian policies at the Federal level.
  • commented 2017-05-28 19:26:19 -0400
    Fantastic read!!! I can tell you with absolute certainty that I was disgusted that Andrew Scheer won the Conservative Leadership Race. His devout Catholicism marked with anti-gay and anti-abortion feelings without any sort of fiscal plan left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I realized at that moment that no matter what happens, old school Conservatism will always rule and any sort of socially progressive, fiscally conservative measures will never get a chance. I really thought it was different with guys like Bernier and O’Toole running, but once again, the Conservative voice spoke and it spoke loud – anyone with any sort of socially progressive platform and fiscally conservative approach will never get the leadership. They’ve lost me and they’re going to lose countless others becuase they won’t move ahead with the times. Thank you Libertarian Party for being the political party I can believe in. You will definitely have my vote and you’ll have my membership. Thanks.