Had Maxime Bernier Stayed

September 1st, 2021 | RR

I have often called Maxime Bernier a grifter and a charlatan, while other Poletical contributors have supported him. At the end of the day, Bernier represents legitimate conservatives and has legitimate conservative followers—regardless of what his own personal views and motives are. What he has been preaching has resonated. However, Bernier's political instincts are piss poor and he allowed his own personal animosity to get the best of him. Had he not had the political instincts of a fruit fly, he could have been a contender against Justin Trudeau in this election.

Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer finished the previous CPC leadership race in a virtual tie. Almost half of the Conservative Party's membership voted to elect Bernier as their party's leader. I wasn't one of them, but if I were given the choice between Erin O'Toole and Maxime Bernier, I would have chosen Bernier at the time. This could have been the scenario in the party's last leadership race.

Had Bernier not chosen to throw a hissy fit and dump the entire party out of animosity and resentment, he could have won the last leadership race and been given the opportunity to take the party in a different direction. There are some who would say the CPC brass would never allow Bernier to win, but there's no evidence to back that up. A candidate who rakes up 50% of the membership's support can't be that easily stopped. Had the brass tried to stop Bernier, or to rig the vote, it would have only proved what Bernier has argued all along. In such a case, we would have seen a massive revolt.

During the last leadership race, we did see a committee bar some candidates, but none of those candidates were of Bernier's calibre. Had any of them been previous candidates with 50% of the party's support, the committee wouldn't have dared to bar them.

There is the possibility that Bernier could have been booted in the same way O'Toole booted Sloan, but again, Sloan never raked in 50% of the membership's support. Not even close. On the first ballot, Sloan raked in 15%. Bernier raked in 28%. By the last ballot, Bernier had pulled in more than 16,000 votes.

There are two reasons why Bernier's popularity didn't immediately move over to the PPC in the 2019 election.

1. Conservative Voters

Real, dedicated, card-carrying members weren't going to risk splitting votes and re-electing Liberals. Many members who supported Bernier at the time became angry that he chose to leave. Most of them, as the numbers show, stuck around and refused to join Bernier's PPC. Even those who were angry with the Conservative Party knew the consequences of going back to the Reform era, when conservative disunity led to twelve years of Liberal majorities.

The CPC still had the strength, money and influence to beat Trudeau. Pissed off conservatives weren't about to leave for some broke start-up party led by a guy with poor English. As the 2019 results show, six million conservatives showed up to support Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier's defection had no real impact on the outcome.

2021 may be a different story.

2. Normies

If you read Poletical, you're probably not a disengaged “normie”. Normies are people who don't think about politics and don't have any real, big picture thoughts. Many of us have normie family members who have voted maybe once and who spend most of their time watching sports, camping and minding their own business. They don't think about national debt, media bias and major social issues. When they do, it's for a month or two during an election campaign—but, even then, they are generally misinformed and easily swayed by clever and dramatic political ads.

These are the people who make up a majority of the electorate.

To give you some perspective, the Conservative Party has about 300,000 card-carrying members. The Liberals have about the same, but slightly higher. Smaller parties like the NDP have less. In total, just under three million Canadians have a party membership of some kind, yet, around nineteen million Canadians voted in the last federal election. Most of them are normies.

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Normies will usually vote on issues that directly effect them and their families. Usually, they make their decisions based on what a clever, good-looking and well spoken politician tells them. They aren't driven by a particular ideology and have no real understanding of what it means to be left, right, liberal, socialist or conservative. If they're strapped for cash and a certain leader promises to ease their pain, that's who they will vote for. Likewise, if they hate being told what to do and hate paying more taxes, whatever politician that promises more freedom will get their vote.

Most normies have no idea who Maxime Bernier is. That might have changed as the pandemic has swept across the country and divided some normies between those who hate the restrictions and those who think there should be more. In 2019, no one knew who Bernier was and the PPC was just some random, obscure party that showed up on the ballot. Because of their well-funded and established branding, the mainstream parties were most likely to get their votes.

2021 may be a different story.

This Election

I have written more about this and how voter turnout could be one of the lowest in history, or the highest. Such a low turnout could benefit the PPC, only because of the pandemic and the amount of attention Bernier has drawn upon himself. If anyone votes in large numbers, it will be those who are angry about lockdowns, even if everyone else stays at home.

As well, more and more ordinary conservatives are seeing what Bernier was talking about when he quit and called the CPC morally and intellectually corrupt.

Most Canadians don't want an election, according to recent polls. In BC, the last provincial election put John Horgan into an historic majority, but saw one of the lowest voter turnouts in recent memory. If the same happens in Canada, fewer Canadians will vote and Justin Trudeau will win a majority. Low turnouts always benefit the incumbent. This is one of the few rules that almost always stays unbroken in politics.

Bernier's supporters and the anti-lockdown normies who have learned about him will most definitely be voting. The PPC's numbers could see an improvement from 2019, but only if Bernier was able to keep the respect and zeal of his 2019 supporters. If all goes well for Bernier and enough of the anti-lockdown crowd have taken a liking to him, the PPC may break 350,000 votes in the upcoming election. If things go even better and enough people are angry, the PPC could breach 500,000.

Those aren't winning numbers, but for a fairly new party it would mark a significant milestone and create a sense of permanence. That same sense of permanence eventually made the NDP and Greens influential forces in Canadian politics. The same happened to the Reform Party. As more Canadians and conservatives see the PPC as a permanent entity with the ability to grow support, the Conservative Party will be in trouble.

In an alternative scenario, the PPC could face the same kind of deflation and antipathy as the Liberals and Conservatives might. Low morale caused by the prospects of an inevitable Trudeau majority could keep even the angriest PPC supporters at home on election day.  An intensified hatred of Trudeau could also cause a bleed from the PPC to the CPC if conservatives see a real chance to beat Justin Trudeau. If so, we might be witnessing the last days of Maxime Bernier's political career.

Bernier As Leader Of The Conservative Party

Had Bernier stayed, he may have won the party's 2020 leadership against O'Toole and Mackay. How that would look now as Trudeau stumbles, we will never know. O'Toole has proven himself as a calm, calculated and capable leader. He has stepped in and addressed the biggest issues facing Canadians, while Trudeau has recycled old talking points and blamed Stephen Harper.

Trudeau's brutal failure over the past three weeks is stunning. O'Toole's ability to step up and show real leadership may not have been matched by Bernier. O'Toole has been clear, concise and well-spoken. Bernier's broken English and hardcore approach to lockdowns might not have worked well during this campaign.

There's no telling how Bernier would have responded to the situation in Afghanistan, or whether he would have addressed the opioid crisis and inflation. If he would have ran the CPC campaign like he is running the PPC campaign, we would definitely be looking at an inevitable Trudeau majority. Bernier's campaign has been centred on pandemic restrictions more than anything. As for real policies, his party has none.

Bernier's PPC has been a sideshow of shallow ideas and half-assed campaign promises. His campaign is about freedom this and freedom that, but offers no real, substantial policies to back any of it up. “We won't tax you or force you to get vaccinated” is hardly a viable policy. If Bernier ran the CPC with the same kind of approach, it would have been a total disaster.

"Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer finished the previous CPC leadership race in a virtual tie."

There are things we don't know about a CPC led by Bernier and what it would look like right now, but if the PPC's current campaign is any indication, it would be a shit show of epic proportions followed closely by a massive Trudeau majority.

With that said, electing a few PPC members to parliament wouldn't be the worst thing to happen in Canada. Having more people fighting for freedom is never a bad thing.

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