HALIFAX — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is accusing Quebec MP and former leadership rival Maxime Bernier of putting his own personal ambitions ahead of the chance to make Canada a better place.
As the Conservative policy convention was getting underway Thursday in Halifax, Scheer portrayed Bernier’s dramatic decision to leave the Conservative party as a calculated, power-hungry move.
He “is more interested in advancing his personal profile than advancing Conservative principles,” said Scheer, who narrowly defeated Bernier for the party’s leadership 15 months ago.
“He has decided that he is more important than his Conservative colleagues and indeed the Conservative party,” he said. “He has traded an opportunity to influence policy in government for his own personal ambition.”
He said Bernier has essentially ditched the fight to take down the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.
“I think it’s clear over the past few days and weeks that Maxime Bernier has made this choice,” Scheer says. “He has decided to help Justin Trudeau and abandon the best alternative to this Liberal government.”
Bernier never once came to Scheer with ideas about the issues he cited Thursday in quitting the party — evidence, he said, that Bernier has been planning his exit for a long time.
“In retrospect, it is clear that Maxime made this decision a long time ago.”
Scheer said the party will continue to champion balanced budgets, low taxes, secure borders, lawful immigration, freer trade and a stronger Canadian identity.
Bernier made the bombshell announcement during a news conference on Parliament Hill, calling the party “intellectually and morally corrupt” and beyond reform.
Bernier said he feels the party has abandoned its true ideals by refusing to end corporate subsidies or abolish the supply management system for poultry and dairy products.
Bernier’s decision to leave the party follows months of turmoil — much of it fomented on Twitter — between himself, Scheer and many Conservative MPs who felt he was jeopardizing their chances in the next election.
Asked why efforts weren’t made to push Bernier from caucus ahead of his departure, Scheer said, “it’s always my hope that people will put aside their personal ambition and come back and work as a team.”