A Saskatoon MP says Maxime Bernier has supporters in Saskatchewan, but he’s confident Bernier’s high-profile departure from the Conservative Party won’t cause a rift.
Bernier, MP for the Quebec riding of Beauce, left the Conservatives this week to launch his own party, loudly voicing his criticisms of the Tories and their leader Andrew Scheer. At a press conference Aug. 23, Bernier said his former party had become “intellectually and morally corrupt” and was unwilling to tackle controversial issues like immigration and supply management.
Saskatoon—Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh said Bernier may have supporters in Saskatchewan, but he expects right-wing voters will stay with the Conservatives in 2019 as they have the best chance of dethroning Trudeau’s Liberal Party.
“There are people in Saskatchewan and in Canada that support his views. There’s no question we have seen that,” Waugh told 650 CKOM by phone from the Conservative convention in Halifax.
“You might like Maxime Bernier for some of his views, but there is no way that he can form a party in a short period of time and challenge the Liberals. There is only one alternative, and that’s Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives.”
While he said Bernier’s departure came as a disappointment, Waugh noted it didn’t come as a surprise.
“He wasn’t on the same page with the rest of us,” he said. “He has kind of gone overboard, I might say, on the immigration issue.”
When asked if other elected Conservatives might jump ship to follow the maverick Quebec MP, Waugh said it’s unlikely. A closed-door caucus meeting was held Aug. 23, he said, and everyone had a chance to voice concerns during an open forum.
“I don’t think you’re going to see anyone follow Maxime Bernier. We’re solidly behind Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives,” he said.
Although Bernier only has a short time to get a new party up and running, Waugh said the potential to split the right-leaning vote could create headaches for the Tories in certain ridings. Several races came down to just a few hundred votes in 2015, Waugh said, so vote-splitting could be a concern even if Bernier can secure two or three per cent of the vote next October.
Waugh won his own riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood by a strong margin in 2015, securing more than 40 per cent of the vote.