Tory leader lashes out
at maverick MP
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 gets underway in Halifax, Scheer is depicting Bernier's dramatic decision to leave the Conservative party as a calculated, power-hungry move.
Scheer says Bernier has chosen to "abandon our fight" and the best alternative to the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.
He says Bernier never once came to him with ideas about the issues he cited today in quitting the party — evidence, Scheer says, that Bernier has been planning his exit for a long time.
Scheer says 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, who narrowly lost the Tory leadership to Scheer 15 months ago, says 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.
Just pissed he lost the leadership bid and throwing a tantrum, glad he didn't win, I was a supporter until this move
Stephen Harper Calls Out Maxime Bernier
As A Sore Loser
TORONTO — Stephen Harper asked Conservatives on Thursday to hold steady and support leader Andrew Scheer after Maxime Bernier announced his decision to quit the party.
The former prime minister suggested Bernier is a sore loser after narrowly losing last year's leadership race to Scheer.
Bernier held a news conference in Ottawa where he shared his intention to lead a new federal party to be launched in the coming weeks. He did not join his former caucus members in Halifax for the first day of the party's policy convention.
"I prefer to do politics differently and to speak about what I believe," he said, slagging his former party as one that has become too "intellectually and morally corrupt" to be reformed.
The Conservative caucus allowed little room for debate on issues such as supply management and the government's "inefficient" changes to the equalization payment formula, he explained.
Bernier became increasingly aware in the last year that he had become an outlier in his own party.
"What is the goal to be in politics if you don't believe in anything," he said.
"I am now convinced that what we will get if Andrew Scheer becomes prime minister is just a more moderate version of the disastrous Trudeau government."
The Quebec MP has been the talk of the party in recent weeks after making a series of tweets accusing that the Liberal government's embrace of "extreme multiculturalism" endangers Canada's identity and intrinsic values.
Tory leader says he's 'very optimistic' about party's future
Speaking from Halifax, Scheer told reporters that Bernier's motivations are clear in retrospect. He accused his former leadership rival of choosing to help Trudeau in the upcoming election by prioritizing his ambitions.
"He has decided that he is more important than his Conservative colleagues and indeed the Conservative party," he said.
Despite the bombshell news that dropped just as 3,000 Conservative delegates began to arrive in Halifax to debate policy, Scheer said he's "very optimistic" about the party's future.
Bernier, the MP for Beauce, will hold onto his seat in the House of Commons and run as a candidate in next year's election as a candidate for his new pan-Canadian party.