Quebec MP Maxime Bernier is quitting the Conservative caucus to create a new right-wing party, using his exit to launch a series of scathing attacks against Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and his former colleagues.
“I have come to realize over the past year that this party is too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed,” Mr. Bernier told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday.
“The Conservative Party has abandoned conservatives. It does not represent them anymore. And it has nothing of substance to offer Canadians looking for a political alternative. “
Mr. Bernier has yet to announce the name of his new party, but discussions with Elections Canada are underway, said a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The new party is expected to be officially created in time for the fall sitting of the House of Commons.
The announcement occurred as the Conservatives launched a policy convention in Halifax. Conservative MPs were set to meet Thursday afternoon to decide whether to kick Mr. Bernier out of their caucus because of his controversial views on immigration and his direct challenges to the leadership of the party.
The move stands to split the political right across the country, but it remains unclear whether Mr. Bernier will have enough support and funding to field candidates in all 338 ridings.
Mr. Bernier, who was first elected in 2006 to represent the riding of Beauce in the House of Commons, lost a tight race against Mr. Scheer last year to lead the Conservatives.
Known for his libertarian views, Mr. Bernier continued to advocate for an end to supply management in the agricultural sector.
The divorce between Mr. Bernier and the Conservative Party goes back to his ouster in June from his role as the innovation critic in Mr. Scheer’s shadow cabinet. The Quebec MP had alleged Mr. Scheer won the leadership in large part because he had the support of “fake Conservatives” set up by the dairy lobby.
Mr. Bernier’s first choice up to that point had been to run under the Conservative banner in the next election and to run again in the next leadership race. However, Mr. Bernier started thinking about creating a new party when it became clear that he could be kicked out of the Conservative caucus over the policy disagreements, the source said.
Over the last two weeks, Mr. Bernier has been tweeting about diversity issues and what he called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “extreme multiculturalism.” Mr. Bernier said the policy will divide Canadians “into little tribes that have less and less in common” and advocated for lower immigration numbers, even though he holds no formal role in caucus.
His remarks led Mr. Scheer to accuse him of engaging in “identity politics” and to publicly distance the party from Mr. Bernier’s views.
On Wednesday, Mr. Bernier took direct aim at his party’s leadership as his caucus colleagues announced a cross-country tour this fall to consult on immigration issues.
“So, after disavowing me last week for raising the issue and telling me to shut up, my colleagues have just realized that this is something Canadians find important and want to hear about?” Mr. Bernier said. “Great example of strong leadership! ”
Mr. Scheer will hold a news conference after Mr. Bernier’s announcement.