GUNTER: The wait is on to see who, if anyone, joins Bernier

Okay, okay. Maybe I overreacted – a little – to Maxime Bernier’s announcement Thursday that he was quitting the federal Conservatives to start his own political party.

But I don’t think I’ve overestimated the boost Bernier’s antics give to the Trudeau Liberals’ re-election chances.

After my previous Bernier column, I got a call from a one-time adviser to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who remains deeply involved in Conservative party politics.

He told me to chill. So far, he said, no one else in the Tory caucus has walked out to join Mad Max.

And my buddy is right. If the population of Maxville remains just one – Bernier himself – then the damage his defection does to the Conservatives is minimal. A one-man show draws less attention than a marching band.

Then there is the little matter of whether Bernier will be able to organize and fund his new vanity party – the Maxiterians or the Berniertives – or whatever he decides to call them.

The troubles that led to Bernier jumping ship on Thursday started this spring when Bernier published a book accusing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer of using “fake Conservatives” to steal the federal leadership from him in May 2017, by less than two percentage points.

Bernier claimed Scheer was able to defeat him only because Scheer’s organizers signed up a lot of dairy farmers who weren’t previously members of the Conservative party. Sheer’s people got farmers to take out CPC memberships so they could vote against Bernier who wants to end supply managed agriculture, a move opposed by dairy farmers who have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars – even millions – for government permits to produce milk.

But there have been reports out of Conservative circles since before last year’s leadership vote that Bernier doesn’t like to be bothered with the hard work of political organizing, either. He loves the limelight, but not so much the heavy lifting.

He lost to Scheer because Scheer, while more bland, has a better work ethic and a greater tolerance for the drudgery of day-to-day politicking.

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If that is the case, Bernier’s penchant for style over substance may be a good predictor of his ability (or not) to make his new party amount to anything. And if his new party doesn’t ever amount to much, it won’t be a direct threat to the Tories in the October 2019 national election.

Still, that doesn’t mean the Bernier circus won’t keep the Tories in second place and hand the Trudeau Liberals a second term.

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Polling firm Abacus Data, released a comprehensive new issues poll Friday morning that indicates in those areas of the country that the Libs must win – Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto and B.C.’s Lower Mainland – their support is picking up thanks to the trade war with Trump, plus concerns over health care, housing affordability, climate change and gun violence; all issues that play to the Liberals electoral strengths.

For instance, according to Abacus, “Ontario residents are three times as likely to be extremely concerned about gun violence and twice as likely to be concerned about housing affordability, compared with Albertans.”

Westerners are generally more concerned about government debt and illegal border crossings than Quebecers and Atlantic Canadians.

In other words, in those Liberal areas of the country – in which Scheer and the Conservatives must make some inroads if they are going to take power – the issues are already playing against the CPC.

If Bernier’s look-at-me, look-at-me antics give voters there the impression the Conservatives are disunited and unready, that could shave two or three points off Tory support – enough to cost them dozens of close races and hand the win to the Liberals.

Bernier’s self-centered show is bad for everybody but Maxime – and Justin Trudeau.

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies