People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier didn’t run to win his seat – or even to bring new ideas into the last election campaign, two former party executives said, he simply wanted to stop Andrew Scheer from becoming prime minister.
In the process, Bernier made himself into something of a kamikaze candidate in order to poke a finger into the eye of his former Conservative leadership rival, alienating many of the party’s founders in the process.
Bernier shifted PPC policies away from the libertarian ideas the two former executives endorsed towards a “xenophobic” brand of online populism because he had no real desire to win, they said.
“He wasn’t trying to win with the PPC, he was just trying to make noise because he was extremely, extremely pissed off (at Andrew Scheer),” Angelo Isidorou, a former regional organizer and former electoral district association president for the PPC said in a phone interview. “I guess to some degree he succeeded.” Scheer resigned as Conservative Party leader this week following a dismal election showing.
For its part, the PPC only received 1.64 per cent of the popular vote nationwide. Bernier lost the seat he had held in Beauce, Que., since 2006, when he was first voted in as a Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) candidate.
PPC members thought Bernier would bring new ideas, including fiscal prudence, stopping supply management in the dairy industry and ending corporate welfare, into the political arena.
Supporters saw the party as a chance for a populist movement here in Canada just like our neighbours south of the border have with President Donald Trump.
Isidorou said PPC leader Bernier wasn’t the same as the Bernier from the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership race.
For context, Isidorou helped Bernier with his CPC leadership bid back in May of 2017. Bernier was involved with the Conservatives from 2006 until August of 2018 when he left and announced he was creating the PPC.
“Why is someone who is point five of a per cent (actually 1.9) away from being leader of a gigantic national party (the CPC) bashing people like Greta Thunberg on Twitter,” Isidorou said, referring to the 16-year-old international environmental activist from Sweden.
“But at the end of the day, he wanted to throw a monkey wrench into political culture in Canada by talking about climate change and immigration.”
Shannon Kewley, a former PPC founder and B.C. party organizer, said in a phone interview that many first noticed the trouble in January when Bernier changed his ways.
“Max changed his tune in January of 2019 and he basically drove the titanic straight into the ground.”
She also said Bernier lost his team when he replaced Clinton Desveaux, a former PPC executive, with Johanne Mennie.
“He lost all of our respect,” she said.
Founders thought it was problematic that Laura Lynn Thompson was allowed to be a candidate for Burnaby-South because of her old-school views on the LBGTQ community.
“Along with that began a whole new slew of members and organizers who had a very different vision from what we initially had — from what Max initially had.
“I would say that vision — at least on the west coast was primarily social conservative and primarily focused on immigration and climate change. For us, we sort of became fearful of the pathway that this was going to come down to. Not only morally but strategically it wasn’t very viable,” said Isidorou.
Angelo decided to sit down with Bernier back in early 2019 to express his concerns. He assumed that Bernier wasn’t “aware that his party is being hijacked by a bunch of extremists,” he said referring to far-right candidates like Sybil Hogg, Bill Capes and others.
Desveaux later decided to leave the PPC and told Bernier to take him off as an executive because the bad image of the PPC wasn’t good for his international business relations and because his wife is a refugee from Laos.
“Being associated with Max was more harmful than positive … I wasn’t interested in that kind of message because I’m a liberty guy,” said Desveaux.
When Isidorou did get the chance to sit down privately with Bernier his conclusion was similar to what other former executives had — “that he simply didn’t care.”
Spoke News reached out to the People’s Party of Canada for comment on these issues but did not receive a response.
Isidorou also said Bernier was not forthcoming with the original founders about what the party really was.
Following their poor results on election day, the PPC still doesn’t have a party constitution, national board or federal executive. Without these formal party structures, former executives were worried that Bernier could fold the party at any given moment without anyone else’s input.
In a recent column, Desveaux notes these exact problems.
Former B.C. organizer and founder, Kewley said these were the reasons she turned away from the party — especially when they replaced Desveaux with a political novice. This is where she thinks the PPC became a true fringe party. Even the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) has a party constitution.
Why might Bernier want these things you may ask?
It became problematic to Isidorou, Desveaux, Kewley and other PPC founders that Bernier didn’t care to form a national board or party constitution. Isidorou said Bernier said something to the effect of “it’ll happen then it’ll happen.”
“He became a protester and not a politician, he failed us all, because that’s not what he promised,” said Kewley.
Isidorou said Bernier didn’t care who was involved in the party.
“Until eventually — at least to each one of us privately he conceded that the party wasn’t actually built to last, so he doesn’t really care whether extremists get involved in it or not,” he said.
Isidorou said Bernier openly admitted this to him back in early 2019 saying: “We are going to do what the mob cheers the most at … because at the end of the day we’re not really in this to win a few seats, or you know do anything electorally productive.”
At this point, the original founders all left.
Why wouldn’t Bernier do anything electorally productive?
According to Isidorou, Bernier admitted his plan was to get “even with Andy (Andrew Scheer) and make sure he doesn’t become Prime Minister and walk away from politics.”
Bernier has been saying on social media that the PPC is “here to stay.” He also has asked supporters via email to renew their memberships, this time with a $20 fee for five years.
“He did win (the election) in the sense that Andrew didn’t become Prime Minister. But certainly, it wasn’t because of Max splitting the vote, I think he only cost him seven seats,” said Isidorou.
Kewley said she was also in the room with Isidorou when Bernier admitted his plan to them.
“All Max wanted at the end of the day, in my eyes, was to see Andrew Scheer torn down as leader of the Conservative Party,” she said.