We at for Liberty were prepared to publish an article congratulating Maxime Bernier on his leadership win. We, along with fervent supporters, have experienced a host of emotions since Saturday’s election results: disenchantment, heartbreak, anger, but most importantly, disappointment.
Bernier had been a sign of hope that the party’s makeup was changing; the liberty-focused conservative side that could grow the party beyond its traditional barriers was finally getting traction. Quickly labelled the libertarian candidate, which can be a tough sell for some conservatives, Bernier managed to become an early front runner. His campaign consistently advocated for shrinking the size of government, lowering taxes, and "fixing" equalization. That message, along with key promises such as ending supply management and corporate welfare, resonated with conservatives across the country and drove much of the dialogue during the race.
How could these ideas fail? And what does this mean for those disappointed liberty-loving conservatives that may question where they fit in the Conservative Party of Canada?
In articles since Saturday, there have been multiple reasons cited as to why Bernier, ultimately, fell short of the leadership victory: lack of support in Quebec, his home province; a surge of social conservatives rallying behind consensus-candidate Scheer; and opposition from the dairy cartels Bernier proposed to axe. Chantal Hébert suggests that Scheer’s victory is a win for “retail politics” and does nothing to expand the big blue tent, as a Bernier victory may have. (1)
The results are indicative of a larger coalition of social conservatives than many may have previously realized. Campaign Life Coalition-approved candidates Trost and Lemieux collectively picked up 15.7% of first ballot support; most of which fell to socially-conservative Scheer after they were eliminated. While we believe the CPC should be a home for all conservatives and a forum for the free exchange of ideas, it is concerning that socially-conservative ideas, which often infringe on personal liberties, are still so strongly rooted.
For conservatives, the fact that Bernier’s principled policies came so close to victory should give us some comfort -- 49% of CPC voters believe in genuinely small government, liberty-based policy. For libertarians, Maxime Bernier’s strong showing should instill hope -- a candidate for one of the major political parties in Canada ran on what some called “extreme” policies based on very libertarian ideas and came in an extremely close second.(2) From here on out, it will be a fight on the policy books in order to promote liberty.
49% of us agree and now, it’s our job to band together and promote liberty in the CPC and beyond. As Andrew Coyne so aptly put it, “for Bernier’s followers, the challenge now is to build on [the] near victory: to make [liberty] a permanent force in Conservative politics, much as the so-cons have.”(3)