Maxime Bernier

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The Honourable
Maxime Bernier
PC MP
Blogue-maxime-bernier-cropped.png
Leader of the People's Party of Canada
Interim
Assumed office
September 14, 2018
Preceded by Position established
Minister of State for Small Business, Tourism and Agriculture
In office
May 18, 2011 – November 4, 2015[a]
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Rob Moore
Succeeded by Bardish Chagger
7th Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
August 13, 2007 – May 26, 2008
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Peter MacKay
Succeeded by David Emerson
Minister of Industry
Registrar General of Canada
In office
February 6, 2006 – August 13, 2007
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by David Emerson
Succeeded by Jim Prentice
Chair of the National Defence Select Committee
In office
March 9, 2009 – June 20, 2011
Preceded by Rick Casson
Succeeded by James Bezan
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Beauce
Assumed office
January 23, 2006
Preceded by Claude Drouin
Personal details
Born (1963-01-18) January 18, 1963 (age 55)
Saint-Georges, Quebec, Canada
Political party People's Party
Other political
affiliations
Conservative (until 2018)
Spouse(s) Catherine Letarte (p. 2010–present)
Julie Couillard (d.2007–08)
Caroline Chauvin
(m. 1991; div. 2005)
Children 2
Parents Gilles Bernier
Doris Rodrigue
Residence Saint-Georges, Quebec, Canada
Education Université du Québec à Montréal (B.Com.)
University of Ottawa (LL.B.)
Profession Author, businessman, consultant, lawyer

Maxime Bernier PC MP (born January 18, 1963) is a Canadian businessman, lawyer and politician, currently serving as Member of Parliament for the Quebec riding of Beauce, having been elected four times with a majority of the vote. He is the founder and current interim leader of the People's Party of Canada.

Prior to being elected, Bernier held positions in law, financial and banking fields. After being elected, he served as Minister of Industry, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, which later become the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism and Agriculture in the cabinet of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Following the Conservatives' defeat in the 2015 election, he served as opposition critic for Innovation, Science and Economic Development in the shadow cabinets of Rona Ambrose and Andrew Scheer, until June 12, 2018.[1]

He ran in the 2017 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election, and came in a close second with over 49% of the vote in the 13th round, after leading the eventual winner, Andrew Scheer, in the first 12 rounds. On August 23, 2018, citing disagreements with Scheer's leadership, he resigned from the Conservative Party to create his own party.[2][3] The party's name, the People's Party of Canada, was announced on September 14.

Background[edit]

Bernier was born in Saint-Georges, Quebec, the son of Doris (Rodrigue) and Gilles Bernier,[4] a well known radio host, who represented the riding of Beauce from 1984 to 1997, first as a Progressive Conservative[4] and then as an independent.[5][6][6] He is the second oldest child and has two sisters, Brigitte and Caroline, and a brother, Gilles Jr. In his teens, Bernier played football as a member of the Condors, the team of the Séminaire St-Georges, that won the Bol d’Or in 1980 at the Olympic Stadium.[7]

He obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the Université du Québec à Montréal, completed his law degree at the University of Ottawa and was called to the Quebec Bar in 1990, which he is still a member. For 19 years, Bernier held positions in law, several financial and banking fields, such as working as a lawyer at McCarthy Tétrault,[8] the National Bank, the office of the Securities Commission of Québec as Director of Corporate and International Relations[9], an adviser (handling fiscal reform) from 1996 to 1998 in the office of Bernard Landry—Quebec's finance minister at the time[b]—and Standard Life of Canada as the Vice-President of Corporate Affairs and Communication[9]. He also served as Executive Vice-President of the Montreal Economic Institute, a prominent Quebec free-market think tank, where he authored a book on the topic of tax reform.[7][9][10]

Personal life[edit]

Bernier is the father of two teenage daughters.[11][8] Since 2010, he has been in a long term relationship with Catherine Letarte, a National Ballet School trained ballerina, who worked for a women’s shelter and currently runs a health community centre.[12] He has participated in several marathons.[7] On September 29, 2013, he trained for and ran an ultramarathon for thirteen hours across his riding, while raising $153,000 for a local food bank, Beauce Harvest Foundation.[13] Bernier is currently writing a book about his political career.[14][15]

Political career[edit]

2006 election[edit]

In 2005, Bernier became the Conservative Party candidate in the riding of Beauce for the 2006 federal election after his father declined a request by Stephen Harper that he re-enter politics. His father suggested his son as a candidate to Harper.[16] The Conservatives had been shut out of Quebec in the previous federal election, but felt confident in his chances of being elected in the province.[17]

Bernier's campaign ended successfully, with him winning 67% of the popular vote in Beauce, the largest majority outside of Alberta.[18][16] His ties to the riding and his support for provincial jurisdictions (which earned him an endorsement from former Social Credit party leader Fabien Roy) were factors in his win. Some political pundits believed Bernier's ideas lead to the unexpected Conservative breakthrough in Quebec during the election.[16][19]

Minister of Industry[edit]

Bernier was one of the higher-profile freshman MPs from Quebec, and as such, on February 6, 2006, was appointed Minister of Industry and minister responsible for Statistics Canada, and by virtue of being appointed as the Minister of Industry, he also served as the Registrar General.[20] During his time as Industry Minister, Bernier set in motion steps that led to reformation of the telecommunications industry, particularly on local phone service.[21][22][23] Professor Richard J. Schultz from McGill University lauded his attempt to deregulate the telecommunications industry, calling him "the best Industry Minister in 30 years, without challenge."[24][25] James Cowan from Canadian Business, called Bernier tenure " a golden age", by pointed out that his work on attracting investment was laudable while criticizing anyone who considered Bernier a lightweight.[26][27]

Minister of Foreign Affairs[edit]

On August 14, 2007, Bernier was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing Peter MacKay, who became the Minister of National Defence. The rumour is that appointment had to do with preventing Bernier from pushing his personal views farther as industry minister.[28][29][30][31] During the beginning of his tenure, Bernier's personality and charm received praise among foreign dignitaries.[32]

In May 2008, it was revealed that Bernier became involved in an incident in which he inadvertently left a briefing book at the home of his girlfriend at the time, Julie Couillard.[33][34] Although these types of incidents were not unique,[35] he was expected to be demoted,[36][37] but accepted responsibility and offered to resigned his cabinet post on May 26, 2008.[38] Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who initially dismissed the relationship as irrelevant,[39] accepted his resignation.[40][37] Bernier explained that the incident made him rethink his political career and that he would avoid taking government information out of his parliamentary office in future.[38][41]

Recalling his tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernier felt unsatisfied due to the Prime Minister's Office controlling the portfolio, making it harder for him to implement his views into Canadian foreign policy.[32]

2008 election[edit]

Six days before the 2008 election, Couillard released a book which was supposed to reveal his confidential opinions. The English version peaked at No. 6 on La Presse's bestseller list while the French version reached No. 5. However, the book was viewed negatively by Bernier's constituents.[42] He was reelected with 62% of votes.[43]

Backbench[edit]

In 2009, Bernier decided to start a blog and spent the next four years travelling across the country talking and debating about the issues that mattered to him.[44][45] Bernier's speeches were criticized by Jean Pierre Blackburn, Raymond Blanchard and Tom Mulcair,[46][47] but praised by Andrew Coyne, Warren Kinsella, and André Pratte.[47][48][49] Recalling his time as a backbencher, Bernier stated, "I had invitations across the country [...], people got to know me. They saw that I had good ideas, that I wasn't an idiot".[50] He was also chair for the National Defense Select Committee.[51]

On September 8, 2010, Bernier's Quebec colleagues pushed for the federal government to invest $175 million in the Videotron Centre in Quebec City and wore vintage Nordiques jerseys to express support in a photo-op, however however he was noticeably absenced. Couple of days later, Bernier explained on his blog, took a radio interview, and criticized feasibility study by Ernst & Young to express opposition to the investment by stating that makes little financial sense. [52][53] The government later decided against the investment.[54] When recalling about that decision, he revealed that his colleagues were furious at him because they wanted to use the investment to "Buy votes".[55][56]

It had been rumoured that Conservative Party insiders wanted Bernier to take over as leader of the ADQ if Stephen Harper's preferred choice, Mario Dumont, became Quebec lieutenant. There were rumours that Bernier was considering a leadership run[57][58] and in 2009, there was a movement to draft Bernier for the leadership of the ADQ. However, Bernier later stated, "I'm flattered that some people can see me as ADQ leader, but it doesn't interest me at all".[59]

Minister of State[edit]

On May 18, 2011, Bernier was appointed as Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism). It was rumoured that Bernier's appointment had more to do with speeches where members of the cabinet felt that they were critical of policies that his government were pursuing.[32] However, Bernier stated that he accepted the role because he felt he did not accomplish enough in his career and expressed a desire to end the budget deficit.[38]

His responsibilities were expanded with his appointment on July 15, 2013, as Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism and Agriculture).[60] During this time, he led the Red Tape Reduction Commission, which created a rule that for every regulation added another one has to be cut.[61] There were rumours of Bernier being a dark horse candidate to replace Jim Flaherty as Minister of Finance.[62]

2015 election[edit]

In the 2015 federal election he released a viral retro campaign jingle, which had support from his constituents.[63][64]

Move to opposition[edit]

On November 20, 2015, Bernier was appointed by interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose as Critic for Economic Development and Innovation.[60] He resigned on April 7, 2016 in order to run in the Conservative Party's leadership election.[65]

On March 6, 2016, Bernier introduced a motion that would have required Bombardier executives to explain the reasoning for the federal government to bail them out. However, the governing Liberal Party of Canada blocked it.[66] Bernier argued that instead of Bombardier asking for funding, they should perform a corporate restructuring.[67]

Press Progress released a video of Bernier stating, in a conservative conference, that China has "less government and more freedom" than Canada.[68] Bernier argued Press Progress misconstrued his comments, stating, "Left-wing publication belonging to the Broadbent Institute bizarrely claims I admire Chinese dictatorship. They totally distort what I said in speech in Barrie two weeks ago where I spoke about fairness and small [government]. I was not talking about political but economic freedom. Liberalising economy is reason why they went from dirt poor to second largest eco in world. Did Broadbent activists miss that I joked however we used to have same freedom here before Libs were elected. People in the room laughed. Broadbent people didn’t get it?"[69]

Leadership campaign[edit]

Leadership campaign logo, 2017

On April 7, 2016, Bernier filed his nomination to be a candidate in the 2017 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election.[65] Bernier mentioned that he had no expectation of running, but he met people who encouraged him, in addition he consulted with his family and supporters before making the decision.[70] Bernier explained that he ran to share his views and ideas by being authentic while not pandering to any special interest and avoiding accusations of a hidden agenda known of his predecessor.[71][72][73][74][75] Occasionally, he displayed a sense of humor which helped him gain voters' attention.[76][77] The support that Bernier received during the race shocked him and political pundits.[32][44] On May 27, 2017, he finished a close second in the final round of voting to Andrew Scheer.[78] William Watson of the Financial Post argued that although some of Bernier's policies may have played a role in his loss, they could also affect Canada's future. He also mentioned that ideas expressed by Bernier were reflective of the role "rugged individualism" played in Canada's past.[79] A few days after the results, Michael Chong, another leadership candidate, argued that both his and Bernier's campaigns represented "real change, significant change" for the party. However, he felt the party had voted to keep the status quo.[80]Bernier later told The Globe and Mail that he believes "It was the first time that somebody did a campaign based on principles without doing any compromise with special interest groups, without trying to buy votes".[81]

Post-leadership campaign[edit]

Bernier with Andrew Scheer in Ottawa in 2017

On August 31, 2017, Bernier was reappointed critic for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada by Andrew Scheer. Previously, he had openly expressed a preference to be Finance critic though he stated that he had no complaints with staying as Economic Development critic as it was his second choice.[82][83]

After it was revealed that the 2015 Conservative campaign team knew about sexual assault allegations against former Conservative MP Rick Dykstra, on January 31, 2018, Bernier publicly demanding answers as he was heading towards a caucus meeting into the handling of the nomination[84] as did Conservative MP Brad Trost, who tweeted in favor of Bernier statement. After the meetings, Scheer reversed his previous decision, and called for a third-party investigation.[85]

In February 2018, Bernier introduced a private member bill, Bill C-396, An Act to amend the Department of Industry Act (financial assistance) to ensured transparency for government handouts to business.[86] It was defeated by the Liberal Party.[87]

Bernier intended to publish a book, Doing Politics Differently: My Vision for Canada. In April 2018 he prereleased a chapter on his publisher website explaining why he made ending supply management an issue during the leadership campaign.[88] The chapter referred to Quebec’s dairy farmer lobby, which opposed his views on supply management and supported Scheer's candidacy, as "fake Conservatives" because they left the party after Scheer victory and expressed disapoinment in an interview with La Presse.[89][90] However, his Conservatives colleagues who saw the chapter as an attack on the legitimacy of Scheer's victory in the leadership election, Bernier agreed to postpone publication of the book indefinitely for the sake of "party unity". He asserted that his book was not about his leadership campaign but was intended to discuss ideas that mattered to him.[91] He later told the Toronto Star in an email that he defended his comments and that "the book will be published one day and you have to be patient".[92]

On June 12, 2018, Scheer announced Bernier had been dismissed from the shadow cabinet after he allegedly violated his pledge of publishing the book by posting the chapter on his website on June 5, after it had been removed by from the publisher's website. Bernier denied that he broke the pledge by stating "there is nothing new, I did not 'publish' it".[93] On June 15, Bernier stated in an interview that he believed his stance on supply management not his decision to post the chapter was the real reason behind his dismissal.[94]

Bernier garnered attention when he issued a series of tweets on August 12, 2018, taking issues to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s oft-repeated message of diversity by stating: "Trudeau's extreme multiculturalism and cult of diversity will divide us into little tribes that have less and less in common, apart from their dependence on government in Ottawa. These tribes become political clienteles to be bought with taxpayers (money) and special privileges."[95] The tweets were issued on the first anniversary of the Charlottesville, Virginia "Unite the Right" rally, and Bernier was accused of expressing sympathy for white nationalism due to the content and timing of his tweets.[96] Bernier denied any connection and called the inference "despicable".[97][98] In the face of demands that Bernier be expelled from caucus, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer disavowed Bernier's comments. Bernier was warned by Scheer and other leading members of the caucus to be a "team player."[99][100] When asked about his tweets by Question Period, he responded by stating “Instead of always promoting the diversity in our country, why not promote what unites us. That’s the most important.”[101]

Departure from the Conservative Party[edit]

On August 23, 2018, Bernier announced that he was leaving the Conservative party with the intention of founding a new political party.[102][103][104] On the day the Conservative Party of Canada's convention was to begin in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Bernier held a press conference where he declared that the Conservative Party was "too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed" and had abandoned "core conservative principles," and announced that he was quitting the party. He planned to start a new right of centre, libertarian-oriented federal political party.[105][106][107][108]

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to Bernier's actions, saying: "It is clear that Max never accepted the result of the leadership vote and seeks only to divide Conservatives."[109]In a National Post op-ed, Bernier responded to accusations of being a "sore loser" who is splitting the conservative vote, stating that his real motive is to reverse what he believe is the "public choice dynamic" in the Canadian political system that leads to vote-buying and pandering by the main political parties. Bernier reiterated his belief that the Conservative Party cannot be reformed to end this practice and that a new political party is required.[110]

People's Party of Canada[edit]

Logo of the PPC

On September 14, 2018, Bernier announced the creation of the People's Party of Canada.[111]

Personal views[edit]

Bernier has a history of quoting James M. Buchanan, Friedrich Hayek, and Henry Hazlitt. Bernier has been known as "Mad Max"[112][113], the "Bloc-buster" [114][115], or the "Albertan from Quebec" by his Ottawa colleagues.[4][116] He has stated that his views were shaped from his upbringing in Beauce, known as Quebec's entrepreneurial heartland, to his life experience like the effect that regulation can have on small business.[117][118][45][119][8]

In the Times Colonist, Bernier stated, "They can call me a fiscal conservative, they can call me a conservative who believes in freedom, they can call me reasonable libertarian, call me anything you want—call me Max, call me Maxime, call me 'Mad Max'."[120]

In a 2010 interview with John Geddes, Bernier said he respects his father as a Mulroney-era politician, but tries not to emulate his style. After his leadership defeat, he pondered the idea of leaving politics after receiving job offers from the financial sector in Toronto. However, after taking a vacation with his family, he decided to stay by stating "Many people are still cynical about politicians. I always wanted to do politics differently and remain honest with my convictions".[43][121]

Published Works[edit]

  • Pour un taux d'imposition unique
  • Doing Well and Doing Better: Health Services Provided to Canadian Forces Personnel with an Emphasis on Post-traumatic Stress Disorder : Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence
  • Canada's Arctic Sovereignty: Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence
  • Doing Politics Differently: My Vision for Canada-Chapter 5 "Live or die with supply management"''

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2015
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Maxime Bernier 32,910 58.89 +8.17
Liberal Adam Veilleux 12,442 22.26 +11.27
New Democratic Daniel Royer 5,443 9.74 −20.26
Bloc Québécois Stéphane Trudel 4,144 7.42 +0.75
Green Céline Brown MacDonald 943 1.69 +0.08
Total valid votes/Expense limit 55,882 100.0     $222,691.43
Total rejected ballots 712 1.25 0.02
Turnout 56,594 66.15 +3.13
Eligible voters 85,547
Conservative hold Swing +14.22
Source: Elections Canada[122][123]
Canadian federal election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Maxime Bernier 26,799 50.71 −11.70 $80,639.74
New Democratic Serge Bergeron 15,831 29.95 +21.43 $1,165.17
Liberal Claude Morin 5,833 11.04 +0.72 $53,133.79
Bloc Québécois Sylvio Morin 3,535 6.69 −7.29 $19,711.99
Green Etienne Doyon Lessard 852 1.61 −3.16 $2.00
Total valid votes/Expense limit 52,850 100.0     $90,992.37
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 681 1.27 −0.30
Turnout 53,531 63.02 +0.64
Eligible voters 84,941
Conservative hold Swing −16.56
Sources:[124][125]
Canadian federal election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Maxime Bernier 31,883 62.41 −4.61 $69,558.01
Bloc Québécois André Côté 7,143 13.98 −5.99 $13,263,15
Liberal René Roy 5,270 10.32 +2.40 $2,129.85
New Democratic Véronique Poulin 4,352 8.52 +5.97 $2,575.32
Green Nicolas Rochette 2,436 4.77 +2.23 none listed
Total valid votes/Expense limit 51,084 100.0     $87,470
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 817 1.57 +0.75
Turnout 51,901 62.38 −5.24
Eligible voters 83,205
Conservative hold Swing +0.69
Canadian federal election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Maxime Bernier 36,915 67.02 +49.93 $79,344.54
Bloc Québécois Patrice Moore 10,997 19.97 −16.29 $66,069.90
Liberal Jacques Lussier 4,364 7.92 −33.46 $54,809.07
New Democratic Cléo Chartier 1,405 2.55 −0.50 $1,020.20
Green Jean-Claude Roy 1,397 2.54 +0.31 $108.47
Total valid votes/Expense limit 55,078 100.0     $81,497
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 454 0.82 −1.42
Turnout 55,532 67.62 +8.12
Eligible voters 82,123
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +33.11

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  120. ^ [1][dead link]
  121. ^ [2]
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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Office became known as 'Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism, and Agriculture' from 2013-2015.
  2. ^ also Deputy Primer of Quebec.

External links[edit]

Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
Claude Drouin
Member of Parliament
for Beauce

2006–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
David Emerson
Minister of Industry
2006–2007
Succeeded by
Jim Prentice
Preceded by
Peter MacKay
Minister of Foreign Affairs
2007–2008
Succeeded by
David Emerson
Preceded by
Josée Verner
Minister responsible for La Francophonie
2007–2008
Succeeded by
Josée Verner