Quebec MP Maxime Bernier had already hit the ground running before Thursday’s bombshell announcement that he would quit the Conservatives and launch his own party, a source close to the controversial MP says. Bernier announces he will leave the Conservative party during a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday August 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Bernier has enough support to start new federal party, source says

It’s believed he already has what he needs to register with Elections Canada

A number of supporters who backed Maxime Bernier’s oh-so-close bid for the Conservative leadership say they want nothing to do with his plan to start a new party — but one source says the maverick ex-Tory already has what he needs to register his enterprise with Elections Canada.

Four members of Parliament and at least three senators who backed Bernier in last year’s leadership race say they have no interest in endorsing what they consider a flight of fancy — or supporting someone who just tossed a hand grenade into the party’s 2019 election hopes.

“It’s such a ridiculous decision, I can’t support this,” Tory Sen. Claude Carignan said Friday from the floor of the Conservative policy convention in Halifax.

But in an interview with La Press Canadienne, Bernier himself said he wasn’t expecting any caucus members to join him — so much so, in fact, that he didn’t tell them what he was planning.

“I have the support of members of the Conservative party,” Bernier said in French. ”Maybe not the 3,000 who are in Halifax now, but the Conservative party has 150,000 members as we speak. I think that is where I find the support I saw in the last few days, in the phone calls, the emails I got.”

READ MORE: Maxime Bernier quits federal party year before election

There were signs on social media of people willing to make the jump, including some convention delegates who were tearing up their membership cards after a proposed resolution to abolish Canada’s supply management system for poultry and dairy products never even made it to debate.

Bernier, who is not in Halifax, reached out to them on Twitter.

“To all those who feel let down by this party, I say: You will be let down again and again. Don’t waste your time,” he tweeted. ”It’s time for a real conservative party defending real conservative values. The sooner this gets settled, the more chances we will have to defeat Justin Trudeau.”

Elections Canada requires new political parties to have signatures and contact information from at least 250 people already in place as members in order to be eligible for party status. Bernier will also need three people to act as party officials, someone to be an official agent and an auditor.

Going to Elections Canada in one or two months would be “perfect,” Bernier said, but a source familiar with his status said he already has the names and is just now double-checking the details before taking the next step.

“He’s got enough to go to Elections Canada,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss details.

“That’s about to happen.”

Another source close to Bernier said the Quebec MP had been making phone calls to “key people” across Canada who supported his leadership bid long before he went ahead with Thursday’s scorched-earth news conference, where he quit the Tories and tore a strip off leader Andrew Scheer.

READ MORE: Bernier causes more headaches for fellow Conservative MPs

Former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day said he knows Bernier has some business leaders backing him, but noted that starting a new political party is a herculean endeavour — one in which not all of those supporters will have any interest in taking part.

Bernier is likely feeling emboldened by the support he has received — especially in financial terms — in the last few months as his feud with Scheer reached a fever pitch, Day said. In June, the day after Scheer stripped him of his shadow cabinet job, Bernier received $28,455 in donations in less than 24 hours.

But Scheer needs to remind the party what happens when Conservatives splinter, Day added.

“If (Bernier) is successful even on paper, then the challenge for the Conservatives is going to be to ask people to go back and think about the history of what Conservatives gain when they have two voting alternatives for voters. Really, they gain nothing.”

That’s the fear celebrity businessman Kevin O’Leary is fighting.

Himself a one-time candidate for Scheer’s job, O’Leary — who dropped out to back Bernier in the final days of the race — said Friday he’s trying to decide what to do, although he admitted he is “getting intrigued” by the prospect of one day taking on a major policy-making role.

He said Bernier could pull as much as one-fifth of Conservative support at the ballot box, all but guaranteeing the Liberals another term in office, he warned: ”I think we need to do a little soul searching here.”

Others who supported Bernier’s leadership bid have yet to make up their minds: “Good question,” Sen. Stephen Greene replied when asked if he supports Bernier’s new initiative.

Conservative MP Alex Nuttall, who played a key role in Bernier’s leadership campaign, has not responded to multiple requests.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Property owners say CSRD’s offer for 10-acres bordering landfill is unfair

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) has offered to purchase a 10-acre… Continue reading

Expect delays on Highway 1 west of Golden due to vehicle fire

Expect delays while driving Highway 1 between Golden and Revelstoke. Drive BC… Continue reading

Your weekly Mountain Minute

Golden’s weekly 60-secon news recap for February 14

70% of Canadians agree with mandatory vaccines for children: poll

The debate for pro and anti vaccinations has heated up after a measles outbreak in Vancouver

VIDEO: Woman, off-duty cop in serious condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

‘A little baloney’ in PM’s claim about solicitor-client privilege on SNC-Lavalin

The Conservatives and NDP want Trudeau to waive that privilege so Wilson-Raybould can offer her side of the story

Proposed edible pot rules are wasteful, would leave products tasteless: critics

When Canada legalized weed last fall, it only allowed fresh or dried bud, oil, plants and seeds

Samsung folding phone is different – but also almost $2,000

But most analysts see a limited market for foldable-screen phones

Alcohol policies fizzle for Canadian governments as harms overflow: reports

About 80 per cent of Canadians drink, and most enjoy a drink or two

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Most Read