Seventeen per cent of Canadians say they are open to voting for a new conservative party led by Maxime Bernier, according to a Nanos Research survey conducted for The Globe and Mail.
The poll also found that 70 per cent would not consider supporting Mr. Bernier’s party, while 12 per cent were unsure.
The former Conservative Party cabinet minister and leadership candidate rocked the political establishment with his Aug. 23 announcement that he was quitting the Conservative caucus to launch a new party, which does not yet have a name.
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Mr. Bernier declared that the Conservative Party “is too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed” and that he would be forming a new party that is focused on more freedom and less government.
Since his announcement, no other Conservative MPs have announced plans to join his party.
Pollster Nik Nanos said the results show that a party led by Mr. Bernier is unlikely to be a contender for power. However, he said, the poll numbers suggest that a strong campaign could be enough to gain official party status, which requires 12 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons. He said Mr. Bernier could also draw support away from other parties if he is viewed as a protest option.
Mr. Nanos added that Mr. Bernier’s harsh words for the Conservative Party under Leader Andrew Scheer will be an ongoing challenge for the Conservatives.
“I think the reality is that this is probably going to have more of a symbolic impact on the Conservatives than a real impact,” he said. “The narrative that the Conservatives are divided, that there is an individual who was almost the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada who has walked away very stridently because of his belief that the party has lost its way, is probably more damaging to the Conservative Party than the actual number of votes that he would get.”
The poll of 1,000 Canadian adults was conducted between Aug. 25 and Aug 27 as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were recruited via random calls to cellphones and landlines, and the survey was then administered online. The results are weighted by age, gender and geography in order to produce a representative sample. The margin of error for a random survey of 1,000 Canadians is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Survey respondents were also asked if they agree or disagree with Mr. Bernier’s statement that the Conservative Party is too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed. Thirty-one per cent disagreed and 15 per cent said they somewhat disagree, while 22 per cent said they agree and 21 per cent said they somewhat agree. A further 12 per cent said they were unsure.
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They were also asked if there is a need or not a need for a new federal conservative party. A strong majority, 66 per cent, said there is not a need, while 22 per cent said there is a need and 12 per cent said they were unsure.
After Mr. Bernier’s announcement, The Globe sent an e-mail survey to all 96 Conservative MPs, asking them if they intended to join his new party. The Globe received 92 responses ruling out joining him, while four did not provide a clear initial response.
One of the four, Scott Reid, later wrote an online essay explaining why he would not be supporting Mr. Bernier.
“Back in 1990, I left the old [Progressive Conservatives] because they had drifted so far to the centre that they were indistinguishable from the Liberals,” wrote Mr. Reid, who was one of the original supporters of the Reform Party. “To make the same claim about the modern Conservative Party having drifted so far to the centre that it sometimes outflanks the Liberals on the left (as really was true, some of the time, about the PCs in 1990), is just preposterous.”