Maxime Bernier’s announcement on Thursday that he has left the Conservative caucus and intends to form a new right-wing party is a disaster for the conservative movement in Canada. He has set that movement back two decades, all for the sake of what appears to be the end-game of a grandiose effort to take control of a party whose membership rejected his leadership bid in 2017.
Since losing to Andrew Scheer, Mr. Bernier has been a stone in the shoe of the Opposition Leader. In June, he posted on Facebook a chapter from a forthcoming memoir in which he accused Mr. Scheer of buying “fake conservative” leadership votes in Quebec by supporting agricultural supply management, prompting Mr. Scheer to remove Mr. Bernier from the Opposition shadow cabinet.
More recently, he went on a Twitter tear, accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of practising “extreme multiculturalism” and criticizing Mr. Scheer’s leadership on the same issue.
In his final swipe, he said on Thursday that the Scheer Conservatives are “too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed,” and that his only option is to leave and start a new party.
There may be some people who get a frisson from Mr. Bernier’s political theatre; who are excited to see him put his career on the line for the sake of strict conservative principles that don’t win elections.
But in focusing on the recent upheaval in his party over immigration and diversity, and getting stuck on the politically fraught issue of supply management, he has lost sight of the much more significant issue of conservative unity.
The Tory-Reform split of the 1990s ensured successive Liberal majorities in Parliament and a stultifying centre-left consensus in the wider political culture. What Stephen Harper taught the Canadian right was that it is more effective as a cohesive force than as a series of ideological camps.
Now, Mr. Bernier is taking the conservative movement back to that fractious era of two decades ago. He thinks he is saving the Canadian right. He is more likely dooming it to another extended period in the political wilderness.