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Overwhelming majority of Tory MPs have no intention of joining Bernier, survey reveals

One-time leadership candidate Maxime Bernier announces he will leave the federal Conservative Party during a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday Aug. 23, 2018.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Almost all Conservative MPs are closing the door to ever joining the new right-wing party being set up by Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, with only a handful not responding to queries about their intentions following Mr. Bernier’s move.

The results of an e-mail survey of the entire Conservative caucus show overwhelming opposition toward Mr. Bernier’s plan, as 92 of 96 MPs said they will not join the proposed party. But the survey left some question marks: Four MPs did not say whether they would consider joining the new party, even after follow-up phone calls.

Mr. Bernier announced his plan to create a new right-wing camp last Thursday, accusing the federal Conservative Party of being “intellectually and morally corrupt.”

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The following day, The Globe and Mail sent a question to all Conservative MPs asking whether they would join Mr. Bernier’s new party, offering three potential answers: Yes, No or Maybe.

Former party leadership contestant Kellie Leitch, who was at the Conservative convention in Halifax while the survey elicited numerous responses among caucus, did not answer. On Tuesday, an employee at her Ottawa office said the MP and pediatric surgeon – who decided not to run in the next election after facing a nomination challenge in her Ontario riding – is out of the country.

Ms. Leitch’s leadership campaign last year focused heavily on the issue of immigration, a key feature of Mr. Bernier’s opposition to the Conservative Party under the leadership of Andrew Scheer.

The other MPs who did not respond were Ontario’s Scott Reid, Dave MacKenzie and Peter Van Loan. Mr. Van Loan has announced that he will retire from politics in September.

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Mr. Bernier, who is now sitting as an independent, is aware there are no guarantees that he will woo sitting MPs to his formation before the next election. Still, his team feels the new party could attract a few former colleagues if it gains traction in the electorate, according to a source not authorized to speak publicly due to strategic considerations.

Mr. Bernier has attacked the Conservative Party for its continuing support for supply management in the agricultural sector and its weak response to the Liberal government’s policy on multiculturalism. In last year’s leadership race, Mr. Bernier also won support among social conservatives by promising to support the “democratic rights” of MPs who wish to table bills on issues such as abortion.

Conservative MP Brad Trost, who lost the Conservative nomination in his riding after coming fourth in last year’s party leadership race, said he is “not interested in getting involved either which way” and is likely moving to Asia next year. However, Mr. Trost said he expects some volunteers from his leadership campaign, which relied heavily on the support of social conservatives, to join Mr. Bernier’s political venture.

No. I am a real Conservative who is neither morally or intellectually corrupt

— Joël Godin, Member of Parliament for Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier, in his survey response.

“Bernier’s a real threat,” Mr. Trost said. “There are a lot of people [in the party] who are discontented and those are the ones open to a new option … I’d take him very seriously.”

Of the 96 Conservative MPs in Ottawa, 92 responded “no” to the question of following Mr. Bernier – or a number of variants that left no ambiguity about their feelings. Both Rosemarie Falk and Todd Doherty opted for “heck no.”

“Not a chance in hell,” James Bezan answered.

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Ill feelings toward Mr. Bernier are running high in the Conservative caucus.

“No. I am a real Conservative who is neither morally or intellectually corrupt,” Joël Godin said.

MPs who supported Mr. Bernier in last year’s leadership race also answered no, including Alex Nuttall, Dan Albas, Tony Clement, Alupa Clarke, Len Webber and Jacques Gourde.

“Not in a million years will I join him,” Mr. Clement said.

One former supporter, Tom Kmiec, is away for personal reasons and could not be reached.

Mr. Bernier is away with his family for the week. He tweeted a picture of himself by a lake on Monday, saying that he remains committed to launching his new party.

“I will work on Elections Canada documents to launch the new party and call my team and supporters across the country,” Mr. Bernier said.

Former Conservative whip Jay Hill, who served as Mr. Bernier’s Western co-chair in the leadership race, said he has no interest in joining Mr. Bernier’s yet-to-be-established political party.

“Every time the right – what I call the common sense alternative – splits into parts, the socialists win," said Mr. Hill, who was first elected as a Reform MP in 1993 before retiring from politics in 2010.

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