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Scheer removes Bernier from Conservative shadow cabinet over supply-management critiques

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier is shown during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has removed Bernier from his role as the party's innovation critic.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has stripped Maxime Bernier from his critic role in caucus after the Tory MP renewed his call to end Canada’s supply-management system.

Mr. Scheer announced late Tuesday that Mr. Bernier, his main rival in last year’s Conservative leadership race, was no longer the party’s critic for innovation, science and economic development.

“I have removed Maxime Bernier from the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet, effective immediately,” Mr. Scheer wrote in a short statement.

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Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux, currently the party’s science critic, will take over the role on an interim basis, Mr. Scheer said.

Mr. Bernier did not respond to a request for comment.

But in a tweet sent late Tuesday night, he said the chapter on supply management is the same one he previously released before deciding to shelve his book indefinitely.

“I just want to clarify one thing at this time. The chapter on SM posted on my website is THE SAME that was publicly for weeks on my publisher’s website but was taken down when I decided to postpone the book indefinitely,” Mr. Bernier tweeted.

After releasing an advanced chapter of his book, Mr. Bernier announced in April he would postpone his book amid outcry from Conservative MPs after he suggested Mr. Scheer won the party leadership with the help of “fake Conservatives” from the Quebec dairy lobby.

Mr. Scheer’s departing director of media relations, Jake Enwright, wouldn’t answer questions as to why Mr. Bernier was removed. “The statements as it reads now, stands,” Mr. Enwright said.

Mr. Bernier’s banishment to the back benches comes a day after The Globe and Mail revealed the Quebec MP recently uploaded to his personal website his book chapter criticizing supply management, which U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded be dismantled in trade talks.

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The 27-page chapter chronicles Mr. Bernier’s fervent opposition to the supply-management system, which he calls “the total opposite of a free market.”

Mr. Bernier also left the House of Commons during a vote on an NDP motion that condemned the U.S. administration’s “illegitimate” import duties on steel and aluminum and pledged support for supply management, the system that regulates prices and production on dairy, eggs and poultry in Canada. The motion passed unanimously. The Liberal government has repeatedly said it supports supply management.

In Question Period on Tuesday, Conservative MPs tried to ask Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay whether the Liberal government still supports supply management, pointing to comments made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in U.S. media that Canada was moving toward “flexibility” on dairy.

In response to each question, Mr. MacAulay pointed to Mr. Bernier’s criticism of the system. “The opposition critic for economic development has indicated quite clearly that he called for the end of supply management,” Mr. MacAulay said. “Conservatives cannot have it both ways.”

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