OTTAWA — Andrew Scheer is facing a test of his leadership after tossing one-time leadership rival Maxime Bernier from the Conservative shadow cabinet for breaking a promise to stop promoting his controversial political manifesto.
Bernier denies he did anything wrong and some of his supporters are even urging him to break away from the Tories and start his own libertarian party.
Bernier has said very little since Scheer fired him as the party’s innovation critic Tuesday night, but he did take to Twitter to suggest he didn’t understand why he lost his portfolio.
“I just want to clarify one thing at this time,” he wrote. ”The chapter on (supply management) posted on my website is THE SAME that was publicly available for weeks on my publisher’s website but was taken down when I decided to postpone the book indefinitely. There is nothing new, I did not ‘publish’ it.”
The chapter was originally published in April to market Bernier’s forthcoming book on his political vision for Canada. In it, he took pot shots at Scheer for pandering to dairy farmers in Quebec, accusing him of signing up ”fake Conservatives” in the leadership race to prevent keep Bernier and his anti-supply management policy, from winning.
After Scheer and caucus colleagues expressed their disappointment, Bernier promised to shelve the book for now and not further promote it.
And then he posted the offending chapter to his own website on June 5.
“It’s essential when members of our shadow cabinet make a commitment to caucus that those commitments are kept,” Scheer said Wednesday following the party’s weekly caucus meeting.
Bernier attended that meeting but did not come out to speak to reporters.
Conservative MP Tony Clement, who endorsed Bernier during the 2017 leadership race, said Bernier’s choice to post the chapter was a mistake and Scheer took a “difficult but necessary” step in firing him as innovation critic. Clement also blamed the media for trying to make a bigger deal of the issue than it was.
Foreign affairs critic and erstwhile leadership contender Erin O’Toole said he was puzzled by Bernier’s decision but stressed he remains a valued member of the Conservative caucus.