Bernier’s new party draws first public backers from leadership supporters

OTTAWA — A dragon, a marijuana activist and a former Tory MP who backed maverick MP Maxime Bernier’s leadership campaign are now throwing their weight behind his fledgling new political party.

Bernier, who spent much of the last year butting heads with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer over party policy on supply management, announced last month he was leaving the Conservatives to start his own party. While he has touted having several prominent people behind him, nobody has come forward publicly until now.

Former Dragon’s Den personality and merchant banker Michael Wekerle, well-known pot activist Marc Emery and former British Columbia Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal all tell The Canadian Press they are backing Bernier’s adventure.

Wekerle says he’s impressed by Bernier because he’s “very true to his word.”

“What he says is what he does is what he believes in. He’s a politician yet he doesn’t wade outside his core principles and for me, I thought that was very impressive,” said Wekerle. Wekerle said he believes Bernier has “Canadian interests at heart” and also called Bernier “very Canadian.”

The pair met about five years ago at a social event and Wekerle said he has praise for Bernier for putting himself out there.

“I think that really takes a lot of strength, a lot of valour,” he said, adding that he will donate to Bernier’s campaign and encourage others to support him.

Bernier says he raised more than $90,000 in less than two weeks to support his new party and intends to announce the new name and logo later this week. He hopes to have the signatures and other paperwork required to register the new party with Elections Canada later this fall, with a view to being prepared for the 2019 federal election.

Wekerle reiterated that Bernier is “consistent” and suggested that’s unusual in politics.

“His policies don’t change. He doesn’t go with the wind. He says what he feels and I might not agree with all his policies but at least he’s been consistent,” he said, adding that he respects leaders who lead by example and lead by consistency.

Grewal, a Conservative MP between 1997 and 2006, said while he played a key role in merging the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservative Party, the new party has “lost touch” with grassroots members and is run by “inexperienced kids.”

“They became arrogant, the leadership became arrogant,” he said.

Bernier, said Grewal, is a grassroots member with good leadership qualities and vision.

He said if Bernier asks him to run as a candidate, he will.

“That will be a decision made later on,” he said, adding that for now his energy is focused on rallying members to support Bernier.

Grewal said he would also help Bernier with ethnic outreach, saying he had some success in that in the past.

“I have been very helpful in the past. I was one of the first minority candidates of the Reform Party way back in 1996, I played a significant role in the outreach with minority communities, ethnic communities not only in British Columbia but also across the country,” he said.

Emery, another supporter of Bernier’s leadership bid, said that he donated $1000 to Bernier’s campaign and that he “totally” endorses everything Bernier says and does.

“I’ve never seen anything I disagree with,” he said.

Emery acknowledged that creating a new party is a “herculean task” but he said Bernier has a massive database of people who supported his leadership bid and he wants to help his campaign.

“I don’t even know if it has a name yet but I’m excited about it.”

Janice Dickson , The Canadian Press

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