Conservative MPs are rallying around Leader Andrew Scheer’s decision to kick Maxime Bernier off the Tory front benches after the former leadership rival reposted his book excerpt opposing supply management.
After the party’s weekly caucus meeting on Wednesday, Tory MPs said Mr. Scheer made the right choice when he dropped Mr. Bernier as the party’s critic for innovation, science and social development, despite his strong following in the libertarian wing of the party.
Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said Mr. Bernier, who came second to Mr. Scheer in last year’s leadership race with 49-per-cent support, broke a promise to caucus that he wouldn’t release his memoir until after he left politics.
“It’s been hard for Max to leave the campaign behind, and I think it was a poor decision to release that chapter after he had told the whole team that he was shelving the book,” said Mr. O’Toole, who finished third in the leadership contest.
“It just showed that he was letting the team down.”
Although it “disappointed a number of us,” Mr. O’Toole said Mr. Bernier may find his way back at some point.
Conservative MP Tony Clement, who supported Mr. Bernier in the leadership contest, told reporters, “49 per cent is not good enough. To win the leadership you need 50 per cent plus one. Maxime Bernier knows that; the party knows that; everybody knows that.”
In April, Mr. Bernier postponed his book indefinitely after he released an advance chapter on supply management that riled fellow MPs when he suggested Mr. Scheer won the party leadership with the help of “fake Conservatives” from the Quebec dairy lobby. Mr. Bernier is vehemently opposed to supply management, a pricing-control system in which quotas are set to regulate production of products such as milk, eggs and poultry.
On June 5, Mr. Bernier released the chapter on his website amid a heated trade dispute between the Liberal government and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Mr. Bernier did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
In a message to The Globe and Mail this week, Mr. Bernier said he uploaded the chapter online because it had been removed from his publisher’s website. “I simply posted it because it is not available anymore on the publisher’s website,” Mr. Bernier said.
“And some people were asking me where they could find it.”
In a tweet posted late on Tuesday, he added, “There is nothing new.”
Mr. Scheer won the party leadership in large part with the help of Quebeckers who strongly support supply management. As the federal government continues to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement with Mr. Trump, the Conservatives are arguing that Ottawa is willing to make concessions on the backs of the agricultural industry. However, Mr. Bernier’s opposition to the system threatened to undermine his party’s and Leader’s position on that front.
Mr. Clement said Mr. Bernier disobeyed caucus and Mr. Scheer “took a difficult but necessary decision.”
But he added that Mr. Bernier is still a member of the Conservative caucus and “very valued.”
“I think we should offer grace and compassion to people in this situation,” Mr. Clement said. “Max acknowledges it was the wrong decision.”’
In a brief scrum with reporters, Mr. Scheer said he won’t comment on internal caucus management issues.
“It’s essential that when members of our shadow cabinet make commitments to caucus, that those commitments are kept,” he said.
With a report from Daniel Leblanc in Ottawa