Maxime Bernier loses riding he's held since 2006 but says PPC still has future
OTTAWA – The People’s Party of Canada has lost their most promising chance at a seat in the House of Commons, with leader Maxime Bernier admitting defeat in a riding he’s held since 2006.
Replacing him as the representative for Beauce, Que., is Conservatives’ Richard Lehoux, former president of the Fédération Québécoise des municipalités, with 38.6 per cent of the vote.
"My heart goes out to our 315 candidates across the country," Bernier told a crowd of supporters late Monday in his concession speech.
"They have shown extraordinary courage and passion defending our principles and policies. They did it despite nasty and shameless attacks from our opponents."
In the fall of 2018, Bernier abandoned ship and started his own conservative party, which made his chances for re-election challenging at the outset. It’s a party that’s been focused on tighter restrictions on immigration, less "political correctness," lower taxes, and a strict no-action on climate change.
"What we managed to accomplish in only one year is spectacular," he said.
So far no riding has gone to the PPC and Beauce was one of their most competitive districts going into Monday night, given the political dimensions at play in the region and the significance of the Bernier legacy. He and his father – who was watching the results come in alongside his son – have held the seat for a combined 26 years.
The party went into the campaign pledging to nominate a candidate for all 338 ridings, but secured 326 and only registered 315 by Elections Canada’s nomination deadline.
The leader of the PPC wasn’t the only Maxime Bernier running in Beauce. Another candidate by the same name ran under the banner of the Rhinoceros Party – a satirical political party.
A high point of the campaign for Bernier and his party came when he was given the go-ahead by the Leaders’ Debates Commission to participate in the official English and French debates.
At the start of the campaign, Bernier was prohibited from taking part as he failed to meet at least two of the criteria set out by the Commission. After pleading that they had a good chance of picking up at least four ridings – Ontario ridings of Nipissing-Timiskaming, Etobicoke North and Pickering-Uxbridge, as well as the Manitoba riding of Charleswood-St.-James-Assiniboia-Headingley -- the Commission overturned their original directive.
While getting into the debate ring was a high point, critics of the controversial leader felt he underperformed and polling reflected that sentiment.
Besides those two appearances, Bernier had remained for the most part out of the limelight until just last week when the Globe and Mail reported the Conservative Party had allegedly hired Daisy Group consulting firm – headed up by Warren Kinsella – to "seek and destroy" Bernier and the PPC through a calculated marketing campaign.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has still not confirmed or denied whether in fact his party hired the external firm and for what purpose. Documents obtained by the Globe show the contract started and ended before the pre-write period of June 30, when new restrictions were put in place for third-party advertising.
Bernier has since responded to the reports saying this was a "direct attack on the integrity of our democratic process" and had a message for Scheer speaking when interviewed on CTV News on Monday night after news broke of his loss.
"First of all, what they did, [they] tried to destroy our party with fake news, and they will have to be responsible for that. As you know, we tabled a complaint with Elections Canada and we’ll look at all the opportunities to fight," said Bernier.
A spokesperson for the Commissioner of Canada Elections, Michelle Laliberté confirmed with CTV News that the complaint was received but couldn’t comment on specifics due to confidentiality provisions laid out in the Canada Elections Act.
The night’s results haven’t been in his favour, but the PPC still have a chance of picking up seats elsewhere – albeit without a leader.
"Our candidates built the foundations of a movement hundreds of thousands of Canadians supported," said Bernier. "We will continue to grow in the coming months and years."